An Unfulfilled Life: How High Intelligence Has Led To My Love/Hate Relationship With Work

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I don't like to write about intelligence. It is one of those topics that for some reason seems taboo. My experience has been that people get angry, defensive, and critical when I bring it up. But I want to break my own rules today and talk about it because I read this article about career advice for geniuses and began reflecting on my own unfulfilling work history. I began to wonder if many of you read this blog because you view the world much like I do. Many of you are probably quite intelligent and as such have lived through a series of similarly unfulfilling jobs. I hope you reach the end of this post and feel a sigh of relief, knowing that you aren't the only one that has this struggle.

The post is divided into three parts. First, my own history and experience. Secondly, why I think intelligence can be a curse at work, and why companies don't embrace the best and brightest. Thirdly, what you can do if you are an intelligent but unfulfilled employee and what to do if you are a manager that needs to engage a highly intelligent individual.

I will say upfront that entrepreneurship may be an excellent path for highly intelligent people interested in business, because it requires analysis and decision making on many different levels with different time frames and different problem domains – everything a genius really wants.

1. My Experience
I should have known something was wrong with me in the sixth grade when, given the chance to present a topic to the class, I chose "Atoms and Molecules." Most other students chose celebrities, sports figures, or historical events. I mixed vinegar and baking soda and listened to the class laugh as it overflowed my jug and soak the surrounding carpet. I was always in the advanced classes and went on to a high school for smart kids and did well but was more interested in girls and basketball during this period of my life. Otherwise I could have applied myself much more.

I went to college and majored in Electrical Engineering, but I often found the classes boring. I remember sitting in the back of my Electromagnetics class and reading a book on Fuzzy Logic because I found it more interesting and the college didn't have a course in it. As a senior, I took an ASIC design course and missed a key lecture on how to draw various transistor implementations of logic gates. It was an important component of the course, so I had to learn it on my own for the exam. A bonus problem on the exam was some sort of funky logic equation that we had to implement in as few transistors as possible. I was the only person in the class to get it right, and I even beat the implementation of the professor. Since I learned it on my own I had developed a different way of thinking about these problems, and he was so impressed he offered me a scholarship to grad school to come work in his lab. This was the late 90s though, and tech was lucrative so I wasn't going to give up good money for more schooling.

During my college years I also managed a restaurant that had lost money for three years and had it's first profitable quarter about six months after I came on board. I started to think that maybe I had unconventional ideas because I was smart, and not because I was crazy.

I started my professional work career and found that I had problems. I loved to tackle new things, unique problems, and I loved to debug hardware. But I hated doing many of the tasks that seemed to be part of the job. I didn't relate well to others when it came to unspoken expectations. If I was given lots of leeway in how to do something it was almost certain to turn out in a way that my manager did not anticipate. It seemed that I never had the same set of assumptions about a problem as anyone else.

I did some excellent things and I flopped on some things. Whether I was a good or bad employee depended on who you talked to. I didn't deal well with the structure. The career path was pretty much the same for everybody and I didn't have the chance to pursue projects that I found interesting. I was just given stuff that managers thought I should be doing based on my experience level and were the internal openings were.

After awhile I finally went to see a psychologist. I told him I thought I had problems because my worldview seemed to be so dramatically different than everyone else I knew. He suggested I take an intelligence test, which is how I ended up in MENSA. For the first time in a long time, I breathed a sigh of relief. It didn't fix anything, but it did give me some external verification that helped me deal with everything.

Throughout my career, I have felt, and still feel, like I could contribute so much more if given the chance. I feel like I live in a world where everyone expects things to work a certain way but to me the rules seem arbitrary and in some ways that makes it much more difficult to fit in. I have not had a normal career path, and by and large this is seen as a negative rather than a positive. I'm not sure where I will end up, but I keep looking for that job where I get paid to work on really hard really unique problems.

The irony in the fact that I am usually bored with my jobs is that I really love to work. My hobbies usually consist of side projects and businesses that are fun and challenging. My parents joke that the things I do for fun are things most people consider work. That is the love/hate relationship I am talking about. I love to do things. I love to think, analyze, discuss, debate, research, build, debug, etc. When I get home from work, I blog, I work logic puzzles, I study Chinese, I read (mostly non-fiction and lots of textbooks). I don't like to do things that don't require my brain to be engaged. But I end up hating most jobs because it seems that companies try to take all the thinking out of the work – probably because most people don't like it.

The one deviation was my first major foray into entrepreneurship. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of it all but, for various reasons, eventually sold my stake to my business partner.

2. Intelligence as a curse at work.
Out of all the possible tests you could give someone, the single best predictor of on the job success is raw intelligence. If you don't believe me, look it up. The problem is that even intelligence only has a weak correlation with job success (which means that we are really not very good at predicting who will be successful in what positions, without spending a lot of time and money looking at many different components of the person and the job). Add to that the fact that even intelligent people are frequently wrong (though statistically they may fare better than others), and you see why the value in hiring really smart people might not be readily evident to most companies.


Intelligent people often understand counterintuitive ideas that don't make sense to others. They often see complex interactions between things that others don't see or understand. On average, they are quicker to change views and less tied to a specific ideology. This is a big problem in the workplace because most everyone has their pet theories that they hold dear. Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Myers-Briggs disciples, Predictive Index disciples, and on and on… people believe many things that they will never let go of, regardless of the evidence. Intelligent people just don't care as much about ideologies and the idols and gurus that promote them as others do.

