Why do smart people fail ?
In a previous posting I was curious to know what people knew about emotional intelligence since it seems to be an important subject as regards personal development. I didn't get much of a response from the forum so I googled the words smart & emotional intelligence and encountered a number of articles called - why do smart people fail ? Why do smart people do dumb things? etc.
Just wondering why people are not interested in this subject on this forum?
All ideas welcome.
Dunno why it's not been/being discussed here, but here's my take:
Very early on in school, kids are taught that you need at least a 'C' grade (70%) to move on, and that getting an 'A' (90%) is the best. The smart kids figure out, somewhere around 1st or 2nd grade, that there really is no appriciable difference between a C and an A, and start tending towards the C because they do enough to get by, and no more. Then around 3rd or 4th, parents and teachers start whining about "you're not working up to your potential." Around 6th or so, you want your parents to leave you alone... so when they whine about your potential, you think that if you do well, they will leave you alone... so you start actually trying. The result? Even MORE attention (praise this time, but you don't care.. you just want them to go away). The effect? Getting good grades didn't get the results that you wanted, just more work.
The net result of this is that during the "formative years" in school, kids were taught that "good enough" is good enough, and never learned to try. When they get out into the work force, they do the same thing. The ones that get out of that rut and succeed instead of fail are the ones that eventually learn that if they apply themselves, they can get out of the rat race faster.
As far as smart people doing dumb things, I think that comes from thinking that you DO know when you don't, and making bad assumptions and acting on them... just like everyone else does.
Disclaimer: My info comes from my experience, and the experience of my friends, not a tax payer funded academic research project.
Depends what you mean by "smart," as that term can have a number of different definitions. But I'm assuming that when you say "smart," you're referring to something like an IQ (as opposed to being "street smart" or "money smart" or similar).
Doku makes a very, very good point about cause-effect relationships. The smarter you appear to be, the more that's expected of you. And if you measure up to those expectations, the bar is raised even higher. Meet those, and the bar goes higher again. There's no upper limit, and even the smartest, most positive and driven personalities will eventually come to a point where they see a law of diminishing returns; that is, all that extra work for only a fraction of payback (however that payback is defined).
Ever see the movie, Good Will Hunting with Robin Williams, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck? That's a good look at someone who's brilliant but has come up against the wall of diminishing returns.
Some smart folks, then, simply step off the "smart folk" treadmill. And those that do are often perceived as failures, because they're not playing by the rules that social convention expects.
I met a smart person who had passed every exam he ever sat. I told him he had held himself back from his true potential.
My biggest suggestion is the Peter Principle...
‘In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His (sic) Level of Incompetence’
If you apply it to life rather than just institutions and companies you can get very interesting insights, as I mention here:
Self Help Blog › The Key Life Principle?
In fact these types of principles can be applied to what are usually thought of psychiatric illnesses. My self-help product for people who are chronically stuck with their lives addresses exactly this:
Self-Help 'Meeting'... All Ready For Completely Changing A Life Around!
Psychiatry has a little bit to teach self-improvement, but there is much more that needs to go back the other way.
Well.. isn't it also true that failure makes people smarter?
Perhaps there's a reason why smart people fail... :)
Why do smart people fail? I know why.. EGO..Their ego cuts them off from taking pain to look at finer details which could enhance their life. They think they know it all. That is why they failed.
Simple things is never easy. We think we know it so we end up refusing to practice it. That is why we failed at times
Baby Steps To Extreme Mind Power
Baby Steps To Extreme Mind Power » Simple Instant Steps to Gain Wealth Health and Happiness
Those who fail and learn from those mistakes get smarter.
Those who fail but continually do the same things repeatedly, expecting a different result, don't. I'm trying to manage an issue like this right now - I've got a meeting with the dude in 20 minutes - where a company owner continues to use the same marketing strategy based on the same assumptions and is blaming everyone else for repeated failure.
I look at this a bit differently.
I would say that especially smart or gifted people often find that school comes easy to them. So when other kids are learning study skills or endurance through hardship, they are sailing through without much effort.
This is all fine and good until they get to college, or life in general and run across a problem they don't immediately know the answer to. Because they never had to work hard to succeed in school, they don't know how to push themselves through the hard part to success. So they either learn that important skill late in life, or (I would say more likely) the give up and either label the task as "stupid" or decide that they must not be as smart as they thought they were.
