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Being Smart is Useless

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You get noticed for what you do, not what you think.

You may think you’re smart. You might even be right– but you should still get over yourself. What happens in the head might as well happen in a fantasy world. No one will ever give you anything unless you put it to use.

You may think you are clever. Good for you. You have the ability to pick apart people’s arguments or make snide remarks. Great! Now everyone will hate having you around. People like builders, not destroyers. Your cleverness will not open any doors.

Children who are told they are smart get lazy, while those who work hard know how to get past their blocks. You have to stop believing in yourself, and start believing in your work instead.

On the other hand, you may have the opposite problem. You may think you work too hard for too little reward. If that’s true, you’re probably working plenty– just not working smart. In that case, stop muscling through everything. Proper technique is more effective– you see this clearly in sports and martial arts. Bypassing the problem works too– like moving to another company instead of banging your head against the current management.

So you are one of two kinds. You work too hard and get nowhere, or you you work too smart but deliver little. Find out which one and adjust. Being on one side is just straight up frustrating.

* Filed by Julien at 5:41 am under direction, taking action


Hi, I’m Julien Smith. I'm the founder and CEO of Breather.

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14 Responses to “Being Smart is Useless”

  1. Drew Hawkins Says:

    I completely agree with this. My family always told me I was smart growing up but my dad always had a way to bring me back down to earth saying “you’re never too smart to screw up.” Kept things in perspective.

    • Julien Says:

      Absolutely. You need to fail in order to progress. That comes from high level opposition, not from stuff you can finish with your eyes closed. That’s the difference between the smart and the hard-working.

      Also, smart is invisible. Hard-working is not.

  2. Mike Abasov Says:

    So true. I always used to be the first type. But… well… life proved me wrong :). At least, I was smart enough to “get over myself” and adjust.

  3. Felix Says:

    So it should be:”You have to stop believing in yourself, and start believing in your results”, instead of “You have to stop believing in yourself, and start believing in your work instead.” … I should get over myself and don’t leave those smart ass comments ;-)

  4. Lak Says:

    I like this blog, I read the one above too. I think that’s very true. You may put a lot of hard work in but if it’s not shown in the outcome then somewhere you are going wrong and it’s the method. I’ve had this problem and now I’m working on it so I will get the outcome I desire. I also agree with the idea of failing. Failure is never the end of the world. Failure should be taken upon in a good light. You can succeed and move on via failure. You will be motivated to do better.

  5. Robert Says:

    Good thoughts. I think you’ve summed up my problem in a good succinct post.

  6. Deepam Says:

    Ok, this post has been so GREAT, that I felt compelled to give my sincere thanks. This line gave me a giant awakening: “People like builders, not destroyers.” And when I consider this moment to moment, I realize how genuinely TRUE it really is. So, I offer you my genuine THANK YOU!

    P.S. I’ve recently came across your blog, so I’ve been reading with real interest. Keep this awesome train rolling, good sir!

  7. Daan van den Bergh Says:

    I can’t say nothing else, but EXACTLY! I’ve realized the same thing growing up. I grew up in a family where nothing was rewarded, being smart, working hard, whatever. So I grew up incredibly insecure. One side of me I could describe as ‘the fighter’, which over the years (especially after moving out on my own) made me realize that I am actually pretty smart. At that point I could actually convert my childhood-experiences to something positive. They’ve learned me to never get cocky. And since I never was rewarded, actually BEING rewarded for my work taught me to focus on that. Focus on your work and results. My kickboxing-coach taught me the importance of proper technique.

    It’s interesting how you’ve just described an important time in my life. Thanks for the insight. Looking back at it is one thing, but reading about it and being able to give it a name – to point at it. Builds a whole new perspective. Thanks again.

  8. Robert Says:

    The United States is a bastion of anti-intellectualism. When you are dumb, you HAVE to work hard in order to accomplish anything. Is working hard more important than getting the job done CORRECTLY? In my country i would argue that the answer is yes. We have a lot of people who work hard, but not a lot of people who think for themselves. I would argue that the reason that being smart is useless is because the people who make the hiring decisions don’t want their feeble-mindedness exposed. They would prefer mediocrity over being shown-up. I wonder how many people who have fired for insubordination were fired because they exposed their boss’ lack of intelligence.

  9. Robert Says:

    The last comment should say “I wonder how many people who have BEEN fired …”

  10. Michelle Says:

    I love this post! It actually reminds me of one I wrote a little while ago, titled “I Don’t Care How Smart You Are”: http://www.wicked-whimsy.com/index.php/2011/01/17/i-dont-care-how-smart-you-are/

    (Although I took a slightly different tack than you did.)

    I’m very grateful that although I’ve always known I’m intelligent, my parents drilled it into me when I was young that intelligence is certainly not the be-all end-all of anything, and that a high IQ doesn’t get you anywhere – working hard does. If your IQ is through the roof but you can’t work with other people, or don’t have the drive to work hard at all, then chances are you won’t go much of anywhere.

  11. Stephen Says:

    It’s worse. Not only can ‘smart’ be invisible, i’ve also seen ‘hard working’, and even ‘proactive’ as invisible. I’ve seen being consistently on the spot with solutions that require six months of warning – impossible foresight – as actually unwelcome.

  12. carly Says:

    I think I am smart, but people are smart in different ways. So, I might not know a great deal of mathematics, but I know what I want to do in my career and I am making my own path along the way and I feel happy with this. For some – being smart is about being socially smart i.e. going out with friends and being able to make others laugh and think they’re cool. Whilst for others, being smart is about looking further ahead i.e. planning to run a marathon in a years time and taking steps towards achieving this goal. Some might consider this a smart move because it is doing something worth while to raise money for a charity and getting fit at the same time whilst others might consider it a waste of time and that within that time you could set up your own business and make a lot of money for yourself. However, it all depends upon what makes YOU happy. So if you are happy working 9-5 five days a week and coming home to watch telly, have dinner and go to bed then that is great. There’s nothing better then the feeling of happiness and many of us strive to feel that sense of happiness and self acceptance. Who cares what anyone else thinks of your life – if you feel happy with it and accept it then that’s all that matters. Other people will respect your life if you are comfortable and happy with it. Some people make fun of where I come from – the town where I grew up. In the past I have become quite defensive and upset about this because where I come from is my home and my family live there, but nowadays if someone makes a comment I don’t care what they think because I like my home town and I look back on it with fond memories so who cares what anyone else thinks. If you really feel like being bitter you can ask them what’s so perfect about where they come from – is there no crime there? So, if you are happy with spending a lot of money on studying for a degree in biology, for example, knowing that you are not going to do anything with your degree, but that you are happy to learn and enjoy learning then, so be it. Not everyone is going to change the world after studying. Some people study so that they can understand things better. Take what you want from your studies positive or negative, so long as you accept what you have achieved. Don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks. Make sure you remain happy.

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