Just last week during coffee with some friends, one guy turned to the other and said "if there is anyone you admire don't tell Rob about it. He'll boot them right off of the pedestal." It's not that I do it intentionally, I just like to present a balanced view of an issue which often surprises people who haven't been exposed to the full story about something.

Intelligent people tend to be ambivalent about a broad number of topics. While this stems from being informed and having a good understanding of the complexity of most situations, it is often seen in the workplace as being wishy-washy. That doesn't help careers in an age where decisive inspirational leaders are worshipped by the business media. (Keep in mind as I go through these that I'm not speaking in absolutes about intelligence. There are smart people that are charismatic and decisive, but by and large they aren't.)

Intelligent people can master many domains, and they can do it quickly. If you go to a MENSA meeting, you will meet many people that don't stick to one thing very long. In part it is because most workplaces won't advance them quickly enough to keep up with the pace of their learning. It's part of the problem with school too. I don't usually need a 16 week course to learn something. I need a faster pace.

I read job postings all the time that sound fun and interesting but I know I don't have a shot because I don't have "7 years experience" in whatever. Yet at the same time I have worked with people that are shocked at how quickly I came up to speed on something. Career changes for smart people often stem from connections with people that realize their potential.

Intelligent people often have many interests, and they go through them quickly because once they have learned about a domain, it loses its allure. This often gets them lumped with "flighty" people that can't stick with anything, even though what really happens is that smart people don't need a ten year career in something before they realize they don't like it. They figure it out quickly and move on. They like to learn new things, but tend to have long-term careers in areas that are complex and rapidly changing. I think the reason business and neuroscience are two fields that have continued to fascinate me for years is that they are both so complex and multi-disciplinary. There is so much to learn, and there are macro and micro problems within many sub-disciplines of these fields.

3. What to do if you are an employer or employee.
If you are highly intelligent, I would encourage you to apply for MENSA. Their meetings are one of the few places you can go and speak your mind without getting strange looks. If you read lots of non-fiction and you always wonders who else is buying those books, you will find some kindred spirits there. But keep in mind it is a social club for smart people, and many of the events consist of smart people drinking and eating junk food while rapidly changing discussion topics.

I would also encourage you to seek work in a multidisciplinary and/or entrepreneurial environment. Jobs that don't have a standard career path are much easier to obtain. By contrast, if you suddenly find managerial accounting to be interesting, you are out of luck. You better go get an accounting degree, a CMA license, and start in an entry level position. (Or like a former professor of mine with a PhD in biochemistry, you could go back and get an accounting PhD, but then most companies will consider you overqualified.)

If you are stuck in a position and you think people just don't get you, there are a few options. The best is probably to figure out how you can contribute to some side project. It is risky to come out of the blue with some sort of new report/analysis/software/etc, that no one asked you to do, but there is always the chance that it could be a big hit and people will start to understand what you are capable of. I wish I had done more of this early in my career. Your next best bet is probably to try to make games out of your work. Sometimes I take long tasks and see if I can complete them in a 30 minute window. It helps me focus and gives me a challenge. Your other option is to keep your eyes open for unique opportunities. There are people out there that care more about your ideas and your ability to learn than about what you have done in the past. There are people that will tailor jobs to individuals instead of individuals to jobs. Target small businesses instead of large companies. They are more likely to appreciate your flexibility. Keep in mind though, that there are lots of flighty, unfocused, inexperienced people that want good jobs too and think they deserve them, and that most employers fear they are getting that type of person, not someone with unusual intellect.

If you are an employer, keep an eye out for people that seem to consistently have unique perspectives. People often think high intelligence means "has memorized more facts," but that isn't it at all. It has to do with the way someone thinks, not necessarily what they know. Highly intelligent people have the ability to filter information rapidly to get to the crux of an idea. You can tell this because they ask good questions – questions that show they understand the idea and are testing its limits and applicable contexts. Watch for this.

Also remember that highly intelligent people still make mistakes. Be tolerant of that. Michael Jordan missed a lot of shots during his career with the Bulls, but you still wanted the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Nothing is worse than being expected to know everything because "you're supposed to be a genius."

Give your best and brightest some flexibility. When that bright programmer wants to move into business development, it might be best to give him or her a shot. Not everyone is successful at transitioning domains, but intelligent people will usually rise to the challenge, and you will be amazed at how much they will learn in a few months.

I could go on and on but this post is already longer than I intended. The last thing I will say is that employers and employees need to remember that intelligence is just one component of success. Undisciplined intelligence is wasteful because intelligence needs to be directed at a problem. Many very smart people can't focus long enough to solve something. But if you can harness the power of a highly intelligent employee, you will undoubtedly appreciate his/her fantastic contributions.

I encourage you to check out , if you want more on this topic. Search through Mark's archives too, he has written a lot about education and intelligence.

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Comments

  1. Vladimir Orlt's Gravatar Comment by Vladimir Orlt on May 30th, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    I did well on a Mensa test in Reader’s Digest very many years ago but never followed up… perhaps I should. One sees one’s self in some sections of your article, thanks.

