Can you be smart enough that you are too smart for your own good, but not quite smart enough to become something truly great?
When I was very young, some time around third grade, my teacher must have seen something in me. She requested that I have an I.Q. test administered. My parents didn’t tell me what I scored at the time, but I knew it had to be pretty good because I was immediately placed in a program my school had which was called the “gifted” program.
Once a week, everyone in the gifted program (there were about 10 of us), would get bussed off to a special building to be taught special topics. Leaving class on those days, to leave the others behind, knowing that they all knew who we were, and where we were going, was a good feeling. It was my first taste of pride. Proud of myself for being noticed as something more special than the others.
Yet, I do not feel I used the tools given to me in any special way. By the time I was in high school, I was enrolled in all advanced placement classes, and I was over 6 feet tall. Looking back, had I tried, I probably could have been a star athlete in the sport of my choosing, or maybe a star student. I probably could have gotten scholarships, or into Ivy League schools on either academic or athletic merit. But I didn’t.
I used my gifts, to enable me to be lazy. I could sleep through class, skip homework assignments, write book reports on books I had barely skimmed through. I could skate by without even trying. Sad thing is, this trait followed me through college, and into my adult life, and I behave much the same now. I appear to excel at things when in reality, I am hardly even trying.
When it was time to take my SAT’s, I didn’t care. I knew I could get the score I wanted. I didn’t prepare, I didn’t study. The night before I stayed up too late and got to my test 15 minutes late, having forgotten my pencil, and my calculator. I took the test, without a calculator, using a borrowed pencil, and finished first. I scored 1450.
The difficult thing, is pride. I was later told by my mother the score I got on the I.Q. test. I don’t take it for much since I was probably only 7 years old when I took it, but the score she told me was 157. While I am almost certain that number is a lie. I was proud of it. Not only was I proud of it, I was cocky about it. I did not openly brag, and did not appear cocky, but in my own head, and in my own life – I was cocky. I knew I didn’t have to try very hard, and as such I didn’t. The gifted program, and that number, made me so cocky and proud, that I was probably worse off.
Now I realize, perhaps, I am not really all that smart after all. I see kids who I easily out performed in high school with doctorates from the finest Ivy League schools, scholarships, everything I didn’t get. I graduated college and took a high paying job right away. A job in a field I do not like. A job I am still in today. All because I was lazy. I was, and still am, complacent. If I was smart, I would have recognized the power of what I had, and used it in a much better way.
There is a phenomenon where I feel some people are too smart for their own good. I have had a theory about it for a long time, but I never actually applied it to myself, until now. The theory is that some people are so smart, they are stupid. Not in the savant sort of way, but an entirely different way altogether.
One of my best friends growing up is who gave me this idea. He was easily smarter than I ever was, or ever will be. Yet, the decisions he made, were terrible. He saw the flaws in society, and rebelled against them. He saw the flaws in the school system, and as such, dropped out of school. He was smart enough to recognize the flaws in the world, and probably how the fix them. But he was too dumb to realize that he was better off playing along with the system, and taking advantage of it.
I have coasted through life on raw intelligence alone, but I lack any sort of real drive. There are things I want to do, things I wish I could do. There are ideas I have, and dreams I dream. I see a world full of things I could do, becoming things I could have done. I have some major personal flaws which intelligence cannot outweigh. I lack drive and motivation to be something more, and I contain just enough pride to the point where I still feel like I can sit up on a perch above everyone else. Expecting people to simply recognize something in me that third grade teacher did, and handing me an opportunity to be something more, again. My mind races all the time. I become easily stressed out and overwhelmed with my own ideas. I am perpetually depressed.
I need an outlet. I need to start doing things myself, before everything I want to do becomes something I can no longer do, but merely something I could have done.
14 thoughts on “Too Smart for your Own Good”
Wow, very raw an honest for a blog post. Just remember it is never too late to change things. Complacency is state of being and not a physical feature…do something 🙂
I too was in the “gifted and talented” in my school. My school was small and all the advance classes had to be taken via satellite. When in highschool I did not have much competition for head of the class so I did just enough to get by. As far as how that translates into happyness… I dunno. I feel its a problem of perception. Regrets should only be there to push ourselves in the present or down the road. Not to be used to pile up on ourselves. I read http://www.amazon.com/Learned-Optimism-Change-Your-Mind/dp/0671019112# years ago and while nothing is a flip switch on depression… it did help me understand somewhat of what goes on or perpetuates depression. For me I am a proud loner and that doesnt help much. When I am social I am much better off.
I can relate. Your post really resonated with me. I too have cruised along, just doing the bare minimum. Rarely truly motivated, and not really caring about anything.
Like your friend, I identify the flaws in “the system” and hate the world because of it. But really it’s not the world that I hate, it’s myself. I hate myself for being so damn lazy, I hate that I haven’t done more with my life and I really hate that I didn’t try harder to be all that I could have been.
But Bobby’s right, it’s never too late to change. Never.
Wow, what a compelling story. This by no means has to define you. See it as the story that propels you to greatness… Similar to an addict that finally has had enough of being less than mediocre. Tony Robbins says to get uncomfortable. It sounds like you’re too comfortable with this story.. But fortunately for you, you have the power to change everything! You’re like that picture that you picked for this post. So fitting.. You have the potential to come out of that water drenched tunnel and come out on the other side. It’s sunny there. Good luck!
