With Great Intelligence Comes Great Difficulty

Above average intelligence? Feel sorry for yourself – you don’t have it easy.

Cambridge clever difficult easier essay Galileo Hobbes intelligence smart stupid thick Zulfiqar Ali

Throughout history, the smartest have been persecuted. Just think of Galileo and Hobbes. In our so-called meritocratic society, is it actually better to be clever? While being intelligent certainly has its perks, what most people don’t realise is that it is actually more challenging than being stupid.

Being smart means you are within the top few (usually five) percentile of the population. Hence, the masses are stupider than you. Being in the Cambridge bubble makes it all too easy to forget that there are some really thick people in the real world.

And being clever makes it utterly impossible to tolerate such people, especially when their arguments often consist of lots of shouting and strings of poorly thought out assertions. And so, you have two options: either you tell them what you think and look like an arrogant twat, or nod your head with a plastered smile and pray that the agony will soon be over.

Most of us opt for the latter, and since the world is full of such idiots, the more intelligent among us find themselves unwilling and/or unable to fit in and, hence, appear socially inept.

Does being clever entail being socially inept?

Consciousness of one’s intelligence leads to becoming overconfident. And this leads to the belief that you may understand something in 10 minutes when others take hours to grasp it. This means that you’ll shun your work for as long as you can, and then produce it at the last minute. As such, the clever end up underachieving and not maximizing their potential. Thinking they can do things easier and faster, the world is deprived of cures to cancer and the intelligent are deprived of noble prizes because they overestimate their I.Q.

I’m not claiming that every underachiever is smart (that would be stupid), or that every clever person is an underachiever (Einstein would turn over in his grave), but it is generally true that the majority of intelligent people are yet to find their limits.

Suffice it to say that if you are intelligent, you don’t have it as easy as people tend to believe. You find it difficult to tolerate stupid people, and you underachieve because you are overconfident.

So, if you are clever, ask Santa to bring you something to kill your brain cells this Christmas. I promise it will make your life a lot easier.

Illustration by Claudia Stocker