  2. John's Gravatar Comment by John on May 30th, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    Interesting comments. I have had a similar experience… and so out of curiosity, do you know what your Meyers-Briggs personality type is? I would just be interested to know because for a long time I struggled with fulfillment until I found out that I’m an INTP (and somewhat ENTP)… It was spot on and has really helped me understand and have peace about my work… just curious what correlation there is…

  3. mel starrs's Gravatar Comment by mel starrs on May 30th, 2006 at 3:31 pm

    Like the previous comment I found Meyers Briggs helpful in explaining my work experiences to date (INTJ). Side projects are definitley the best way I have found to keep myself interested – I blog and I’m doing a part-time MBA.

  4. Alexander Kintis's Gravatar Comment by Alexander Kintis on May 30th, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    Hey Rob,

    I found your site via a different blog and after reading this post I’ll be coming more often; great article.

    It’s so true – speaking from experience, some managers frown upon initiative. They may feel challenged that the employee is trying to take over their spot and due to this feeling the manager reacts angrily. In other instances where the employee expresses and shows interest in a topic and tries to contribute useful and knowledgeable information, they are looked down upon.

    Keep them coming.

  5. Chris's Gravatar Comment by Chris on May 30th, 2006 at 7:54 pm

    Wouldnt an intelligent person recognize they were not in the right environment layout the steps to change the environment and take actions to make those steps become reality? Or is that a motivated person? Intelligent people can see how its all done and so no use in doing it? I dont think that is how reality works. I have thought I was so intelligent so many times until reality showed me I was not. Maybe thats the problem Rob is you have been intelligent but not motivated. Or maybe not intelligent enough to find something that motivates you. Thats what seems to be my problem.

  6. David Foster's Gravatar Comment by David Foster on May 30th, 2006 at 9:12 pm

    “in our society it’s rude to act like you are smarter than someone else”..is this really specific to our society? My perception is that many other societies are *much* more focused on “fitting in” than we are.

  7. Rob's Gravatar Comment by Rob on May 30th, 2006 at 9:52 pm

    David,
    That’s a good point. It reminds me of this poster.
    http://www.despair.com/connot.html

  8. Greg's Gravatar Comment by Greg on May 31st, 2006 at 12:06 am

    Good article. Your career experiences sound a lot like mine.

    A smart person might suspect that Myers-Briggs (et al.) are more hokum than science. For some good background on so-called personality tests and the MBTI see Malcom Gladwell’s article from the Sept. 20, 2004 “New Yorker” at:

    http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_09_20_a_personality.html

  9. hernan's Gravatar Comment by hernan on May 31st, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    I’ve noticed that another dependable measure of high intelligence is one’s ability to write well. In my experience, people who have a mastery of natural language are always highly intelligent. Your blog post above is a great example, nicely done.

  10. Chris Lindgren's Gravatar Comment by Chris Lindgren on May 31st, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    I still dont understand how you know you are intelligent if you cant put the knowledge and insight into a tangible result. Being afraid that you might not be able use your knowledge, experience and understanding of complexity if you fully commited yourself I think hinders a lot of people. Having the self esteem to realize that you may not be as intelligent as you want to think you are and you may have to figure out a new way that has never been done before then test that new way in reality and be totally wrong, That is intelligence.

    To me intelligence is similar to potential it means nothing until its realized. Maybe the realization of intelligence in tangible results will bring more fufillment then the self satisfaction of not being able to clearly communicate with others and chalking that up to being smarter.

    Would you rather read a neuroscience book or contribute/write a neuroscience book that revolutionized the understanding of the subject?

  11. Greg's Gravatar Comment by Greg on May 31st, 2006 at 7:12 pm

    Smart is not the same as talented, or being good at something. Even not-so-smart people can be really good at things they practice at. See this article (by the authors of “Freakonomics”) about talent and “deliberate practice” from the NY Times:

    http://tinyurl.com/hwh7y

    If anyone can point me to evidence that Myers-Briggs “types” are any more real or predictive than astrological signs or palm creases, I’d like to see them. Neuroscience and Myers-Briggs discussed in the same paragraph? I’m surprised so many self-professed smart people throw around their MBTI as if it actually means something. I forgot my MBTI ten minutes after taking the test (a previous employer believed in them), but I’m a Scorpio if that helps understand my personality.

  12. Vivek's Gravatar Comment by Vivek on June 3rd, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    After reading these comments, I realised why I hate to think of myself as “intelligent”. It just sounds so damn obnoxious. That being said, I can very much relate to the experiences that you’ve described above.

    However, I have realised that it doesnt help to think of your self as “intelligent” (as you have throught your article) because it just makes you think low of others.

    The most useful way to realise your unique abilities and to apply them positively is to think of them as “super-powers”. I know it sounds corny but this really works.

    Eg: When given n different pieces of information about a problem I can usually correlate one to another faster than anyone else I know. For some reason I can notice patterns much faster than others. One of my colleagues is a much slower thinker. However he has his own super power. He is absolutely thorough. Recently I was made a manager asked if I wanted to move this colleague to another group. I realised that because he makes up for my deficiencies that he would be an absolute boon to my group and thus asked for him to stay on our group. This has really helped our team.

    You need to realise that intelligence is just one specific type of super power. But other people , ie the, “technically-dumb” have their own special super powers. I know a guy who was awarded a phd scolarship to a presitgious university all through his personality and talk. The guy is technically an idiot but it never stopped him :), as he had another “super-power” which could help him get what he wanted.

    If you think of the world as a place with lots of people with many different super powers its much easier to fit in and get along and get things done and be successful.