HOnestly… I feel… exactly like this… i mean… i’ve never taken an IQ test… but i feel i am beyond too smart… but its common sense smart… not book smart… i know hoe to cheat… i know hoe to get away with … and how to do everything i want without even trying… and people call me the golden boy… just because i get what i want… I KNOW HOW… i work smarter… not harder…
i must say that a few of these posts sound like they might have come out of my own head. i was the kid who aced the iowa test of basic skills. the child who had a 160 iq. the 7th grader who got a 1460 on the sats. i read a wrinkle in time in third grade and anna kaerinina in fifth. but it was all a joke to me. i opted out of johns hopkins to ” be a normal kid” and found pot and alcohol and girls and after a six year steady drunk i am mostly sober. it took me six years to party away all that intelligence and i dont regret that i did it. i knew way to early that adults were fallible and resented them for it as i resented also the assumption that everyone had that i owed the world something great just because of an accident of birth that gave me abnormal intelligence. i fought the whole world and the demons inside for so long that i had to bow out and i am scared that my sobriety will lead to my brain again functioning on that higher level. i dont want it. i hate that black hole or pressure in my brain from all the thoughts rushing around. i cant even act like i understand normal people anymore convincingly. i know all the angles of their arguements before they do and i see where they are coming from but i cant react to what they say like a normal human would. does anyone understand what i am saying at all? i dont think i explained it very well nor do i think that i had much of a point i just had to get some of that out
wow im the exact way i am smart but i only use it to be lazy. I am in high school and i feel that im gonna end up the exact way you ended up. I get A’s and i don’t even try. I put all my effort into putting in less effort. High school is a huge waste of time but i guess its necessary. Although its a waste its not so bad because im popular but i still rather not go. i sleep a lot of my afternoon away and stay up at night and play video games all the time. i could get a job where i would be helping the world advanced but i would not get paid enough so why bother. I am probably just gonna end up getting a high paying job i hate just like you. You are me 10 years ago and i just saw my future.
I can relate to your friend, as I dropped out myself for these reasons. There’s just this feeling inside which eats you up when you go along doing something you really don’t want, and I guess once the stress gets too much, you just stop thinking and quit. That’s what I did.. Followed by a few years of stress and it’s problems.
Yet it feels as though my soul has awakened since then, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂
I also have the exact same problems. I am in high school, and all of it comes so easily to me, that I just check out of my classes and never pay attention. This year I have a 2.0 GPA that will soon be a 3.0 with some last minute homework etc that I turn in. I want to go to college already where I feel I will be able to do something about this, maybe in the way of doing only the work I need to to learn the material etc… But I can’t stand all of this pointless crap they make us do. I’m skating by with the bare minimum. I don’t know how to apply myself. Damn this “intelligence” I love it, but it is a curse as well.
I was this way too in school, I never studied nor applied myself because I didn’t have too, and I was flat broke at age 25 because of this. However I got hooked on personal development and I was a millionaire by age 40. So my advice is to get started growing YOU, and find a vehicle that helps you move in that direction. Feel free to check out my current vehicle.
This was my problem. In High School, it was too easy. I was not receiving any kind of challenge. I had my future plans all set out for me, and anything that would impede those plans was ignored and forgotten about. High School was one of those things. I could, and still cannot, put any effort into anything I deem worthless, pointless, far below my level, et cetera, and use my intelligence to pursue that which I’m interested in. I didn’t do any of my work, but I’d get high 90’s on every single test I took without studying or practicing the material at all. The teacher would put it up on the board, I’d read it, then use it on the test weeks – or even months- later, without polishing up or taking notes or anything. When the SATs rolled around, I scored a 2190. That translates to a 1450 on the old system that most of you are discussing. I didn’t put any effort in whatsoever, I just showed up and took the test. I never placed anything lower than a 96 or 97 on the standardized tests my state forces us to take.
All the “challenging” classes that were offered either did not interest me and my goals, or, if they did, were far beyond the level of material I had learned myself through reading and research. Luckily for me, even though I did not do the majority of my work, I still managed to net a 3.5 GPA or higher every semester, even with 20 or more assignments missing.
Sometimes, I feel guilty that I can do that well without any kind of effort on my part, while the majority of students, and people in general, have to work their asses off to even get close to what I can achieve without thought. I was always told “Oh it will get harder, you’ll have to study one day!” Despite being in college now, I am able to take the courses that interest me, so I actually put forth an honest effort.
If you’re like me, and nothing offered interests you, presents a challenge, or gets in the way of your plans, then I recommend not going to a small suburban High School, but rather a school for gifted students. Unfortunately for me, my area of interest isn’t very common and thus never offered at any kind of secondary school. I didn’t honestly begin to care until my senior year, when I was able to take classes at the local university.
Hi. I’ll get to the point.
I’m 18, right now.
This caught my attention,
my score was 187, at 6 is when I took the test.
I have ambitions in science, and writing.
But, like you, I cruised through my work without effort, I also was inconsistent with attendance, and even now do great things outside of school, while leaving high school behind.
The similar work ethic scares me, because your story does not have a happy ending.
I left the gifted program to join IB hoping for a challenge, but not before joining gifted arts for a year, because I could. Now I’m in boring high-school (I live alone so I took a year off to work).
You’re older than me, I want to know what you think.
Respond if you’d like to talk.
You poor smart sob’s! I too attended a school for gifted and talented children. Although my iq was tested and scored at a measly 100 I graduated in the top percentile of my class /grade point average. Go figure.
Today I work fast food for minimum wage! I’m just not motivated.
Thank you so much for this post! I guess like everyone else here who has read it, I feel you described me exactly.
I have achieved nothing compared to what I could have. I did terribly in school because I didn’t have to work for it. I have never, never studied anything in my life. And what you said about, “seeing the flaws in the system,” that’s me 100%. I have one of the strongest internal conflicts of my life knowing (at least what seems good to me) how things should be done and not being able to do things the way they are done. I too think, “I am too smart for my own good.”