Am I smart because I know a lot of things? Or do I tell myself I’m smart and therefore do the things that I assume a smart person would do?


As long as I can remember people have told me I’m smart 🤓. I was shoved into enrichment classes early on in school. Until recently, I thought that was a good thing. Self belief in my intellect allowed me to succeed at a lot of the goals that were set before me growing up. I excelled in school. I graduated college with high marks. I got a good job. The only thing was I had no sense of vision or purpose. At no point in that progression did I stop to take a breath and ask myself if this was what I really wanted. I was too afraid to. This was the proven path. This was that path that would set me up for a good corporate job.

Perhaps to be smart is more about convincing yourself that you’re smart. Then once you believe it, taking carefully determined steps to avoid falling on your face.


Well, I have the job, I’m a decade in and now what? As far as I’m concerned the options are pretty limited. I either a) work really hard at my job to move up the ladder, or b) I go to school to get an extra degree…so I can skip steps in the ladder. I’ve never entertained that maybe I don’t even need the ladder! Maybe there are other paths to success that lie outside this track that I’ve been on all my life. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rejection of everything in my life up to this point in my life, far from it. I’m grateful for the stability, the life style and the many wonderful comforts in my life. I just can’t shake the question of purpose. Is this really it? If this is it, is that okay with me?


This is why I fundamentally question the “smart” seed that was implanted in me from a young age. What does it mean to be smart? I think generally it’s taken to mean that you know stuff, and you make good decisions. That seems harmless enough. But, it seems every day I’m reading new articles on how “smart” people are afraid to fail. Perhaps to be smart is more about convincing yourself that you’re smart. Then once you believe it, taking carefully determined steps to avoid falling on your face. I can’t speak to the experience of the multitudes, but I think for me it’s somewhere between those two definitions.

If I internalize that I’m a “hard worker” what effect does that have on me? What is being reinforced? It seems to me that that reinforces an attitude of “I may not know how to do this, but I will figure it out.”


So if a big brain 🧠 person is a person who makes safe bets and carefully colors within the lines of life, what then does it mean to be “dumb?” I think the nice way most people put it if you’re not smart is that you’re a “hard worker” 🤔. (Let’s assume I’m not intending to insult anyone for a sec). That seems like a harmless and nice way to put it. I wouldn’t want to be told I’m stupid even if I am stupid. But if I am, the question then changes. If I internalize that I’m a “hard worker” what effect does that have on me? What is being reinforced? It seems to me that that reinforces an attitude of “I may not know how to do this, but I will figure it out.” When I take this idea and I pick it up and hold it in my hands and play with it, this sounds like a MUCH better world view.


This is a fundamentally different relationship to success and failure. As a “smart” person I’m told I can do anything with the presumption that I can do anything right out of the gate (which is hogwash). However, when I’m a “hard worker” I’m reinforced with a beginner’s mind set. A “smart” person enters everything with the expectation of success. A “hard working” person enters everything with the expectation to start, and maybe to stumble, but ultimately perseveres and emerges on the other side better for it.


It’s time to reconsider my “smarts.” 🔍

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