  13. lisa's Gravatar Comment by lisa on June 20th, 2006 at 10:36 am

    Smarts and intelligience in business is not a predictor of success. IMHO, perseverence (hard work) and critical thinking skills is more important.

  14. lisa's Gravatar Comment by lisa on June 20th, 2006 at 10:36 am

    Smarts and intelligience in business is not a predictor of success. IMHO, perseverence (hard work) and critical thinking skills are more important.

  15. ashanti's Gravatar Comment by ashanti on June 24th, 2006 at 1:33 pm

    I found you article very lucid, extremely interesting and thought provoking. I experienced many “aha” moments, as it helped me remember (although i’m not a genius) some of the experiences that helped me to decide to stop working for others and set up my own business. I am a little surprised, that given your interest in neuroscience, you don’t consider the notion of multiple intelligences. I would really like to see the evidence that you leads you to believe that raw intelligence is the best indicator of job success. The field that I am in (emotional intelligence) argues that emotional intelligence is a stronger predictor of outstanding performance than IQ or technical skills.

  16. Nick's Gravatar Comment by Nick on November 1st, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    And another thing… I cant stand monotony and having to move at other peoples pace. At work a lot of people say ‘well no jobs perfect and you have to do the jobs you dont like sometimes’. What people dont get is that saying that to me is like telling a manic depressive to ‘cheer up’. I Physically cant handle monotony. Sitting in a class being talked at is my idea of hell. At school you just get used to it because you could just switch off. At university I was also able to switch off. When I was in the Army I started getting really anxious in lectures. I would be sitting there, having been told that my job as an Officer was really important, I had to train myself for leadership, understand concepts of mission command and modern weapons. And I would be sat in a classrom being talked at about something completely irrelevant to my actual future job. I had a Commanding Officer, he had a favourite quote (Patton I think)’your job is to train for war, everything else is bullshit’. Great quote. Why then did the CO rate dinner evenings above training? Madness. I find it physically hard to work in these kind of situations.

  17. leshark's Gravatar Comment by leshark on November 13th, 2006 at 1:19 pm

    Why did I discover this article now only? Agree totally, I worked in a coorporate company , sales department and many things they did has nothing to do with intelligence what-so-ever, and the route of promotion has nothing to do with sales results, intelligence or hardwork but how well you can talk things the way they want it and how well you massage their ego.

  18. Jacob's Gravatar Comment by Jacob on November 15th, 2006 at 11:09 pm

    Wow man, you have just echoed something I have felt for many years. When I was younger, I thought everyone was like me, because “me” was all I knew. When others did not keep up it felt strange, and for most of my life I felt as if I have never belonged, as if I was not made for this world. Then people, who “understand” me, would be intolerant when I made mistakes. Your sentence on that is awesome, just point-blank. Just because I am smart, I still am wrong sometimes. People don’t have to get on me about that every time. Well, one of my fears has been re-confirmed; I will always be strangely different. I believe, to this day, I could have graduated from college and have a steady job right now.

    -Jacob, Age 14

  19. David's Gravatar Comment by David on November 26th, 2006 at 7:40 am

    Love the article, I can definitely relate. I am 23 and recently joined MENSA. I have bounced around from job to job and my current one encourages me to develop new ideas and applications, but offers no reward. They won’t even hire me from the employment agency that placed me, though they will give me increasingly difficult side projects to help them succeed. It is very frustrating and I am looking for that job that both challenges and rewards me.

  20. Gary's Gravatar Comment by Gary on February 1st, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    The true key to fulfillment is not found in any business venture, job promotion or career move. All this is just chasing after the wind. If you want true fulfillment, just visit unfulfilled.org and you will find all the answers you can possibly find to being truly fulfilled.

  21. Kay's Gravatar Comment by Kay on February 18th, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    To the person who compared the Myers-Briggs to astrology: Many studies over the years have proven the validity of the MBTI instrument in three categories: (1) the validity of the four separate preference scales; (2) the validity of the four preference pairs as dichotomies; and (3) the validity of whole types or particular combinations of preferences. Many of these studies are discussed in the MBTI® Manual (Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc., 1998). http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/reliability-and-validity.asp

  22. Paul's Gravatar Comment by Paul on September 26th, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    I have an IQ of 146, according to the Stanford-Binet test. I’d gladly trade 20 points of that for some creativity and motivation.

  23. Blaise's Gravatar Comment by Blaise on January 7th, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this article. This year I began to study English Linguistics, so my english maybe is not very suitable for this kind of article. However, I noticed how some of this problems you mentioned are not only limited to smart people. I’m refering on the lack of motivation of society in general, and how this doesn’t allow them to take advantage of their capacities. I always had problems to work, think and live for this reasons with my school and now, my university companions. And I am an ordinary girl in terms of intelligence, so I can’t imagine what you went trough. -Argentinian girl living in Spain (18)

  24. Kyle Sebion's Gravatar Comment by Kyle Sebion on January 10th, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Thank you. This blog confirmed many thoughts I have.

