Is It Possible to Be Too Smart?

Many years ago, as a teenager, I applied for a job at a local fast food restaurant. The application asked for high school grade point average. Being an excellent student, I happily and proudly put down my GPA. In the interview, the manager looked down at my application and then back at me. “Is this correct?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

He closed the folder and said, “We’re looking for people who don’t make school a priority.” And that ended my job interview.

I went across the street and applied at Burger King, which saw my intelligence as an asset, and hired me. I worked there for two years, was never late, and never missed a scheduled shift. Their competitor missed out.

I’m not the only person who has missed out on a job by being too smart. (Although, in all fairness, doing well in school and being smart aren’t necessarily the same thing.) A man who wanted to be a police officer was rejected purely based on his IQ score, and the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld that.

But aside from being rejected by a fast food restaurant and a police department, are there other downsides to being too intelligent? Quora asked this question and the responses were fascinating. Since many entrepreneurs are highly intelligent, are these things that you’ve faced?

You’re hated for being right.

Quora commenter Al Nelson explained it this way:

You know that when you see change coming, you cannot say so, because they hate you more for being right than for being wrong. Sometimes, you know more about a person than they know about themselves. They don’t realize that the messages their subconscious sends out are perfectly clear.

This is definitely something that happens. When you say, “this won’t work,” and then it doesn’t, nobody says, “Gee, we should have listened to you in the first place!”

You’re more prone to depression.

Naveen Durgaraju says that smarter people are more likely to be depressed “because of their heightened thought process and different perspective on the world.” He’s not the only one who thinks that. Recent research shows a direct correlation, not between depression and intelligence, but between bipolar disorder and intelligence. Creativity combined with intelligence is also a factor in mental illness.

Everyone takes your intelligence for granted.

Sometimes they use the word “lucky” to describe someone who is intelligent and who scores well on a test, or solves a difficult problem, ignoring the hard work involved. Roshna Nazir describes it like this:

You are automatically expected to be the best, no matter what.
Don’t worry. Your brain isn’t as weak as ours.
Tough exam?
How does it matter. You are going to top anyway.
Relationship problems?
Come on! You always have a solution for everything.

She concludes “You are ALONE, all by yourself.” When it’s just assumed that you’ll know what to do, the pressure can be immense and lonely.

Your intelligence is wasted.

If you ever remember being “rewarded” in school for completing your work by your teacher handing you yet another worksheet, you understand this. Toar Pitoy says,

Your intelligence is wasted. Growing up, people said you could do anything. You got into a great college, made the Dean’s List a semester or two, and finally managed to land a coveted job at the Acme Corporation. Now you answer phones and fill out spreadsheets. Sadly that A- in calculus does little to keep you warm at night.

The people with the highest IQs aren’t necessarily the ones who lead companies. Sometimes our bosses aren’t as bright as we are. (But smart bosses want people who are smarter and more capable working for them.)



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