Half Man Half Noodle

Are you as smart as you think you are?

Most people assume they’re smarter than they are. For example, I think I’m of average intelligence (as most of us probably do) and I feel that’s being pretty generous, as most of my friends can attest (is that even the right context for this word?) Day to day we meet people who think they’re MUCH smarter than they actually are and it’s reassuring when they get that fall from grace. Then we meet others who think they are much LESS smart than they actually are and it’s of great joy to hear their genius, but how smart are you?

“Smart” is a vague term and often subjective. I think of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk when I think of the word smart but I also think of certain people I know. A person whom I deem to be smart may be an idiot in your eyes depending on what individual metrics we base “smartness” on.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein (apparently)

Einsteins words fill us with the false hope that we all possess “genius”, do we all have some Picasso, Shakespeare or Einstein inside us? I doubt it but I also feel the sentiment behind it is that there are different ways to measure intelligence. So what does it look like to be smart?

We stereotypically think of being a member of Mensa as being upper echelon smart and PHDs in Nuclear Physics as godly smart. While these accolades are certainly proof of a type of intelligence, it’s not quite the full story. What about someone who saves a modest amount money on a regular basis and harvests the power of compound interest to amass a healthy retirement fund for when they’re older? Arguably also very smart. To get a better idea of how smart you are, I would ask the following questions:

  • Do you learn from your mistakes?
  • Do you solve problems in your life?
  • Do you look at things from different points of view?
  • Are you adaptable?
  • Do you listen and respond appropriately in conversation?
  • Do you see the bigger picture?
  • Do you have balance in most areas of your life?
  • Are you curious?
  • Are you always learning?
  • Are you making the right decisions for your body?
  • Do you set goals and focus on achieving them?
  • Are you making good decisions for the planet?
  • Are you aware of the moods of the people around you?
  • Do you provide and seek truth?
  • Do you know WHY you do what you do?
  • Do you prepare?
  • Do you ask for advice from people whose opinion you respect?
  • Do you save money?
  • Do you take care of your mind?

These questions cover emotional, interpersonal, linguistic, spatial, naturalistic and logical ideas of intelligence. It’s far from an exhaustive list but shows that it takes more than pub trivia knowledge to be truly intelligent.

As we get older and hopefully wiser, we judge intelligence by different standards. If you can acknowledge the areas of your life where you aren’t being smart, you can develop them and become smarter, like Albert Einstein (but probably not).