  25. Bryan's Gravatar Comment by Bryan on August 7th, 2008 at 11:53 am

    This is a great article and reflects my own life experiences so very closely. I have the additional hazard of being a bit manic with intermittent periods of super high performance and productivity. This means that with each new job, my talents and cheerfulness soon attract almost every task in the office to my desk. People don’t know the price I pay for this pace and I usually sleep whenever I am not working. After about a year I am totally fed up and usually move on.
    I even took my Mechanical Engineering degree to the point of gaining a Professional License. When I took the PE test, I was the first one finished in the morning seesion and about the 4th to finish in the afternoon session. The problem is that I am constantly more interested in other things and I find that Mechanical Engineering is very boring.
    Anything new I become interested in sucks up all my attention and garners almost superhuman concentration. Once I give it a good once through, then I am pretty much done with it. And then I hit the net looking for a new interest.
    Now, I am in my high 40’s and soul searching everyday for answers. This little blog entry has given me hope, and I hope I can find more like it. I have been qualified for Mensa for over 20 years due to a high GRE score and I will now consider seriously joining the organization.
    Thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts on the subject.

  26. Adriel's Gravatar Comment by Adriel on August 10th, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Great article, I stumbled upon it on a completely unrelated Google search.

    One other possibility is the manager or small business owner who recognizes your potential and tries to capitalize on it for themselves. I had to deal with that for years before I finally struck out on my own.

    I am so much happier now, I fix computers, design websites, wire houses (Sometimes it is nice to not have to think) and offices, and keep a very diverse skillset. I have learned how to work a 20 hour week and make enough money to live on.

    I just love to learn, and once I do I get bored of the subject.

    I do not think I am any more special than others, I just think differently, and it is sometimes a very lonely existence.

    My wife tells me that I have my “obsessions” I will get completely immersed in a subject for months and then suddenly I abandon it completely.

    Like Bryan I constantly soul search, I have no idea what my scores are and whether I would qualify for MENSA, lately I just want to understand this elusive thing called happiness.

    Thank you again for the article.

  27. Patrik's Gravatar Comment by Patrik on September 5th, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Hey Guys,

    I think you can simply start learning emotional intelligence and simply apply the analytical and decision intelligence on people. You will be able to achieve great success with people the same way you are able to achieve it in logic and learning. I am the same way and just realized I can apply this to people and this is much m ore devine than logic only. People are included in what we analyze, calculate and decide.

  28. Mallory's Gravatar Comment by Mallory on December 12th, 2008 at 9:45 am

    I agree with just about everything you’ve said– most people dont know how to deal with a person who has a balanced view of religion, world issues, and least of all someone with initiative to change things because they actually could. Thats probably why we end up loners, floaters.

    It sounds like youve been scared to make the jump into something that would really change your life. I think you need to start busting down doors to get your intelligence working on things that really make you feel alive. It is hard for us because we are so introverted and focused on whats in our own minds. But if you make a concentrated effort to toot your own horn and without fear of making mistakes you could maybe get a job at NASA, who knows!

    Good Luck :)
    Mallory

  29. Amelia's Gravatar Comment by Amelia on April 10th, 2009 at 8:21 am

    I have never taken a test to measure my intelligence, and I usually don’t perform well on standardized tests (unless there is an essay or other verbal component). However, I can relate to the sentiments in this article. While working with a career coach, I discovered that I am a person who loves the input of information and who loves to learn. I read and gobble up information. I like to find better ways to do things. This often sets me at odds with the people around me.

    As many comments have mentioned….it is more common to work within parameters and “go with the flow.” Thank you, Rob, for sharing your experiences with us. I agree with the comment that side projects help. I have recently exceeded the limits of my current position, and learning and experiencing how to create fulfilling projects of my own has helped end some of the frustration.

    Thanks!

  30. Sandra's Gravatar Comment by Sandra on April 14th, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Yep! I get this article! I am an INFP. I felt like I was writing this. Thanks.

  31. disgusted's Gravatar Comment by disgusted on May 9th, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    I can honestly say that this article is the most narcissistic load of rubbish that I’ve read in a while. The poster obviously wrote this article as a means of appeasing his own sad delusions of grandiosity. If I were to make a list of all the character traits that I think are representative qualities of a true “genius,” self-obsession would certainly not be on it.

  32. Chris's Gravatar Comment by Chris on May 13th, 2009 at 2:35 am

    I must say I agree with the majority of principles.
    I excel more than everyone I have ever met in my life at pretty much anything I do.
    It is not because I have had a prior knowledge of the subject but more along the lines of my ability to understand why situation given to me.
    All my professors know I am intelligent and treat me differently (which I hate) which usually leads to unnecessary worrying when I don’t turn up to class or I am late.
    I presume this might be because of an expectation that they have towards me and frankly I crave to be normal.
    I have never got lower than 95% on any test or work I have ever done but I will never admit to scoring higher than 60% to my peers.
    For someone based of anarchist principles the idea that in someway I am better to others disgusts me.

    I also have added insanity issues.
    I can never stop thinking or processing everything I see all of the time in every aspect possible which usually leads to talking to myself, sleep deprivation, spontaneous laughter, rocking and frankly self harm as a way to deal with what I think of.
    Being intelligent is a curse for the person it is imposed upon but a benefit to everyone else.

  33. Stuart's Gravatar Comment by Stuart on May 16th, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    I found this blog totally by accident while thinking about how unfulfilled I am professionally. A lot of what is in the content speaks volumes to me.

    I wouldnt consider myself particularly intelligent, but I definitely don’t think anywhere near the box at times. People around me are sometimes astounded at the tangents my thought processes take, particularly with verbal communication and to a greater extent via e-mail. Certain nuances which seem blindingly obvious to me are definitely lost on a number of other people (particularly colleagues).

