The first question that merits an answer is what makes an individual smart. Is it the abundance of facts that one can memorize? Is it the above average, or exceptional, IQ? Perhaps, it is the wisdom to make a sound decision at the crucial moment, or knowing how to make the best out of the bad situation.
Maybe it is the ability to take as many aspects as possible into consideration before deciding on the future course of action. It is probably a good combination of all the previously mentioned traits.
Of course, if someone is smart and successful, it is hard to pinpoint what exactly is responsible for that person’s success and wellbeing. Truth be told, it is far easier to notice what these smart people don’t do, and arrive to a conclusion as to what is to be avoided. As long as we circumvent these negative things, the rest will come naturally.
1. They don’t heavily rely on others
There is nothing wrong with having friends, family members or coworkers you can trust and rely on. Everyone should have someone they can count on when things go south. Heavily relying on someone, however, only portrays you as powerless. As a smart individual, you should never indulge such a commodity.
You can have a brilliant mind, outstanding intelligence, etc. but if you do not put those traits to good use, then you will only come off as incompetent. When you are in need of assistance, pay close attention, see if your problem was truly difficult. In a great number of cases, it is our fear and insecurity that prevent us from acting.
There is always a thought “What if I only make things worse?” The thought is perfectly justified. The unwillingness to overcome such a fear on the other hand, isn’t.
2. They don’t act irresponsibly
Do not mistake this statement as “Smart people don’t have fun” or “Smart people are boring.” You can have fun, you can have a drink, or have a good laugh. Irresponsibility does not equal uninteresting, it only means you like to have an organized lifestyle.
Superior organization leads to greater efficiency, whether you are a student, an employee, a business owner, an artist, or a celebrity.
We all have certain responsibilities, and they are not always imposed by someone else. Putting them off for no valid reason is simply packing to travel into a more stressful future. Almost everyone experiences how being irresponsible tends to backfire, but smart people simply practice what they learn from such inconveniences.
3. They don’t feel defeated just because they need to reevaluate their convictions
Our environment, our parents, our education and our past are all responsible for forging our convictions and our perception of the world. It leads to a creation of what is referred to as “umwelt” which roughly translates as “self-centered world”. Umwelt is more connected to how we create the image of the world surrounding us by using our sense, but it can be extended to our point of view on philosophical matters.
The convictions we acquire throughout life are not wrong per se, but are very likely to be proven incompatible when exposed to an entirely new experience or more difficult questions that need answering. Also, if you move out and change the environment you are likely to witness different patterns of behavior, simply because education, or lack of education in some areas, resulted in the blooming of other other human qualities.
Sooner or later, our convictions are challenged and sometimes they will triumph, sometimes they will be trumped. Smart people constantly challenge their convictions; they do not discard them. They reshape them, and they allow them to grow proportionally with their new experience. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to broaden your mind-set, you are not defeated if you gained something valuable.
4. They don’t dwell on their errors
To clarify, this refers to companies that manufactured a bad product, or movie directors who made bad movies, etc. It is not uncommon to come up with an idea for something that appears like a true masterwork for us, but once it’s realized, the general public may not be that impressed. It can feel humiliating and really unpleasant, however it happens, whether we like it or not.
When you are making something intended to be appealing to the masses, and in the end fail, start over again from scratch. If you want to impress, listen to your audience, don’t try to patch up the product, or make sequels, in an attempt to prove your vision was brilliant.
This kind of behavior will only cost you your credibility, and even when you manage to come up with something good, people might not even bother to give it a try. It won’t make you neither weak nor foolish, if you know when to give up. It will only give you more time to work on your comeback.
5. They don’t permit their past to hold them back
The past cannot be erased, and it does not come back to haunt us, it simply never leaves. We need to learn how to cope with it, and not allow it to interfere with our future achievements. If there is nothing useful to be recovered from the past experience, simply close those doors and let it go.
Past experiences shape who we are today, and our previous struggles can build a strong character, but people tend to use their past to justify their mistakes or behaviour. Perhaps we use these excuses to gain understanding from others, or to make it easier to forgive ourselves.
Still, if you acknowledge your flaws but refuse to do something about them just because you have an excuse, then you have chosen an easy way out, and that’s not what smart people do.
6. They don’t rely on good luck to solve their problems
“Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.” A good quote to be guided by when you invest your time and efforts into something. Hope for the best possible scenario is what motivates us, whereas preparing for the worst prevents us from falling apart. On the other hand, simply hoping for the things to work themselves out is no different from being lazy.
Luck should only take credit for a fragment of your success, considering that relying on it too frequently will only suffocate your ambition.
Besides, smart people would never permit luck to take glory for all their hard work. When you pour your heart and soul into achieving your goal, it would be disappointing to give good fortune the title of “major contributor”.
7. They don’t hesitate to learn from their mistakes
Mistakes are inevitable. Sooner or later something goes wrong, and an unaccounted for variable emerges, and places a grave dent in our previously well-laid schemes. You can’t always have everything under your control, and we do not have the degree of awareness necessary to view every possible angle.
Mistakes are there to remind us of our flaws, and force us to mitigate the impact they have on our lives. Honestly, mistakes can teach us a lot about our lives, and ourselves, but only if we let them.
Learning from your mistakes means finding what is worth salvaging from your unfortunate experience, realizing what went wrong and finding a way to avert it in the future. Smart people use this input to work on themselves, and change the things they have the power to change.
Arrogant people look for excuses, and choose to blindly believe in their judgement without any retrospect. Not only does this kind of behaviour hinder your future success, it also drives people, and allies, away from you.
8. They don’t give up on their ideas just because other people don’t agree with them
I know that it was stated how knowing when to give up and start anew is a good thing, and how being too stubborn or pushy will ultimately yield bad results. Well, a wise person knows when he or she should push the envelope and stand firm when the situation takes a turn for the worst.
