I’m clearly too bright to be successful. I over-think and micro-analyze. So much of my life energy goes toward thinking about stuff I’ve done or am planning to do that I run out of fuel before I even take the first step. Then it’s time for a nap. Or I use my big ol’ ‘magnination to scare myself shitless. All of the horrendous and least plausible outcomes are splayed out before me like a crime scene; little yellow numbers next to every piece of evidence.
Every now and then I stumble upon someone so successful and dumb it leaves me caught in the headlights. The pieces just don’t add up. Dumb, successful people are a biological anomaly so twisted they can’t possibly exist. And yet these people just keep popping up like muppets with great big grins, driving expensive cars and trying to sell me stuff on the internet.
Just today I received an e-mail newsletter from a woman who promises to make me rich by revealing her super-secret marketing techniques. All I have to do is purchase her kit and she’ll throw in a whole bunch of other stuff for free and it’s worth a fortune but I get the whole shebang for this really low price. Lucky me! Apparently, she has thousands of people signing up for her course and yet, she’s clearly a few crayons short of a box not to mention a lousy writer. So how does someone like her make a good living while so many brilliant people are struggling?
And speaking of lousy writers, why are there so many bestselling fiction writers who spew out material composed at a grade two level? Surely that can’t be what millions of people want to read. Are we screwed as a species?
I needed to find answers so I turned to Google to help me out. Thankfully I’m not an island on this topic and I’ve learned a lot by taking a step back and examining (as I do) what makes for a stupid success. Here’s a basic run-down:
- Confidence is as stupid does. What? The point is, stupid people are able to pound their own drum with confidence because they just aren’t able to see how flawed their own work is. Avish Parashar, an improv comedian and author, says it best when he refers to this phenomena as confidence unbounded by logic. How on earth am I going to reach a point where I can’t see every little glitch in my own work as a blaring siren is unthinkable at this point. The only solution that seems reasonable is to stop thinking so much and just take action. But that’s like snatching a cigarette from a smoker and saying, “from now on, you’re a non-smoker”. It’s hard to stop thinking. I will work on it though, I promise.
- The dumb don’t doubt. That was some bad alliteration. Although this is similar to confidence I feel it’s a separate point but that might just be me splitting hairs, something stupid people probably don’t do. Here’s an insightful quote from Bertrand Russell:
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
- Attitude trumps intelligence. It really does seem true that the happiest people out there are far from the brightest. It’s easy to push through obstacles when you’re blinded by your rose-coloured glasses because they aren’t polarized to cut through the glare.
- A short memory is a valuable thing. When things get rough, the ruminators get busy rehashing the details of their failure. I’m quite intimate with the pains of memory since I’m a world-class ruminator myself. If only I could float through life like a goldfish with a 3-second memory, all the agony of the past would be non-existent and wouldn’t hold me back from taking the big risks necessary to reap the big rewards. Those who can’t remember what they ate for breakfast this morning seem to be better off.
- Maybe it’s all an act. There are many people who have made a decent career out of playing a fool so it’s possible many of these dumb success stories are really just smart people in disguise. When we play dumb we make ourselves more accessible to others. Most of us are more likely to let our guard down around a simpleton than an arrogant know-it-all. It’s easier to get to know people and to build trust when you’re not competing in an IQ contest.
So now I head off to bed where I will dream of being stupid instead.
Are you a smart, successful anomaly? Regardless, tell the world (or the few people who read this blog) what you think on the matter. If you think at all.