    In particular my work environment is not at all challenging and I find myself totally unmotivated as a result of proposing an almost relentless string of ideas, that are generally apathetically received. I have even “done the side project thing”, in fact its what I spend most of my time doing. When I complained recently that I have nothing to do (in a less than literal sense) a list of projects were reeled off, of which I had already completed them in one for or another in the previous 18 months, but all the ideas and code sat unused due to managerial inertia. I feel that I am always ahead of the curve and when things don’t happen fast enough I become disinterested and projects die. I really cant focus my energies on something I know is going to be passed over without a thought. I used to spend a lot of time doing projects that were actually used and ended up having business value … alas that ended when I was transferred into my current job (against my wishes, but at the end of the day I still needed to earn a roof and sustinence).

    I honestly believe that my current job has killed all motivation that I used to have and I can almost feel the intellect draining out of my ears as I become ever more dispondent and disillusioned with the value of hard work.

    I have completed the odd IQ test and usually hit somewhere between 145-150 mark, but I really don’t see its accuracy when I believe that intelligence is measured by more than a series of logic problems. An example would be relational intelligence, pure intelligence without communicative intelligence is pretty negligable and bordering autistic. Incidentally its only writing this that I have actually looked up to see what my IQ score means and I have to admit I am stunned, I never actually went beyond getting a score to find out what it meant. It was a series of problems that got solved and I moved on to the next.

  34. Rachel's Gravatar Comment by Rachel on November 17th, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    I stumbled upon this article randomly tonight, and it is as if the last 4 years of my life suddenly make sense… I am not crazy. And I am not the only one out there like this! Thanks for writing it down and making it clear… now, if I could only figure out where to go with it…

  35. Beth's Gravatar Comment by Beth on December 17th, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    I think that the MBTI may not be that accurate across the board. However, is it not possible that people with high IQs tend to act alike and see things in a similar fashion? That is what you are saying in this blog post. I always test as an INTP or an INTJ (P/J 50/50) and if you go to some of the online forums out there with these people, you will quickly see how they think. When I want to engage in intellectual debates, I go to those forums.
    I don’t know very many people in “real” life who care about the things I think about. I do think the MBTI might accidentally be isolating the characteristics associated with people of high intelligence. Also, notice at least two others before me have noted this about INT(P/J)s.

  36. ThankYou's Gravatar Comment by ThankYou on January 18th, 2010 at 8:16 am

    I just want to thank you for writing your thoughts on this matter. In a way I don’t care to explain, I feel motivated to start being myself again. I write this as a 29 year old who was working as a temp in a plant genetics facility only to lose my career chances with the company due to a broken leg outside of work and this helps me redirect my perspective back to focusing on life once again.

    I haven’t worked for over a year now but have been able to buy a home, maintain my bills and actually invest a little money in more land due to keeping tabs on my finances but have felt empty and not motivated.

    Your writings give me confirmation that what I feel and my choices in career path might be correct. I have recently put off a PhD program to pursue knowledge in Linux – Unix system administration since its a lot easier to justify to my bank account and doesn’t need long bouts of experience to break into the field.

    Anyway, thank you my good man /woman

  37. Ed's Gravatar Comment by Ed on February 16th, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you so much for your article. It resonates with me on a level I wouldn’t have expected from a blog, and gave me insights into myself and my experiences. Similarly, I’ve stuck with anthropology as my career choice for so long because it is exactly the kind of dynamic and ever-changing field that you referenced – not the academic setting, per se, but the fact that humanity, as a whole, is our area of interest and expertise. That means EVERYTHING human is fair game, and that means I almost never run out of things to explore. Further, it allows me the flexibility to explore ideologies from an intellectual standpoint; explore them, understand them, and deconstruct them. People often say I’m unhappy with everything, but I just understand how things work on a social level and tear it apart into the particulars. Often to the dismay of friends and loved ones. Now if only I could dedicate myself to one area long enough to finally finish my PhD…

    Anyway, thanks again… great article!!!

  38. ali's Gravatar Comment by ali on March 7th, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks a million ROB for writing this article.After reading this,it feels as if you have been observing me and written an article on me and my experiences.i have always felt isolated with these super creative and highly intelligent ideas rushing in my head and have always wished to find a nother person who is similarly intelligent or more intelligent than me,but i never did.i felt a sigh of relief after reading this article and it has answered a lot of questions and fears that i had.thanks again.

  39. ali's Gravatar Comment by ali on March 7th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    btw does anyone know of a a social club for intelligent people(like MENSA) in pakistan. it would be a lot of help for me.thx

  40. Disgusted's Gravatar Comment by Disgusted on March 8th, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I would just like to suggest a far more plausible explanation for why all of you self-proclaimed geniuses have come together on this thread to bond over your experiences dealing with social alienation, self-doubt and public misunderstanding that would seem to be characteristic of persons sporting an Olympian IQ. Here it goes: you are not special, you are not hyper-intelligent, and you are not misunderstood—you are just average, eccentric, self-absorbed outcasts who are resentful of others’ successes and in denial of your own depressive tendencies.

    Don’t be deluded for one second by the poster’s narcissistic blather into believing that you possess some kind of prodigious intelligence that makes you either special or important. For those of you who have average jobs but feel as if your mind would be better suited to more engaging ventures: you are wrong. You *are* average. You are where you are for a good reason.

    Just my two cents.

    Sincerely,
    Disgusted

  41. Lono's Gravatar Comment by Lono on March 17th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Disgusted,

    I find your lack of faith disturbing….

