Ep.42 - The Achilles' Heel of a Smart Person (3 Minute Read)
Read Time: 3 Minutes. Thumbnail picture credit: Daniel Miessler
In the past 29 years, I have gotten to know a ton of people who are deemed smart by friends, family and society. Many have graduated from top elite colleges, which is arguably a flawed, yet unofficial stamp on our society's consensus of being smart. But years later, most of them end up indistinguishable from those who are deemed average. So why do smart people fail?
I began to search for answers about a year ago. I've come to the conclusion of 3 major weaknesses of a smart person. Full disclosure, a lot of my thoughts are influenced by these three Podcasts I listen to, Freakonomics, We Study Billionaires- The Investors Podcast, and This American Life.
CAUSE #1: LAZINESS
In my opinion, it's human nature to be lazy. For smart people in particular, there are two leading causes, the feeling of superiority, and the feeling of complacency.
The Classic Tortoise and the Hare Scenario: Smart people are the hare, who are ahead in the beginning, because they are innately smarter and better at certain things. But life is a journey, not a destination. When smart people spend more time on passive consumption of Facebook, some "average" people use that time to work and strive for a better tomorrow. Time flies, and after months or years, even smart people can fall behind.
Smart People Tend to Be Complacent With Modest Success: If you've read the German classic, Faust, you'd understand what I am trying to say. Smart people tend to get complacent when they reach a pre-defined goal, usually something relatively impressive, but not jaw-dropping. Then complacency kicks in, and people stop striving further. You probably know this feeling. After working in the same job for years, where you are very comfortable and skilled, you may stop learning, and even lose the ambition to do more.
CAUSE #2: OVERCONFIDENCE (EVEN ARROGANCE) IN ONESELF
To a Person With a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail: This is a quote from Abraham Maslow. Smart and especially competent people tend to over-believe one's own ability to solve all the problems.
Sure why not? A smart person's early success probably came from one's own ability to do one or more things extremely well. However, this arrogance could be lethal, by misguiding a person into believing he/she has ALL the solutions with the tools he/she already mastered. Well...no one has all the answers, not even close.
Yes. It seems everyone has an opinion nowadays, whether informed or not. When was the last time you heard a smart friend saying he/she is not informed to give an opinion? Probably never. If someone did, now THAT is a smart, humble friend.
CAUSE #3: CAN'T PICK ONESELF UP AFTER A SETBACK
Failure is not fatal, success is not final, it's the courage to continue that counts: I love this quote from Winston Churchill, as he highlights the essence of success in whatever one's striving for: commitment. To start something is easy for a smart person. He/she probably has a great idea and a detailed plan. However, most don't follow through, especially after being knocked down by failures. We all fail; it's inevitable. It's the ones who can pick themselves up, who ultimately succeed.
Starting something is like romance, and sustaining something is like marriage: I've seen so many smart, competent people who are so excited about starting a new project, making a change in life, but by month three, things fade and nothing comes of it. Just picture the amount of people in the gym every January, and picture it again in April. Most are smart enough to make a commitment for change, but few follow through.
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