There is a difference between when someone gives your idea a chance and did not like it in the end and someone not giving your idea a chance at all. We are all entitled to constructive feedback on why our ideas or products are not satisfactory.
If someone wants to discard our efforts based on a hunch, do not let them. Fight for your chance to shine, or try finding someone else who will hear you out and appreciate your idea.
There is always a possibility that someone is intimidated by your expertise; thus that person wants to hinder your development. If you want to publish or launch something, look for more than one opinion. Even if the first one is flattering, look for more.
Constructive criticism can be used as a precious insight for the future.
9. They don’t lose the opportunity to broaden their experience
This is closely connected to the previously mentioned convictions, like Friedrich Nietzsche said, “There are no eternal facts, as there are no absolute truths.” You can never become a complete being, and you should never set such goals for yourself. However, making ongoing endeavors towards progression in various areas is indeed what a smart person would do.
Science constantly expands our understanding of the world; it constantly tests theories and comes up with new ones. Even old or proven findings are never left alone, they are re-examined, redefined, and updated. They are constantly after progress, investigating what is most likely the truth, not what they want to believe the truth is.
It is a good way to expand your database. After all, scientist are usually those who have the qualities, or are perceived to have qualities, of smart people. The majority of smart celebrities were and are scientists.
10. They don’t overestimate their abilities
Shelly’s Frankenstein and Goethe’s Faust tell a wonderful cautionary tale about how even the brightest among us can suffer a tragic downfall, simply because they overreached past their limitations. Ambition and hard work are healthy and nothing to be ashamed of, but without moderation, these qualities can be dangerous.
Primarily, you are likely to exhaust yourself continually, which can be indeed stressful and it can have a negative impact on your health. The insatiable desire for advancement in a particular field can cloud your perspective, and make you lose grip on other important aspects of life. Ultimately, we can end up being alienated from our peers, and it can be sad to have no one you can share your success with.
Secondly, our mind has its limits too, and very often actively thinking about the problem doesn’t get us anywhere. We need to know when we are stuck and to take a break. In other words, we need to allow our subconscious processes to grab the reins, and see what happens.
You’d be surprised just how frequently certain answers simply dawn on you. Moreover, even when the answers appear obvious, it is better to examine them again in the morning, perhaps they won’t seem as ideal as they did the day before.
11. They don’t make redundant enemies
Regardless of your status, whether you are a rising star entrepreneur, or an employee in a small firm, you are likely to encounter enemies, nemeses, competition, whatever you want to label particular individuals.
These people are not malefic in nature. Your convictions, ideologies or points of view are only incompatible. The problem is that you can never know what they may do if they feel provoked, and they are probably perceiving you in the same manner, which results in unnerving animosity.
It is important to define a difference between enemies created by circumstances, and enemies created by our actions. We have already established how our competition can induce minor paranoia, so it is better not to incite any redundant conflicts. When you socialize with stubborn and hot headed individuals, rest assured that you are not the only one who notices their traits.
Trying to prove a point and creating an argument with these people will get you nowhere. A smart thing to do is just nod, or say you do not agree, and end the discussion.
When entering partnerships, do a thorough check on your potential allies, see if they are not prone to deceive you, but also make sure you don’t accidentally do something that can be viewed as treacherous. Furthermore, if you are going through a divorce, see to it that you do not separate on completely bad terms, since creating a relationship based on acts of spite won’t do anyone any good.
12. They don’t allow their pride to get in the way
Time to quote one of my favorite manga artists, Tite Kubo: “If it rusts, it can never be trusted. If its owner fails to control it, it will cut him. Yes, pride is like a blade.” Spiritual teachings usually label pride as a bad characteristic, but reality tends to tell a different story. Having pride is completely acceptable, but being consumed by it is quite inconvenient.
It is not rare that once you become so brilliant, you tend to automatically castigate the opinion of everyone around you. Not only that, but you may often find yourself rejecting a good proposal or initiative simply because you are not the one who thought of it. Smart people rely on their reasoning and if too much pride interferes with it, then it is a feature not worth nurturing.
13. They don’t put all the eggs in one basket
This one is a no brainer. Never fully invest yourself for the sake of realizing a single idea. Always have backup plans, alternatives, contingencies etc. It was already established that people may not be impressed with your design, or that something can go wrong if we don’t account for all the variables.
This doesn’t imply that you should be discouraged and back off when things don’t go as planned, but this matter will be addressed later on.
14. They don’t lie to themselves that everything will be easy
Finally, don’t live in the illusion that life will be easy. Your efforts may be thwarted on more than one occasion. Bright and intelligent people know how to pick themselves up and make a comeback. They work on their confidence, and don’t expect things to get easier. Even when things appear to be easy, don’t drop your guard – it’s always quiet before the storm.
Smart people love challenges and the thrill that comes from overcoming an obstacle. Having some downtime is refreshing, but confronting and tackling new problems is what they live for.
15. They don’t take unnecessary risks
We all found ourselves, at some point in life, when we could have taken a risk in exchange for a greater gain. In the event you are an adrenalin junkie, a motto like “high risk, high reward” is not a bad thing to live by.
Being smart and calculated very often contradicts with this approach, since it is not implied that you won’t face risks, but it limits you to only those that are necessary.
Even small risks with significant gain, like lottery, are a poor choice; if you have some extra cash, save it and wait for it to accumulate. Do not depend on people who are more or less strangers, or wildcards, and stay away from the fluctuating stock markets. Work hard to achieve success – don’t be tantalized by the possibility to change your life overnight.
Source: “20 Things Smart People Don’t Do,” from lifehack.org, by Djordje Todorovic