Having, doing and choices

I’m fond of saying, and really ought to put it in the Things I’ve Learned, that it isn’t what you have, it’s what you do with it.

I was an intelligent child, as such is defined by the neurotics running our school system.  I taught myself to read at three.  Being pulled out of normal classes for part of the day to take part in “gifted” classes started in kindergarten.  I was on the Who’s Who in high school.  None of this meant sweet F. A. to me for two reasons.

One – I disagree with the common definition of intelligence.  I’ve been testing at genius level on IQ tests since the second grade, and figured out about five minutes later that these tests don’t measure intelligence.  They can’t.  What they’re testing is reading ability and memory.  True genius is the ability to make your brain work at vastly higher function than most people.  Preferring a good book to television and having great recall is nifty, but not genius-level brain function.  IMO, intelligence is measured by one’s ability to learn and understand.  On that score I’m fairly smart, which segues into my next point.

Two – I have never had a desire to do anything with it.  My work ethic is far better than most, but I’m an independent cuss who thinks and questions too much, which makes me a terrible employee.  I never wanted to have a high-powered career – doctor, lawyer, high finance.  I was accepted at an Ivy League school and could have done the work for a much more impressive degree than the one I got at a lesser school, but I didn’t want it.  I knew I’d never use it.  Hell, I don’t use the degree I have.

Lack of ambition?  Sort of.  Ambitions I have aplenty, just not the normal ones.  I want to be happy, I’ll settle for contentment.  That, to me, means working enough to pay for my needs and some of my wants but not so much that I have no life outside of work.  A home and nice things, without caring whether mine are better than my neighbors.  Mostly I want to be left alone to fail or succeed on my own terms, as I see fit.

I don’t have a large, smashingly decorated home; flash tech gadgets by the dozen; a new car; lots of pretty clothes and shoes.  But you know, I’ve seen people who have all that stuff and I am more content than they are.  I work, I write, I putter around my kitchen, I do pretty much as I please, and this is all I need.  I am content.

My father, on the other hand, was never called “bright” as a child.  He didn’t even take Algebra in school.  Never went to college.  Struggles with reading.  He’s also an engineer who worked his way up in an international company which finds him irreplaceable and pays him five figures a month to prove it.   He has four cars (including a sweet Mustang and a truly beautiful classic Chevelle he restored himself) and a truck, a motor home, a flat screen in every room.  So.  It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it.  I’m a  blissful poster child for failing to meet potential while my father is busily thumbing his nose at all those people who said he wasn’t smart enough to go anywhere in life.

Moral of the story: I hear so many people lament what their life could have been if it weren’t for the expectations of others.  In short, they screwed up once by letting other people live their life and now they’re whining about it to boot.  “I didn’t have a choice.”  Bullshit.  You always have a choice.  You may not like the choices, but they exist.  You will never be content until you know who you are, what you want and how far you’re willing to go to protect both.  There are two lies which are the cause of most personal misery, in my opinion.  The first is that you have to listen to what other people tell you to do.  The second is that you have to let other people decide what you aren’t capable of.

Published in: on January 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm  Comments (3)  

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  1. Your description of how a highly intelligent person is content with not exploiting her intelligence to become rich and dominate others rings true to me, because I am exactly the same way. I can’t say I scored at genius level as a child, because I never took an IQ test before I was 21, but I read fluently at 3. And I am no top CEO or even top professor, probably because I am too ornery to conform.

    I do have one comment; you say that IQ tests don’t measure intelligence. I disagree, and so do almost all psychometricians. What good tests do measure is the ability to handle complexity, which is the very definition of intelligence.

    Be well and prosper, as we used to say,


    • I disagree, and so do almost all psychometricians.

      Most economists say the housing crash and subsequent economic fallout couldn’t have been predicted, though I – demonstrably not an economist – called both in 2005.

      Point being that lots of people who claim expertise can agree, and still be wrong. Are they wrong in this instance? Dunno.

      What good tests do measure is the ability to handle complexity, which is the very definition of intelligence.

      Then I am exceptionally stupid, as anyone can attest who has seen me try to operate electronic devices. If it has more than one button/one cord, I can’t make it work. I think electronics are like cattle – they can smell fear.

      Hail, fellow, and well met.

  2. It always seems that in many cases, people like us who are extraordinarily good at some things…are missing something somewhere else.

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