IQ is highly overrated. Everybody always talks about how smart somebody is, or how very clever they are. The internet is full of websites dedicated to how intelligent people wake up, or how smart people fail forward, as if being smart was somehow a panacea for every problem you might have.
It isn’t. Intelligent people are just as likely to have problems as everybody else.
In fact, over an IQ of 120 the relationship between success and IQ breaks down. Now an IQ of 120 is plenty smart, but it is certainly not genius level (officially that’s an IQ of 150). In fact, one in ten people you meet has an IQ of 120 or higher. So why does the relationship between success and IQ break down?
Well, there are a lot of reasons, such as the fact that just because you’re intelligent doesn’t mean you’re going to use it for the right purpose. You might instead use it to screw up your life. Also, you just might not care. Intelligent people can be just as lazy or unambitious as unintelligent ones. In fact, studies have revealed that highly intelligent people are more likely to drink and abuse substances and that, as we well know, is not a route to success (though perhaps infamy). And then there’s the problem that many intelligent people face, where they struggle to connect with other people, which doesn’t work well in a world where it’s still more who you know than what you know.
3 Qualities More Valuable Than a High IQ
So what kind of attributes are more valuable than intelligence? We’ve already looked at a few previously. Now we’re going to look at some more. First there is:
Drive and motivation
After all, everybody has to be able to accept that it doesn’t matter how intelligent you are if you don’t do anything with it. If you’re sitting on the couch all day eating chips and watching television, your bigger brain won’t mean be doing much more except for possibly burning the occasional extra calorie. For that reason, drive and motivation are vitally important to a life well lived.
I personally like to compare them to the engine and the fuel. Somebody who has a high intelligence has a good engine. It works fast, has good top speeds and can keep going to for a long time. But that doesn’t make a shred of difference if there is no fuel. In that case the engine is just so much scrap metal, really.
And it isn’t just me that says this, either. There is actual research backing this up. What’s even crazier (in case you didn’t feel like clicking on the link), this study reveals that it’s not in starting a company, or building cars, or writing a book where motivation matters more, but in mathematics. That’s right, in the discipline that most people consider the fortress of high intelligence, it is in fact motivation is the most important attribute.
So how can motivation not be an even bigger driver in other areas? In fact, if you look at the characteristics of people who succeed, you’ll the one unifying characteristic among all of them is that they’ve got drive. They put in the hours they do their time to get ahead. Now obviously being smart will help if you’ve got the motivation, but it’s better to have motivation than to be smart.
Another equally important attribute that is more valuable than intelligence is empathy, or the ability to connect with and understand other people. For, though we might be impressed when an intelligent person rattles off an entire Shakespearean play, we are far more likely to connect and form a bond with somebody who demonstrates empathy and cares about how we’re feeling and how we’re doing.
What’s more, these are the types of people we’re likely to gather around us and who we will want to spend the most time with. Intelligent people can often alienate other people with how smart they are. This is not something that an empathic person will do. Quite the contrary, empathic people will go out of their way to create meaningful relationships with other people. Ultimately, that’s something that is immensely successful, as meaningful relationships are a far more surefire road to happiness than intelligence will ever be.
Equally, I think most people would agree that empathy is a more effective quality for leadership than intelligence. If they’re an autocratic jerk bag as well as smart, that is actually worse for everybody who works for you. If, on the other hand, they’re not that clever but are empathic, understand your problems and are in a position to give you the support you need (possibly by getting other people involved) you’re going to be a far better boss and far more likable besides.
Openness to ideas
And then there is a person’s willingness to learn, accept new ideas and change their minds about what they’re doing. In other words, how curious a person is. Because again, it doesn’t matter how intelligent you are, if you’re not using that intelligence to get a more accurate, nuanced and deeper understanding of the world and what it teaches you, that won’t get you very far! You’ll just sound more intelligent as you spew absolute nonsense (which is in some ways worse as that means that you might drag more people down with you).
A person that dogmatically holds to a position, even when it has been proven wrong, is never going to be wise. In fact, they’re never going to learn anything from the lessons that life throws their way. Instead, they’ll be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
Again, there is evidence to support this. None of us are very good at predicting the future, but studies have shown that those people that are the most dogmatic in their beliefs and the least likely to alter their opinion, are the worse at predicting the future. And the ability to predict the future is a vital skill to have in this world, as it’s our abilities to predict what’s going to happen determines how well prepared we are for the problems that are coming down the road. It’s the difference between being reactive and proactive.
Or, as they say, ‘An intelligent person can get themselves out of problems that a wise person would never have let themselves get into.’
The final verdict
I don’t understand this obsession with intelligence. The media emphasizes it above all other traits, focusing on people’s intelligence as a more important attribute than anything else, when there is so many more attractive attributes for people to have. How have we got so enamored?
Why don’t we spend more time talking about how we can awaken drive, create empathy and promote a desire to learn from the world around us and our mistakes? After all, to a large extent these are much more fluid characteristics than intelligence (and that while intelligence is far more fluid than we think it is). And therefore our focus would have a far more beneficial effect.
I say, let’s topple this IQ tyranny. For though these other attributes I’ve mentioned might not be as glamorous as intelligence, they can certainly get you further in life and leave you happier besides. And that has to count for more than being able to recite the periodic table backwards, don’t you think?