I. If you’re going to praise something, praise people who outperform their IQs
Everyone has an IQ. Just like everyone has a personality, a height, and an eye color.
IQ has definitional and measurement problems that make it more like personality than height, but, as with personality, research indicates that IQ is a predictive trait. People with higher IQs tent to have better life outcomes.
In our culture, we both fetishize high IQs and stigmatize low IQs. I wish this were not the case. Nobody selects their IQ from the IQ tree. It’s handed to them and then shaped by their environment (and nobody selects their environment from the environment tree).
To the extent you believe in free will, however, it is possible to proactively make decisions that can help you outperform your IQ.
If we are going to obsess over anything about IQs, we should obsess about people who outperform their IQs.
II. There are people out there with higher IQs than you
Unless your IQ is extremely, extremely high, you will at some point be competing against, or working for, people who have higher IQs than you do.
This happens to me all the time. My guess is that both my current employers, as well as my last employer, have higher IQs than I do.
And yet I think I can perform my job better than they could (or at least it would take them a few years to get up to speed and outperform me).
I have a pretty specialized skill set. I know how to help cities transition from traditional public school systems to systems that rely more heavily on the non-profit operation of schools.
While the high level strategy of these types of transitions is not rocket science, the details are (at least it feels like it to me!).
It’s very difficult to build plans, marshal a coalition, and execute programmatic shifts in school development, talent, government, and advocacy – as well as develop a policy regime that fits within a state’s constitutional parameters.
I spent eight years doing this in New Orleans; one year doing this a consultant; and about two years doing this in philanthropy.
Now, when I come across a problem in a city, I’m bringing a decade of specialized knowledge and pattern recognition to the issue.
Even if you have a higher IQ than me, I’ll probably get the answer right more often (and quicker) than you will.
IV. You can work less too
The more specialized your knowledge is, the less likely other people are to also possess this knowledge. This means you have less competitors. If you so desire, this should allow you to work less and still be valuable to your employer.
If you can get the right answer in less time than most other people, you’ll have some spare hours to play with. You could fill these hours with more work (and accomplish more great outcomes), or you could spend more time on other things, such as family and friends.
The key is that the choice is yours, not theirs.
Specialization is a marvelous thing!