Intelligence isn't Everything

Marilyn Vos Savant is believed to be the smartest person in the world according to her score on an IQ test. But she isn't on the Forbes 500 list of the richest people in the world. And she isn't a scientist, or a doctor, or a university professor, so she'll never win a Nobel prize. She's not a good writer, although she has published a few books, so she'll never win a Pulitzer prize. She married a heart surgeon, Robert Jarvik, became his accountant, and writes a column once a week for the Sunday paper.

On the other hand, there are several high school and college dropouts on the Forbes 500 list, Lyndon Baines Johnson, president of the U.S. did not do well in school, but he learned how to be popular and that allowed him to rise.

In fact, Howard Gardner, discusses several kinds of intelligence beyond the IQ test:

1 Bodily-Kinesthetic
2 Interpersonal
3 Verbal-Linguistic
4 Logical-Mathematical
5 Naturalistic
6 Intrapersonal
7 Spatial
8 Musical

Gardner is supported by Stephen Jay Gould in The Mismeasure of Man.

Common Sense

Intelligence in School

Even if you are smarter than many others, don't forget that there will be many people smarter than you. Even if you are the smartest kid in high school, you won't be when you reach college. The material that came easily in high school is now magnitudes of order more difficult. In Engineering and Science classes, they use the introductory classes to weed out the students who aren't motivated enough to study the material. (It worked in my case :-( The secret is to find a study group and study hard. It's not how smart you are, but how hard you work that's the secret to success in these classes.

School of Hard Knocks

How do I know this? The School of Hard Knocks is the best teacher. The calculus classes I took and failed the first time I started college, were the same classes I had to take again to get into graduate school. This time I was motivated, worked my butt off, got straight A's and was the top student in my class. I didn't need a brain transplant, didn't discover a wonder drug to boost my IQ, I just worked as hard as I could.

Second, don't be afraid to try something you've never done before. Don't worry if you fail. Sometimes, making a mistake is the best teacher.

Third, teaching others will help you really learn the material. Tutoring others is a good way to reinforce what you know.

Fourth, learn how to work well in groups. The most successful people aren't usually the smartest. Noble Prize winners aren't billionaires, and they aren't political leaders. The most successful people start with good ideas and build on them. Solitary inventors. aren't the ones who change the world. In these times, more often than it used it, it takes a group of people to publish a science paper or invent something new.

Take a shower. I get some of my best ideas there.

Proverbs of Keith

  • Trust but verify
  • Forgive but don't forget
  • Before you can be a good leader you have to be a good follower
  • Trying to be good at everything means you won't do anything well.
  • Being successful means you have to give up a lot, usually your family

    Intelligence in one area doesn't mean intelligence in all areas. For example, some Nobel Prize Winners smoke. President Clinton was a masterful politician but couldn't keep his hands off a White House intern. Many famous rock stars of the 60's and 70's killed themselves by overdosing on illegal drugs.

    Intelligence in Life

    I've also found through personal experience that intelligence and good ideas aren't enough to be successful. You also need people skills - another kind of intelligence I'm totally lacking in.


    Sometimes you will find that the people who you think are experts in their field, don't know as much as they think they do, don't use the intelligence that they have, or choose to give the wrong answer because it will earn more money for them. Doctors and Detectives, House Inspectors. For example, maybe your car just needs a screw tightened to stop that flapping noise you hear, but the mechanic will say the engine needs to be rebuilt, That incorrect answer earns him a lot more money. So ask yourself, what incentive does this person have to give me the correct answer? If he gives me the wrong answer, or in the case of the housing inspector, says there's nothing wrong, will that profit him?

    Many Kinds of Intelligence

    There are many kinds of intelligence but IQ tests only one kind. IQ is important and is well correlated with how well you do in school, but the most successful people aren't as smart as the people who go on and get graduate degrees, they have people smarts, and open their own businesses (but remember 2/3 of businesses fail in their first five years).

    School Smart people stay in school get graduate degrees and become professors, but that's not the way to riches, unless you are in engineering or medicine and open a side business. ANy patents you make while you work for the government don't enrich you.

    Some smart people smoke, which to me seems like a contradiction in terms. But they are smart in one area, and dumb in another. Your mother's boss Kenton is a good example.

    --for career section--

    When people are promoted, that reinforces the feeling that they are doing something right. And they start to behave more strongly, and listen less, become more opinionated

    In their study Dale and Krueger found that certain specific qualities mattered much more than the name of the college in predicting future earning power. The qualities included imagination, ambition, perserverance, maturity, discipline, and some exceptional ability.

    Source Childhood Roodts of Adult Happiness, p.154


    What makes the most difference is how hard you work, not how smart you are. My example: Calculus

    It's more important to study hard than to be smart. The first time I took calculus, I got a C then a D the next semester, so I switched majors. Eight years later, I worked my butt off, took three semesters of calculus and was at or near the top of the class each time.

    Crititcal Thinking

    Critical thinking isn't emphasized in schools. I [Achenbach?] was just reading a book on critical thinking, "Hoaxes, Myths and Manias," by Robert Bartholomew and Benjamin Radford, that lists the most important elements of

    learning how to think critically:

    1. Ask questions; be willing to wonder.

    2. Define your problem correctly.

    3. Examine the evidence.

    4. Analyze assumptions and biases.

    5. Avoid emotional reasoning.

    6. Don't oversimplify.

    7. Consider other interpretations

    8. Tolerate uncertainty.

    Now who does that NOT sound like? [George Bush]

    Who brags that he makes a lot of decisions based on gut instinct? [GB]

    Who has a hard time admitting that he's made a mistake? {GB]

    Who seems to view doubt as a sign of weakness? [GB]

    We live in a culture that for some reason rewards political behavior that doesn't involve critical thinking, but rather is based on things like resolve, and staying the course, maintaining a belief even when the evidence changes. It is true that war is a contest of wills, but you want to pick the right wars.

    [The above is from Achenblog, Washington Post, Feb. 8? 2007] Logical Fallacies