Most people confuse intelligence and smartness. I did too, for a long time.

I was on the board of a business. A fellow board member asked me about how to structure the company for better tax treatment. I said, “I don’t know”. Visibly annoyed with me, he said, “But, you’re an MIT grad. You should know this.”

Intelligence is your potential to learn and make distinctions (between situations, things,…). You are born with most of your intelligence. You CAN become MORE intelligent over time by acquiring certain additional knowledge, and with consistent and extended practice. Many intelligent people who didn’t graduate have become very successful in life (monetarily or otherwise) – they were very smart at what they did… people like Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

“Intelligence is a bio-physical potential to process information in certain ways, to solve problems or fashion valuable products.”

– Howard Gardner, Harvard University.

All of us are intelligent, some more than others… and even have different kinds of intelligence, but our smarts are area- specific, have specialization and levels of ‘smartness’. You could be a smart marketer, but your smartness may be limited to just digital marketing, just social media marketing, and just marketing on LinkedIn.

Smartness is your ability to apply your intelligence to real-world challenges in a specific area or field. It is acquired or developed, and leverages one’s intelligence. You can become a WHOLE LOT SMARTER in a specific area or field by acquiring knowledge, training, and extended practice. Smartness cannot be measured, is often relative, or can only be seen in outcomes achieved. Smartness is CONTEXTUAL. Your intelligence can be applied to computer programming and cake designing, but you may not be smart at either. You could be a very smart computer programmer, but that does NOT make you a smart carpenter.

The mistake most people make is confusing intelligence with smartness – like my fellow Board member did – and (wrongly) assuming that smartness in one area automatically translates to other areas (or every area) of your life.

We shall explore different kinds of intelligence, smarts and their link to your success in future posts.

I’ve researched (with 2 psychologists) the many reasons intelligent people struggle to succeed, and found that they boil down to 15 psychological factors. We designed an assessment to identify those impediments in you. Once you know which of those are ‘holding you back’, you can mitigate them to become more successful.

Click on the link in to take the assessment: https://www.businessthinking.com/assessments/are-you-smart-but-not-successful/

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