Knowing Yourself is the Beginning of All Wisdom

7 Minutes Read

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom,” is a popular quote from Aristotle that has huge leadership implications.

What if I told you that the condition that your business is in, is a direct result of who you are (and have been) as a small business owner? In this article, we show you how this is directly ties to Aristotle’s quote, “Knowing Yourself is the Beginning of All Wisdom.

Would you agree?

The honest truth is, it has been this way since the moment you decided to turn your ideas and interests into potential income.

That’s why knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.

Let’s spend a minute and unpack the meaning behind this quote.

Understanding more about the person that you are and how that is impacting your people and your organization could be life-changing.


It all starts with you, the owner at the top of the organizational chart. Your values, beliefs, anxieties, goals, and views of the world are all trickling down through your organization and into the lives of your managers and employees.

And while it may seem like this is something that’s only happening on a small scale, it’s actually happening on a very meaningful scale. Every day.

Even if you don’t realize it, that’s a lot of power. And, power is influence.


The first step in turning your company around and taking it to new heights is to assume that you are where you are in life and in business because of your own choices.

When we first start working with a new client, they typically disagree. They don’t think that they are the cause, positive or negative, of where their business is today.

They are still motivated to focus on external answers

It’s a sign that they haven’t taken the time to self-reflect.


Because there is a lot of fear that comes with discovering self-knowledge.


  • I’m not the cause of my business problems, it’s the people that I hire.
  • I’m not the cause of my business problems, it’s the industry that I am in.
  • I’m not the cause of my business problems, it’s the customers that I cater to.
  • I’m not the cause of my business problems, it’s the business partner that I have.
  • I’m not the cause of my business problems, it’s what I have to do in the business from day to day.

 We could keep going, because we’ve heard them all.

What these owners aren’t realizing, is that every one of those statements contains “I” in them. It’s there, secretly pointing to the high-level root cause of all the decisions.

Who authorized the hiring of those people?

Who chose to compete in that industry?

Who is in charge of the marketing and the branding that are attracting those customers that you cater to?

Who is living with that business partner?

And finally, who has failed to define and build systems to free you up from having a “job.”



Knowledge and wisdom are two the most important things for any human being to know who is on a journey toward being a better person.

It is so easy, however, to forget that we need these qualities in order to have a fulfilled life and a fulfilling company.

Knowing yourself can be one of the hardest tasks you will ever attempt to achieve. This means it can lead to many benefits as well as rewards for those who choose this path.

Knowing yourself as a small business owner requires a deeper sense of who you are as a leader and as a person. This is the beginning of all wisdom.

The point being, as you go through life you will be called upon to be a leader, and your leadership will begin to support your life.


If Aristotle was correct, and knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom, then the first question you should be asking yourself is, “how well do I know myself?”

As a small business owner, it’s really important to be able to answer this question. For no other reason than who you are and how you act will determine your company culture.

How are you feeling about that statement?

Among everything else that I’ve mentioned so far in this writing, I’m dropping this on you. Happy with your company culture? Look in the mirror. Something wrong with your company culture? Look in the mirror.

Most small business owners will fall into one of two categories of leadership. Chances are you’re no different and you will clearly fit into one of these categories.

Are you a task-oriented or people-oriented leader?

From my friend Kathy Marcino:

“The more you understand how YOU lead, the easier it becomes to identify and adapt your style to those you lead. Wait, what?”

By the way, if you haven’t done any deep work on getting to know yourself as a leader yet, working with Kathy a great first step. Aristotle would have.



If Aristotle was accurate, and knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom, then the personal process of getting to know yourself can’t happen without self-reflection.

Whether you’ve worked with Kathy on your DISC profile or you simply take time on a regular basis to ask yourself meaningful questions, the act of self-reflection is work that every great leader does.

– What do you believe In?

– What do you want to accomplish in life?

– What are your most immovable values?

When I was younger, I thought I had it all figured out. Now that I’m older and wiser in life, I realize that a win is knowing what it is that you don’t know.

I take time for self-reflection every day.


