The Intelligence Paradox

The Intelligence Paradox -
Image by Olav Ahrens Rotne/Unsplash

Intelligence is one of the most coveted traits of humans. Intelligent people are armed with good judgment, they listen for what’s unsaid. They see patterns in the obvious things. They can sense the invisible signs. They surround themselves with people who challenge them, not please them. They think carefully about the risks of implementation and contemplate the results before taking action.

Intelligent people are highly sought after by their employers. They approach problems differently and look for long term solutions. Intelligent people are meta-cognitive, they are aware of their thought patterns. They visualize ideas and possibilities unconventionally.

I have come across many smart people, a few of the typical traits of highly intelligent people I have observed are :

  • Strong desire for intellectual stimulus
  • Insatiable curiosity
  • Sound Judgement
  • High Adaptability
  • Open-mindedness
  • High Motivation
  • Self-control and Self-awareness
  • Poised Personality
  • Physically and Mentally fit
  • Great Sense of Humor
  • Lifelong Learner
  • Aware of the feeling of others
  • Detail-oriented and aware of their environments
  • Great observer and listener
  • Excellent imagination and visualization
  • Independence for almost everything in life

One common intelligence paradox is that every person views themselves to be intelligent. Everybody thinks that they are smarter than others. The less intelligent you are, the smarter you think of yourself. In contrast, intelligent people rarely think of themselves as smart. They consider themselves to be average, sometimes even underestimate their intelligence.

The Dunning-Kruger effect plays a role here. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. The paradox is that low performers overestimate their ability whereas high performers underestimate theirs. The people with low ability are unusually confident of themselves, and intelligent people are full of doubts.

The people with low ability are unable to realize the skill and competence levels of other people, which is why they often view themselves as smarter and more intelligent than others. This impacts deeply on what people believe, the decisions they make, and the actions they take.

The fact about intelligence is that you are not the best judge of your intelligence. Your intelligence has to be measured against the outcomes of your life. Your life results determine how intelligent you are. The establishments, enterprises, institutions, systems in place determine your intelligence. You have to demonstrate your intelligence to the established systems in the world, be it while your entrepreneurial journey, your job, your business, etc.

You can answer below questionnaires to gauge the level of your intelligence:

  • Have you ever cleared extremely competitive exams with stringent passing criteria?
  • Have you been part of the most specialized group in your field?
  • Do you work for top employers or collaborate with top clients, investors in your field?
  • Have you achieved extraordinary success in your career or business?
  • Do you possess any specialized skills like Strategy, Leadership, or any Creative skills?
  • Can you Create, Produce, Build something from scratch? For instance, can you create a product, build a team, formulate a plan, build a business from scratch, and scale it further?
  • Can you consistently create ideas, design solutions, plan strategies, innovate schemes, develop process, forecast trends?
  • Are you a great Orator or Communicator?
  • Can you pick up a new skill over the weekend and get started faster?
  • Can you process ambiguous and abstract information faster and perceive patterns?
  • Does your skill influence people and inspire them?
  • Can you lead(not manage) and motivate a group of people without authority?
  • Do you constantly seek challenges and get yourself out of your comfort zone?
  • Have the decisions of your life constantly delivered the solicited results?
  • Do you have above-average health and physical fitness?
  • Do you have a track record of extraordinary success with academics, career, finance, investments in your life?

The list is not exhaustive, but an indicator of someone exercising good judgment and exhibiting extraordinary track record. If your answer to most of the above questions is negative, then you are most likely an average person. More often than not, your choices, results, achievements, and people in your life reflect your intelligence. Intelligence is never absolute, it is always relative.

What is the use of your intelligence if you have not been able to improve your life or that of others. Your self-proclaimed intelligence can be justified only in case you have made significant progress in all aspects of your life. You are living in a bubble if you are claiming to be intelligent without substantiating it with the outcomes.

Intelligence is overrated. Attitude is more important than intelligence. What are the common traits of distinguished entrepreneurs, prominent authors, renowned artists, successful businessmen, and topmost executives? They all are outliers. They have outsmarted their peers. Their achievements are not average. They are misfits and unconventional.

Do you think IQ solely determines the level of success in their life? Have you heard of obsession, passion, fixation? Entrepreneurs, authors, world-class athletes are obsessed with their ideas. They are relentlessly focused on the execution. They are highly motivated and determined. Intelligence alone did not make them successful in their respective field. It was their constant obsession and undying passion for their work that had them great success. They are a great combination of intelligence and attitude.

What matters, in the long run, is the right mindset. Your attitude plays a more important role than mere intelligence. The highly successful people would not reach where they are, had it not been for their attitude and mindset. Hard work beats talent. They are numerous examples of smart people who wasted their life without realizing their potential. The average yet consistent person can leave behind the smarter counterpart.

Intelligence is not singular, it is multi-faceted. There are many forms of intelligence like Interpersonal, Linguistic, Musical, Logical, Naturalist, etc. Intelligent people are specialists, like Scientists, Surgeons, Engineers. Intelligent people are generalists too, like Entrepreneurs, Leaders, and Business Executives. Not one type of intelligence is better than others.

There are several types of intelligent thinking like Critical thinking, Lateral thinking, Analytical thinking, Design thinking. You can wear different thinking hats to get different perspectives and to devise a well-rounded solution. The different thinking helps in improved brainstorming and collaboration.

The perennial question is what can you do with your intelligence? Is Intelligence alone enough to give you desired outcomes in your life? Can being intelligent make you happy and successful in life?

Intelligence is useless unless it is applied and generate favorable outcomes. You may want to get rid of the intelligence paradox and cognitive biases. It is imperative to become the enabler and develop a problem-solver mindset. The intelligence combined with the right attitude and mindset and can make you unstoppable !!




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