Context: I'm 22 years old, I am very bright in a logical way, my whole life growing up my parents struggled a lot, and I took that all in. I took in their worries and knowledge and now exercise it as if they were my own, but every time I meet someone new and we begin talking, they often take my intelligence for granted and rant on about stereotypical young adult mistakes. Like not knowing how to manage their finances, partying late with strangers, eating healthy, and even common sense things. They ridicule comments by saying things like, "Oh, now that you are paying bills someones conscious of turning off the lights!", "You have to save money not blow it all!" things like this despite being enrolled in a matched 401(K) with my job, having two separate checking accounts on direct deposit with mainstream banks(free spending and bills) and a separate credit union with no card for direct savings.

I want a word/phrase that isn't just "smart/bright/intelligent". "I'm smart, I know this." because all children say this.

  • 1
    I think people who learn from the mistakes of others are quite wise; the problem is you can't very well call yourself wise, because humility often comes with wisdom, and labeling yourself as wise would sound proud. :( How about pragmatic? It even sounds like a very adult concept. Commented May 10, 2014 at 21:37
  • Which is why I tried asking again with context, despite there being a similar question out. I've fallen to just having to state that I learn from other experiences for my lack of knowing what to call it without sounding like a young buck know it all, which is the opposite of what I want to express.
    – On A Limb
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 21:39

8 Answers 8


I would say you are wise beyond your years.

Or you have an old head but young shoulders.


Precocious might fit the bill.

Manifesting or characterized by unusually early development or maturity, especially in mental aptitude.

Also related is observational learning:

Observational learning (also known as vicarious1 learning, social learning, or modeling) is a type of learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating novel behavior executed by others. It is argued that reinforcement has the effect of influencing which responses one will partake in, more than it influences the actual acquisition of the new response.

Imitation is very different from observational learning in that the latter leads to a change in behavior due to observing a model. Observational learning does not require that the behavior exhibited by the model is duplicated. For example, the learner may observe an unwanted behavior and the subsequent consequences, and would therefore learn to refrain from that behavior.

1. experienced or felt by watching, hearing about, or reading about someone else rather than by doing something yourself


Consider the following terms:

observant, “Alert and paying close attention; watchful.”
perceptive, “having or showing keenness of perception, insight, understanding, or intuition”
insightful, “Possessing insight”, where insight means “Power of acute observation and deduction; penetration; discernment; perception” or “An extended understanding of a subject resulting from identification of relationships and behaviors within a model, context, or scenario”
discerning, “Of keen insight or good judgement; perceptive.”
mindful, “Being aware (of something); attentive, heedful”
watchful, “observant, vigilant and aware”


I have heard people referred to as ...

'An old soul trapped in a young body'

That might capture the essence of someone who is wiser than what would be expected from the amount of experience his age would permit.


I think that the best fit of a common phrase meeting your self-description is simply:

I learn from others' mistakes.


I had the sense to listen to my parents and avoid making the same mistakes.


I like using 'quick study' in a similar context.

someone able to acquire new knowledge and skills rapidly and easily (Free Dictionary).

It is similar to 'sponge'. A synonym is assimilate:

To incorporate and absorb into the mind: assimilate knowledge. To make similar; cause to resemble. (Free Dictionary)

Usage: "I have been a quick study of my father" "I assimilated the practice of paying bills years ago"


Here's a proverb from Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac: "Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other." In this, dear means expensive.

There is really no need to explain yourself to someone who is making such condescending remarks. A cooly raised eyebrow might be the perfect squelch.


Consider "cognitive."

cognitive: being intellectually conscious in mental activities such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering: He has a cognitive mind.

For someone who would learn merely from another's experiences, "empirical" might fit.

empirical: originating in or based on observation and experience: She has an empirical mind.

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