"Smart" is a gift and it makes a lot of things easy. But it's not the only tool people need. I'd say if you could only be smart or only be tenacious, tenacious wins out every time.
Thanks so much for each and every posting this is giving me much more insight. Emotional intelligence is E.Q. Emotional Intelligence Quotient.
Lizthefair has spotted something that may relate to A.Q. Adversity Quotient.
Liz also pointed out Tenacity which I see as a signiture strenght.
I am seeing links in the postings and looking at the different slants.
But at some point, reality has to take hold. Sure, Edison was on to something, no doubt, but tenacity to the exclusion of all else is called "obsession" and can be monumentally destructive. Allow me to share this true story with you:
A cousin of mine was bound and determined to be an NHL star. His parents, while at first somewhat cautious, decided to support him 100%. He worked and worked and worked, spent thousands upon thousands on powerskating lessons, went to professional hockey camps, used every spare moment studying the game and working out, meeting current NHLers and getting tips. At the age of 16 he was considered a local "legend in the making" because of his prowess on the ice.
He pursued his dream to the exclusion of all else. He dropped out of school, his parents spent huge sums in support of his goal, and the only friends he had were hockey buddies.
Between practice sessions one January afternoon, he slipped on the ice and shredded some ligaments in his right knee. Surgery helped, but his dreams of playing professionally were gone.
He now works as a produce stacker at a local grocery store making about $9 an hour.
Absolutely true story.
Maybe some common sense coupled with tenacity might have been in order. I don't know, I'm not the Acme Judgement Company. Just seems sad that his dreams that he worked so hard for vanished when his knee gave way.
An important point cdn2wheeler. Balance and good judgment are also important.
I am reminded of this trite (but true) piece of advice:
Strive for moderation in all things--even moderation.
Maybe some smart people are more sensitive then others and can't handle stress very well. And this stress is arround us all the time and when someone is stress sensitive we tend to look at that person like some sort of weak. Maybe this stress sensitive person is just in need of having more time spent on relaxing and just have time to think things through. And have support in real life and online from others to tell them that they are truly beautiful in their own way.
My two cents...or even öres since they are less worth then cents...
No one is smarter than life. Complex and unpredictable situations can get the better of anyone, no matter how smart.
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?"
Perhaps, as has been already suggested, smart people fail more than "dumb" people not because they are constantly crushed and afraid of failure, but because they have learned how to manage failure so well, that it hardly affects them in the same way it would affect someone who "isn't smart enough" to properly deal with it.
If you think there is some trend though, I would say it is overconfidence. Being smart doesn't guarantee you anything. People that aren't particularly smart recognize that they are going to have to work harder and so they do. They work harder and they are often successful. If you're overconfident in your own abilities then the following will happen:
a) you'll never seek help from others
b) you will put all of your eggs in one basket, thinking that one skill is all you need (it usually isn't)
c) you'll neglect your weaknesses
I feel like I'm a fairly smart person, but at the same time I fear failure. I know that there are no guarantees. Maybe this is pessimistic, I don't know.
College was okay, but it seemed like only certain majors had good financial prospects after graduation. I went to see a career counselor. The only thing the career counselor told me to do was to join the Peace Corps, most likely because her daughter had worked for the Peace Corps (by the way, the Peace Corps wants volunteers who have skills!).
Being smart has nothing to do with success. Success is based more on drive, a high emotional intelligence quotient, positive attitude, enthusiasm, and excellent social skills. Unfortunately, most of these traits do not come naturally for me. I work hard and end up with mediocre results, which makes me feel even more depressed :(
The other thing is that maybe it is a perception?
"He's very bright. Why did he just do that??? What was he thinking?!!?"
"Haha. Bob's an idiot!"
Which one do you remember? When the smart guy screws up, or when the village idiot does?
being smart doesn't guarantee that you'll be able to avoid a major pitfall later in life.
even the most "elite" intellectuals can fall into a rut of depression, get stuck, feel defeated, lose everything, and end up living in a box on the street. :p
everyone encounters obstacles in life... and being successful in school doesn't mean that you'll know how to handle the 'challenges' that you may have to face later on.