    (you’re far to ignorant to bother with further)

    Rob,

    Good article – but my question is – in the age of information – why don’t we just combine our strengths and free ourselves once and all from the shakles of Densan Society?

    The only thing holding us back is economics – something that many of us struggle with because exceptional intelligence leads to behaviors that are often in conflict with traditional career advancement.

    Densan society rewards conformity,compliance, and unthinking allegiance – something simply too distastefull for the intellectual elite.

    Now, some people of high intelligence have made quite a fortune for themselves, but often they exhibit sociopathic tendencies uncommon amongst people with true Genuis Level IQ’s.

    I would call for Mensans and would be Mensans to begin to organize – now more than ever the world needs your leadership and insight to take mankind to the next level – a true space faring society.

    Only you can prevent the coming fire!

    Good Luck!!

  42. katlacy's Gravatar Comment by katlacy on April 10th, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    I’m of fairly average intelligence but this article has helped me feel better about being between an old and a new career. I am still scared but I feel better. Thanks. Problem is now I have no excuse to be lazy – damn! It’s so much easier when you don’t know what you need to do.

  43. 7sigma's Gravatar Comment by 7sigma on April 24th, 2010 at 7:57 am

    I have realised that I actually don’t want to work, in the traditional sense, because the sort of roles and tasks that industry is willing to pay its employees for don’t match my interests.

    Getting qualified for an academic post would take far too long (not because of my academic ability, but just because the system is set up that way). Plus there is no funding in the area of research that most interests me anyway – neuroscience as applied to enhance the abilities an average or above average person already has (not as a medical or psychological discipline).

    Thus, I have chosen to self-educate and perform my own research, but of course this will leave me unaccredited and unrecognised by any but the high IQ society magazines which have been publishing my articles to date.

    I never got any qualifications when I was young, because I was a precocious youngster who never had to work and struggle to learn anything. Most average students learn by trial and error a mostly workable personal approach that gets them through their studies adequately; I never did learn to persist etc, because I’d never been challenged. When my final school exams came around I never knew what hit me – it was far too late to find out that I’d never learnt how to do any work.

    I did well at office work and earn well above average money in the Square Mile. However, conformity is what is expected, and originations as to how things could be improved are not welcome from “support” staff – such ideas are seen to be the province of the top fee earners and that’s that.

    Rather than get too upset at the rigidity of this type of role, I’m pouring myself into my academic project, and perhaps I can combine the business skills I’ve learnt to find out how to make some or all of the research pay for itself.

    Disgusted, you gave me the best belly-laugh I’ve had for a long while! Keep conforming, keep talking with your mates about celebrity gossip, keep being average, keep reading The Sun, and good luck to you. I had a raucous chuckle at the vision of your green eyes as you read here about the sort of people you really wish you were. If you weren’t jealous, you wouldn’t have bothered replying. Come back and make me laugh again.

  44. mestisa's Gravatar Comment by mestisa on May 16th, 2010 at 2:36 am

    In my late twenties, I visited a career counsellor and completed a series of tests. When the counsellor sat me down and advised me of my iq results, I started crying. They were tears of relief. It is difficult being different and I now better understood my situation. In many business meetings and social gatherings, the ideas/suggestions I put forth often produced strange looks from others and were typically not well received. It can be troubling when you think so differently from your friends and coworkers. I am in my forties now and work in education. I am content in this environment as there are others to whom I can relate and vice versa.

    I stumbled upon this blog while trying to locate a specific article on high iq and career success. In the article, it spoke of high intelligence and leadership positions. It suggested that if you are highly intelligent, it is better to be a member of a committee rather than the chair. The purpose of collaboration is typically to generate ideas and work toward solutions. If you are the chair and the most intelligent person on the committee, there is a greater chance of your ideas/suggestions being implemented. This may lead to the perception of a more dictatorial approach as opposed to a collaborative approach. Food for thought.

  45. jt's Gravatar Comment by jt on June 23rd, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Applause! Thank you for your clarity in working out the tremendous pith and vinegar of being “normal”.
    To many times iv been told “she doesn’t think like “us” ..but she can do it”
    what a posh of BS– for damnt I cant understand that B..and shes always RIght..

    I do find it beyond aggravation to communicate and dedicate time (even though I need the $$)to those who in my opinion (humble of course) take forever to arrive at the conclusion I gave in the first place… why must I suffer to watch as they clamor and arrive so late.

    Perfected solution ..to do it on your own and use those “others” to get the sequentials of what you need,laugh at the rest.

  46. Jm's Gravatar Comment by Jm on July 26th, 2010 at 2:11 am

    Great article, followed by some great comments. I’ve always had the exact same problem in my years of schooling – from my elementary years, all the way through to the end of college. I never had to struggle to understand any of the topics presented to me. I’ve often fibbed to my fellow classmates about grades, or how difficult something had been, to avoid being “marked” as somebody “not like them”. Most jobs I’ve held have been excruciating for me, as none of the tasks I was asked to perform required any thought. Furthermore, it’s been a very lonely road for me – especially in recent years – as I’ve learned that I feel very unfulfilled, socially. I love people who can understand complex subjects…people with whom I can work out difficult hypothetical problems…people with a variety of interests, who can jump from one topic to another, as I can. The problem, of course, is how few of these people I typically come in contact with, in a setting in which we can enjoy each other’s love of intense mental stimulation (I am sure I have met people quite intelligent before, and never known it, as we never had a chance to talk or get to know one another). It is really quite reassuring, in reading this article and the subsequent comments, that I can see there are others who have experienced the exact same trials and tribulations that I have in my quest for fulfillment. Thanks for the article, and thanks to the commenters for sharing your thoughts. They renew my spirit. :)

