By: Richard Feloni
Sometimes the smartest people do things that seem to make no sense at all.
A group of Quora users drew from their experiences to address the question, “What are some stupid things that smart people do?” The answers provide ways to overcome some of the common ways intelligent people unknowingly undermine themselves.
We’ve highlighted a few below:
1. They spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing.
“Because thinking comes so easily to smart people, doing becomes relatively harder.
Research and planning are great in moderation, but can offer the dangerous illusion of progress,” says Silicon Valley entrepreneur Chris Yeh. Smart people who are perfectionists can get caught up in this kind of seemingly productive procrastination and often nitpick over minute details rather than finishing projects.
2. They follow the pack.
Venture for America’s Andrew Yang has written extensively about the trend of top college graduates going into the same few industries equated with “making it,” like finance and consulting, rather than following their passions. New York entrepreneur Lee Semel agrees: “Many smart people often seem to be followers, probably because they grow up spending so much time pleasing others via academic and extracurricular achievement that they never figure out what they really like to work on or try anything unique.”
3. They stop trying.
People whose intelligence has helped them achieve a level of success can often get lazy. “These smart people fail to further develop their natural talents and eventually fall behind others who, while less initially talented, weren’t as invested in being smart and instead spent more time practicing,” Semel says.
4. They undervalue social skills.
Some intelligent people don’t realize that intellect is only one element of achieving success and that personal connections are everything in the professional world. “They never try to improve their social skills, learn to network, or self promote, and often denigrate people who excel in these areas,” Semel says.
5. They place being right above all else.
Many smart people indulge a dangerous combination of ego and logic and behave as though being right all the time is somehow endearing (it’s the opposite), Semel says. It’s bad when they argue a point they’re misinformed about, but it can be even more embarrassing for them when they insist on arguing facts against someone’s long-held beliefs.
6. They equate education with intelligence.
A high academic pedigree can make some people think that where someone got their college degree reflects how smart they are, says Liz Pullen, a sociologist. In many cases, a degree from an elite university represents a great achievement, but there are countless instances where those who didn’t graduate college are more qualified for a job because of their real-world experience.
7. They are too independent.
Smart people can fail to develop healthy support systems that everyone needs to succeed.
“Without a good support system, anyone can begin to slide down a slippery slope when they encounter hardship, miscalculate something major, or fall victim to the misdeeds of others,” says Quora user Andrea Martin. How do you develop a good support system? “Methodically place yourself in the company of the most mature, benevolent, competent people you can identify.”