(plus, like someone else said, it all depends on how you define "smart"...)
Appearently because they're not as smart as they thought they were :)
You can't let your ego be bigger than your intelligence, otherwise you will end up doing bad decisions and failing.
If you're pretty smart you can often find the pace of life in certain situations extremely boring, and boredom can be very painful.
If you're the smartest kid in your class you can be bored into submission if there isn't much driving you.
Same thing with employment. If you're smarter than all your superiors you still may have to harness your ego while you rise.
Someone with high intelligence also needs to learn that it isn't everything and they need to be patient, persistent, high eq, etc.
bureaucracy, hierarchies, too much structure, other personal qualities lacking (as mentioned, patience, eq, etc)... all of these things can hold someone back.
Just a few examples from what I've seen/done.
ego/pride may be the most problematic.
This guy would probably have had no life after football either if he had continued on the path he was on. His version just came a decade earlier than if he had actually succeeded in playing.
The question is: What is the goal beyond the original goal? If there isn't one, then you get the situation described in this case.
As I talked about in another thread, I consider myself to be a "smart" person who continues to do stupid things. I know EXACTLY what i'm supposed to do to "succeed" in life, but I just can't be bothered to do them. Here are some examples of what I mean:
1. I'm currently in an educational "rut". I know that all I have to do get out of it is apply myself for 1 year and finish "a" degree, but i don't want to. Even though i know that I CAN do it if I want to and its for my own benefit to do so.
(At this very moment I should be studying for a test I have in 2 days, but I don't feel like it because I hate the subject.
I should've been studying for the past month and didn't want to..right now I can cram and still do fine..but i don't want to.)
At the same time, even if I hate this subject I could be doing something for another subject which I hate less or I could even just have fun doing things I enjoy, but because this drags me down, I don't do anything. I basically come up with ways of "wasting time" without even enjoying it.
2. I'm currently in some family circumstances that cause me a lot of stress. I know that if I don't interfere in these family circumstances and just mind my own business/ignore the situation my stress will be reduced. BUT knowing this I continue to participate. Its difficult to describe but its a combination of human curiousity/not wanting my family to make mistakes that causes this.
3. I do a lot of work (chores mostly) really quickly in order to free time up for myself and I do this very well but when it comes to using all the free time I created, I just don't do it. I waste it very efficiently. So my conclusion is that yes people can be smart, but there's an emotional connection between applying your "intelligence" in real life and true intelligence is knowing how to get control of your emotions. That is to stop living as a "human" who has impulses and feelings and doing the most "productive" thing. Yeah, I know it sounds like i'm saying we should all become robots, but its not exactly what I mean. I wish steve's article on procrastination would deal more with the emotional side-more with the root of why people do it in the first place (maybe I should read it again) because I know exactly how to fight procrastination, but I procrastinate in applying these methods!
What i'm trying to say is that people who aren't neccessarily considered "smart" can probably get a lot done in life by simplying having the motivation and dedication to do so.
You need to beat yourself up in a different way :-)
You are intellectually "smart", but my guess is that you are incorrect in your expectations of what you can achieve and this is where you are not being "smart".
"I know EXACTLY what i'm supposed to do to "succeed" in life..."
I have a sneaking suspicion this is the inaccurate belief.
Take dieting, 100% of "smart" people can tell you what they SHOULD be doing, but those methods have a 95% failure rate at 5 years. Good in theory, hopeless in real life. "Smart" thinking is wrong!
You said, "I know that if I don't interfere in these family circumstances and just mind my own business/ignore the situation my stress will be reduced." Really? Sounds like the stuff HAS to be resolved, not just ignored, and you actually don't know HOW to solve it.
When people come to me for motivation the FIRST question I ask in my own mind is whether they are motivating themselves to do useful things ie if they get motivated are they going to be better off LONG-TERM, or will they just end up disappointed again (gym memberships come to mind.)
Usually when they are asking for motivation they had it before but it wore out. The best question for me to ask is WHY it wore out, and often it was because they were doing the psychological equivalent of bashing their head against a brick wall that they are still thinking will fall down.
Oh, and "shoulds" are more likely to be "should NOTs".
Self Help Blog › What Should You Change?
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.
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