  47. Daniel's Gravatar Comment by Daniel on August 2nd, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    I found this article very intriguing. I feel like I didn’t come to the realization of how smart I really was until I became a weekend smoker. No, I’m not talking about tobacco either. I feel like Marijuana brings the “you” out of you, and you notice so many details that you would’ve failed to notice before. Looking back at my life before Marijuana, I said the wrong things at the wrong times, and I knew what i wanted to say, just not how to say. Marijuana also helped me cope with my social anxiety and allowed me to be more free with my thoughts around people. Marijuana also helped me tap into my creative side, and allowed me to view things from so many different viewpoints. Unfortunately i did become obsessed with it much like many of us do when we become very interested in something. The overuse forced me to become engulfed in my thoughts, and eventually made me extremely paranoid and full of anxiety. I even came to the point as i felt like i wasn’t even in the present, like i was literally stuck in my thoughts. I slowed down, and everything came to nice balance. As long as you use in moderation, you shouldn’t have a problem with this though. The did countless hours of research on the plant and found that there have been multiple studies where it has shown to slow down the growth of free radicals, and in some cases even reversed it. When you start smoking it, you’ll start to see that all the pothead stereo types are very true, but they are all skewed and distorted so they look like they’re actually very bad. With great power, comes great responsibility. I know it sounds very silly, but I feel that this applies greatly to marijuana.

  48. Julie Johnson's Gravatar Comment by Julie Johnson on August 31st, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Job success is reliant on many factors, intelligence just being one of them. To rise to the level of being President, for example, requires high intelligence, high social skill, and high ambition. Plus it helps if you are also attractive – sad, but true in our society that places a high value on good looks. To be a successful scientist you have to have high intelligence and high ambition. You don’t necessarily have to have social skills.

  49. Randy's Gravatar Comment by Randy on October 30th, 2010 at 5:21 am

    Most of my school years I spent sleeping in many of my classes. I usually read through the text books in the first eight weeks of school and then would sit in class pretty much bored out of my mind. I read the entire encyclopedia britanica my parents had bought in the 1960’s, and after that, just about any book on any subject I could find.

    I was always told to try harder, but when I would read books that were years above the other students in my class, I would get yelled at for doing it.
    I’ll never forget when we had to study for a full chapter exam in my high school advanced science class. My study partner asked me one question, and I pretty much layed out the entire chapter in about two minutes to him. He was impressed, but also a bit uncomfortable with the fact that it seemed so easy to me.

    It wasn’t so much easy but that I couldn’t get enough of learning about new things.
    In the end, I simply slowed down and went along with most of the other students just to make my life in school a little easier. This was a mistake.
    Fitting in, also meant losing pretty much any chance for a scholarship in college. And in the 80’s, there wasn’t much money for someone who had average scores and grades.

    So, I joined the Air Force and tried my talents at Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering. It’s pretty much kept my mind busy, but still bored on many levels.
    I think differently than most people around me. Even my wife thinks I’m wierd. I can’t understand the drama and foolish games people play in their everyday lives. TV is pretty much a waste of time except for, say, the history and discovery channels. I’ve been called many things, including an “alien” for my strange way of seeing the universe.

    I’ve been told I have mental issues like A.D.D. and many others. To me, kids with ADD have only one problem. Get your backside off the computers, internet, video games, cell phones, and TV. Then get up and discover the “real world” outside. By moving around and getting some exercise at the same time, You won’t have time for ADD. And you may learn a thing or two about personal interaction and talking to people. Me, I just have the ability to do multiple task at once while thinking about others. I can’t help it.

    It’s quite rare I find someone to talk to that I don’t have to explain everything to in a simpler manner. It’s not arrogance, but simple frustration at the fact that I see people and what they can be, if they just apply themselves and quit living for the “distractions”. It’s like fighting the tide.

  50. T Hawkins's Gravatar Comment by T Hawkins on November 16th, 2010 at 3:52 am

    I really enjoyed this. I am a recent college graduate who has had 6 internships before I graduated and I always found myself getting bored or feeling unfulfilled even when I had great jobs. The only time I completely loved my job was when I was my own boss and had complete control on implementing programs and events. This article explained a lot of that for me and I think I am going to try and giving entrepreneurship a real shot. Thanks for the article.

  51. Whirleybird_Shotdown's Gravatar Comment by Whirleybird_Shotdown on March 3rd, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I can relate this post to my own. I have a wide range of experience in fields: Electromagnetics, control systems, Microelectronics: ASIC, MEMS. I sometimes feel like running away from all these and shift to teaching. The country where I belong to, IT boom has killed, shot down and starved people like me. often because of the comparative aspirations of the parents in my country’s society. It was a very disappointing night for me. my mom just said something which never made any sense to me. some said I have been living my life on a quest. by my country’s industry standards I am overqualified. Even companies like Qualcom and Intel rejected me stating I am overqualified. I have a very high score in MENSA. Well, this test I took up just to assure a few people that I am intelligent enough.I just typed on google ” my masters in electrical engineering degree has become a curse for me”. And thats how I came across your webpage. Keep us posted.

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