OC Emberton

Intelligence isn’t everything

Intelligence doesn’t mean acting smart. If it did, there would be a lot of muscular billionaire Nobel Prize winners dating supermodels in their rocket ships.

Although we love to praise it, intelligence is a pretty narrow blessing. It makes you faster at learning things, and able to understand more complex concepts. It does not guarantee a happy or successful life.

It can help, of course. Smarter people are more likely to be better educated, and to work in better jobs where their opportunities are greater. But super high intelligence is not a prerequisite for success; it may even be an impairment.

What matters more is the skill of acting intelligently. Call this ‘active intelligence’.

A highly intelligent person might solve their homework in half an hour. An actively intelligent person starts their homework early, takes longer, but gets it done in a weekend. Both students pass.

The luckier person might seem the more intelligent one, but there are dangers to coasting through most of your life. The actively intelligent person is developing a more valuable skill: how to recognise and consistently do the smart things, even when they might not want to.

This is not a trivial habit, but it can be learned by anyone. It’s available to the highly intelligent person too, if they are willing to try. But it usually comes only to the highly motivated, and not to those who have been raised to feel they have already succeeded by virtue of genetic lottery.

Take the smartest person in the world, and they might dazzle you with some incredible feats. But take someone who can always do what they set their mind to? That person could take over the world.

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