Closely tied to the important work of self-reflection is the understanding that you have leadership blind spots. We all do and others already know about them.

Don’t believe, me? Just ask a family member or friend. Don’t bother asking a manager or employee because you pay them every two weeks so chances are you won’t get an honest answer.

Acknowledge that you are not perfect. And do something about those areas in your life where you have weaknesses or blind spots, by learning and practicing leadership skills to improve the condition of your organization.

Leadership development is critical for every small business owner if they want to become influential and motivational to get the most out of their people.

Knowing that we all have leadership blindspots gives us the power to start accepting them and start working to make them show up less often with the relationships around us.



What are we trying to achieve here by acknowledging our blind spots, making time for self-reflection, understanding our leadership style, etc.?

Professional growth? Career growth?

You wouldn’t be wrong. However, I think that will happen to be a nice by-product of the true goal.

Actually, I think the ultimate power behind Aristotle’s quote of “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” is self-acceptance, self-love, and ultimately personal growth.

It’s the personal process of going through life knowing that you’re having a positive impact on the people around you. Whether it’s at work or at home with your family, imparting your values and love on the world that you have influence over might be the most important thing you can do.


If “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” is true and we actually live Aristotle’s words can you think what it will do for your self-confidence?

And self-confidence is one of those resources that naturally shows up in all kinds of different areas of your life (career, family, interests). And it will become contagious to the important people around you, spreading to others in your world. Who wouldn’t want that?

Self-confidence is a natural byproduct of truly knowing who you are and what values you believe. When we know ourselves, and what’s most important to us in life, our self-confidence becomes rock solid. Knowing yourself gives you the strength to guide your people on your mission and support them along the way when they need to overcome obstacles as they help you to accomplish your vision.


The result of asking yourself personal questions, having an accurate sense of your blind spots and being aware of your core values has to lead to personal growth that most others never make time for.

It’s so much easier to tell ourselves the stories that we want to hear and that really do nothing but justify our actions and choices. This is where much of our self-destructive behaviors come from.

An honest sense of who you are will help to fuel your creativity, and it will show up in your energy levels.

How would this growth be received in your organization and by your team?



I’m guessing the real reason that you started your company was to have a bigger, more meaningful life for you and your family. A life full of meaning that the typical corporate job was never going to provide.

If this is true, take this as a sign that it’s time to love the process of getting to know your true self as an owner/operator but more importantly as a person that others looking up to you for answers, income, guidance, approval, etc.

Your primary objective in building your own company was to have more life. It also gives you the luxury to spend time on interests that you want and think will give you a meaningful and complete life.

You stand a better chance of accomplishing that with the following two things:

  1. Getting to yourself better than you ever have before.
  2. Hiring a business coach to help you build and install systems in your business will give you more time and separation from the day-to-day.

Both of these complement the other when you think about it.

When you build systems inside your business it eliminates the chaos which then gives you separation and more time from the day to day.

When you have more time and separation from your business then you can actively spend more time on those meaningful things in your life that aren’t your business. Your personal growth can be one of those new areas of your life that you now have time for.

And the cycle repeats itself because after spending time on personal growth, you show up as a bigger and better version of yourself which then impacts your people and your business grows.


This is positive foundational work, and not just so you can build your dream business either. This is life-changing personal work. Work that leads you to become a better version of yourself.

And, I promise you, all of the great business leaders are doing this on a regular basis. They know that without this self wisdom they won’t have the resources needed to become a different version of themselves that’s necessary to achieve their goals in life and in business.

Why do you think they hire business coaches and executive coaches? It’s to help them see those unproductive leadership behaviors that they aren’t noticing – those blindspots we spent some time on above.

Now that you have a sense of how powerful this can be, what do you do next?

Book a call with one of our caring business coaches. We set aside time on our calendars every week to talk with small business owners just like you for free.


Picture of Joseph Hollak

Joseph Hollak

Joseph is the Founder of Build Success™ and actively coaches, consults, and trains business owners, founders, partners, and executives. He earned his Master of Science in Organization Development from The University of San Francisco and can be bribed to do almost anything with tacos.