Originally Posted by cdn2wheeler
I often see similar things about tenacity, "never give up" and so forth. And, to be sure, there are those situations whereby multiple failures are just stepping stones to success. The famous anecdote of Edison who tried 1,000 ways to make the incandescent bulb is a case in point. (“We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb.”)
Except that Edison's work on the light bulb wasn't an example of tenacity. It was an example of continually striving to improve something that already worked. He used many filaments that didn't work, but he started with one that did (based on a patent he bought), and many of his trials also worked just fine. At least for a few hours. And others continued to improve it after him (and we're still making better light bulbs every year).
Originally Posted by Boreas
Asking a question like "Why do smart people fail?" suggests that someone can become so smart as to avoid failure completely. Or to get to the point, that failure can somehow always be avoided. This is not a healthy attitude, or a good question.
Better questions would be:
"How can I prepare and properly handle failure?"
"What can I do to minimize the loss of a failure and maximize the gain?"
Good points, and good questions. Another is "How do I define success?"
Originally Posted by Addict
I think the reason is simply that everyone and every type of person fails.
Bingo. I think we expect smart people to succeed more, so we're surprised when they don't.
Looking at it from the angle of emotional intelligence, studies of people with specific kinds of brain damage, show they're unable to perform tasks involving higher reasoning abilities. Decision-making, estimating the consequences of a particular action, judging how they'll feel after doing something. All of these tasks are extremely difficult or impossible for those patients. The parts of the brain which were damaged are also associated with some forms of emotion, and some of those patients no longer experienced those emotions.
All this (and more. Read Descartes' Error
if you're interested) shows that our emotions are integral to some of our reasoning abilities.
So if you define "smart" as "having strong emotional intelligence" then no, smart people are unlikely to fail more than others, if you define failure as "making poor decisions leading to unfulfilled goals."
But the stereotypical image of a "smart" person is someone who is less socially adept than average, and emotional intelligence is a requirement for social aptitude. So if you focus exclusively on that perception of "smart" people, you can expect to notice more failures wherever good decisions with a strong social/emotional component are required. That includes business decisions, career choices, relationship choices, etc.
In other words, smart people do dumb things only if you restrict your definition of "smart" and "dumb" inappropriately.