If I asked you to picture a “smart person,” you’d most likely imagine a person studying in a library, performing some scientific test in a lab, or giving a speech in front of hundreds of learners. While anyone who finds themselves in any of these given scenarios is more likely to be quite intelligent, it’s not an absolute given that the smartest among us will end up being the most successful. In fact, many people born with the gift of intelligence ultimately fall short of their goals and aspirations for a variety of reasons. And, despite the fact that they are intelligent beings, many times they are unable to pinpoint where they went wrong. In many cases, their intelligence ends up being their downfall.
Smart people can usually see a specific problem or task from a variety of perspectives. While it definitely helps at times to be able to see things from an objective point of view, there comes a point when you should stop asking “What if?” questions, and go with the most logical course of action. However, many smart people get so caught up in the planning stage that they fail to take action, or, by the time they do, it’s much too late. Furthermore, the way they envision a plan unfolding may look good on paper, but might be completely impractical in the real world. Being too logical and analytical will lead even the most intelligent person to start seeing things from an idealistic perspective, and to stop seeing them from a realistic point of view.
2. Thinking Everyone Thinks Like Them
If you’ve ever taken a class in which you could tell right off the bat your professor was an absolute genius, you know exactly what I mean. Sometimes, intelligent people will get so caught up in the flow of their mind that they forget they’re as smart as they are. While they’re busy rattling off numbers, theories, and possible outcomes, their audience members are left shrugging their shoulders, not knowing if they’re actually supposed to be understanding a word of this seemingly endless rant.
The outcome can be much worse for the intelligent person who’s trying to sell a product to a crowd of people who can’t understand his perspective. Picture the highly intelligent people who were the first to try to market the personal computer as something everyone should own. How difficult must it have been for a bunch of computer geeks who were enthralled with electronics to sell computers to a population who had never seen anything like it before? My guess is they had to swallow their pride, forget about trying to explain all the amazing things a computer could do, and say “Look, you can play solitaire on it.” Boom. Sold.
3. Blindly Following Authority
I can’t possibly explain the notion that book smarts are not synonymous with actual intelligence better than this clip can. Here are three geniuses who are smart enough to have been able to teach Homer Simpson enough to graduate college, but lack the critical thinking skills to realize they’re being robbed by someone calling himself a “Wallet Inspector.” Perhaps it’s from years of doing work assigned by a higher authority, or from the complete lack of social interaction caused by years of keeping their noses buried in books and computers, but many incredibly intelligent people lack the fundamental “street smarts” and people skills necessary to survive and thrive in modern society. The obsession with doing what they’ve been told to do leaves many, otherwise intelligent people, unable to question authority when they realize something’s amiss, leading to an “it is what it is” mentality.
4. Praising Talent Rather Than Effort
When smart people were younger, they were most likely told by parents, teachers, and friends time and time again how smart they were. Everything came easy to them in school: they never had trouble with homework, and they passed tests with flying colors. Until they didn’t. Everyone hits a point in which they realize they’re not as smart as they thought they were. Of course, having been told they were smart throughout their formative years, they have a much harder time accepting that they aren’t so special, after all. Had their efforts been praised, rather than their natural talents, they would have been better equipped to handle adversity. Being a hard-working person of average intelligence will trump the smart person who gives up easily every single time.
5. Being Over-Confident
This point goes along with the last one I made. The intelligent person who finds success at almost every turn will often begin to think he’s a natural at everything he sets out to do. Obviously, nobody is great at everything—just check Michael Jordan’s baseball stats if you need proof. But it’s easy to be overconfident when you’ve succeeded at almost everything else so far in life, so sometimes intelligent people make assumptions about their abilities that simply aren’t true. They dive into projects too soon without proper training and planning, and end up in over their head. Being confident in your field is one thing, but being so arrogant that you think you can take on anything is plain stupid.
6. Wanting to Be Right All the Time
I guess most people want to be seen as being right as often as they possibly can, but the implications of this yearn for being seen as right goes much deeper for intelligent people. Going back to how they’ve gone their entire life being told how smart they are, many intelligent people thrive on positive acknowledgement, even after they’ve grown past childhood. But when arguing with those of equal social status, intelligent people hold a few misconceptions to be true: They think it gives them power over the other person (it doesn’t); they think it makes the other party respect them more (it really doesn’t); and they think they can change the other party’s point of view (they really, really can’t). If these argumentative types were truly intelligent, they would realize it’s better to leave well enough alone, and to know, themselves, that they’re in the right.
7. Overvaluing Degrees and Titles
I’m sure you’ve at one point heard someone say “I hold a doctorate from [insert prestigious university here] in [insert incredibly specific program here].” Did it make you respect them any more than you did before? Of course not! A degree does not define a person’s worth. But so many intelligent people seem to think holding a prestigious title is enough to earn them respect. It’s not in the title, but what a person has done to earn the degree that matters. In fact, if you earned a degree without really putting any effort into it, you’ll be seen as a phony, and actually garner less respect from those around you. Let your work ethic and abilities speak for you, not that piece of paper you hang on your wall.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: it’s impossible to truly “multitask,” in the truest sense of the word. You can never be doing two things at the same time (Unless you want to consider walking and chewing gum as important tasks worth mentioning). But for our purposes, when people say they can multitask, what they really mean is that they switch from one task to another quickly and easily. But are they really making the most out of their efforts by doing so? Switching from one task to another over and over again breaks concentration and focus. Even the most intelligent and talented among us are prone to mistakes, and it’s almost guaranteed that if they’re not wholly focused on the task at hand, they’re going to mess up somewhere along the way.
9. Overvaluing Their Worth
Just because you’re intelligent and talented does not mean you’re not a human being. You’re never “too good” for the job you’re currently working; if you were, you’d be somewhere else, wouldn’t you? Even if it’s clear that you’re the smartest person at your job, you’re still part of the crew; you’re not above anyone who holds the same title as you. Many smart people who think they’re above others in their job will slack off and shirk their responsibilities, only to be surprised when they get called into HR. Like I said before, you’re not special until you prove your worth.
10. Working Too Hard or Too Much
So far, we’ve for the most part discussed instances in which intelligent people end up not being as smart or talented as they seem. But there are also times in which an excess of talent and ability can actually be detrimental to an intelligent person’s well-being. If you start to be seen as the one who can and will get things done, guess what: everyone’s going to start relying on you more and more. Unfortunately, bosses will often go to the most talented individuals when they need something to get done, and allow the lower performers to simply coast by.
Obviously, being intelligent is a double-edged sword. You have a lot more to think about, a lot more responsibility, and a lot more pressure put on you at all times. But, given the choice, would you rather put your talents to good use, or squander the gifts you were given?