- We're probably not as intelligent as we think.
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In the political world, people like to argue which group is more intelligent, particularly liberals. I'm not sure why this is, other than to presume it creates an air of superiority to suit someone's vanity. I believe it to be a moot point as I know a lot of smart people on both sides of the aisle, but I never saw a big discrepancy one way or another. Come to think of it, such a boast probably denotes some hidden weakness by the person expressing it. The biggest difference between the two sides, as far as I'm concerned, are separate interpretations of moral values. We simply see the world differently and have different priorities.
In terms of pure intelligence though, I think I can count on one hand the number of true geniuses I've met in my walk through life, but aside from this I have met some truly intelligent people whom I greatly respect. Interestingly, not all possess a formal education, yet they exhibit signs of intelligence I admire and rely on for advice.
Some people believe a person's vocabulary is a distinguishable characteristic of intelligence. It may be an indicator, but it is certainly not proof of intelligence. I have met far too many people who have a verbosity of bullshit cloaking other shortcomings in their personality. They may be able to speak well, but so can a parrot if trained properly.
There are those who believe intelligence is distinguished by a person's ability to absorb and recite facts. I have trouble with this notion as well. To my way of thinking, the person has nothing more than a good memory which any tape recorder or computer can duplicate.
Years ago in an interview, author Truman Capote made the observation that actors and entertainers weren't especially intelligent. He recounted his relationship with actors Sir Lawrence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud, two excellent and well recognized actors of his generation. According to Capote, both were nice guys, but he hardly considered them intellectuals. Both could memorize a script, but lacked problem-solving skills, and I suspect a lot of entertainers today fall into this category as well.
To me, intelligence is the ability to apply logic towards solving a problem. Knowing facts and possessing an articulate vocabulary is nice, but knowing how to put it all together to solve a problem or achieve a goal is the real measure of intelligence. From this perspective, I have met a lot of people with basic street smarts who are far more intelligent than a lot of college professors or savants I know. In other words, I have more respect for a person who can think clearly for himself, than a person who can do nothing more than parrot facts and figures.
Sometimes we confuse intelligence with experience. Under this scenario, a person who has lived through many experiences, and learned from them, can pass this knowledge on to others who may perceive the person as brilliant. Probably the only thing "smart" here was that the person learned from the experience. Conversely, anybody that fails to learn from experience, and repeats a mistake, cannot be very bright.
IQ scores don't necessarily impress me either. I remember a classmate in high school who allegedly had a high IQ score. I found it rather amusing when he failed the written portion of his driver's test on more than one occasion (I think he was looking for the meaning of life in a stop sign). I've also found a lot of people like this who simply want to be paid because they are smart, but don't know how to work productively. In other words, they may know a lot, but have trouble applying it. Those who are perceived as "witty" tend to fall into this category. Most are entertainers who possess an aversion to real work.
To me, the real distinguishing characteristic of an intelligent person is someone who knows what they are doing, does it well, and can be counted on to deliver solutions and solve problems over and over again (reliability). This is why I am so impressed with craftsmen who know how to produce fine work, even under extraordinary circumstances. It is a pleasure to watch such people tackle a difficult assignment, conquer problems, and produce a finished product of exquisite workmanship. They look at a problem, determine the method to follow and the tools to use, and complete the task on time and within budget. As far as I'm concerned, this is the work of sheer genius.
I have also found such people exhibit an insatiable curiosity about the world around them, not just a single area. As the Japanese like to say, such people think in terms of "360 degrees." In other words, they are always looking at the bigger picture.
Actually, I wish people would be less concerned with being an intellectual, and be more driven by common-sense. I think we would get a lot more done. As one former president said...
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." - Calvin Coolidge
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
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