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10 Reasons Why Intelligent People Never Achieve Success

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Emotional Intelligence

A few decades ago, most people believed that there was a simple formula to success; the higher your IQ, the more successful you were. This turned out to be wrong. Further studies discovered numerous factors that predicted success, including willpower and emotional intelligence (EQ). These other factors are still under-emphasized to this day.

Here are 10 reasons why intelligent people underperform:

1. They Over-Analyze

Intelligence actually works as a stumbling block for social interactions. The smarter you are, the more capable you are to over-prepare and over-analyze. Dumb people actually have an advantage because they aren’t even aware of the consequences.

They just go in and talk to people. This lets them stay relaxed and confident, which improve their results. So how do you solve this? Take one piece of social skills advice at a time. Focus on just improving executing on it because it avoids information overwhelm.

“We are dying from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think. Think. Think. You can never trust the human mind anyway. It’s a death trap.” – Anthony Hopkins

2. They Rely Too Much On Intelligence

Many smart people end up using their intelligence as a crutch. They reason, “I will just get smarter rather than work on my weaknesses.” While it’s sometimes better to double down on your strengths, avoiding glaring weaknesses can keep you from improving.  

For example, you can end up never improving your social skills. This leads to severely off-putting lack of social intelligence that destroys earning opportunities. This is a mistake because no matter what job you have, you will be interacting with people.

3. They Have An Ego

Have you ever heard someone say a certain sport is the best just because they play it? Similarly, you can defend intelligence as the only key to success simply because it’s all you have. Yet many people are smart and not rich. How come?

Ego overpowers reality. Realize that other factors, like willpower, fitness, and EQ are worth improving. Find someone who is just like you. What advice you would give him? I did this with a man who clearly needed to go to the gym. It turns out I need to do the same.

4. They Put Theory Over Practice

Book smarts are great, but the real word is different. In the book Willpower Instinct, the author, a Stanford professor, discovered that her scientific theories didn’t always work in practice with students. Over time, she discovered factors that the scientific process hadn’t accounted for, which allowed her to shape her teachings better.

5. They’re Scared of Change

The world’s top CEOs have expressed the importance of embracing change. This includes Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, Jack Welch, CEO of GE, and Charles Koch, founder of Koch Industries.

Change is important because if you don’t keep innovating, your competitors will catch up with you. You always have to stay vigilant. Most of us grew up in a risk-averse culture. Rather than taking calculated risks that are worth it, they avoid all risks.

6. They Avoid Mistakes

The psychologist and world-famous TED speaker, Carol Dweck, wrote a book recommended by Bill Gates called Mindset: the Psychology of Success.

In the book, she discovered that unsuccessful people had something called a fixed mindset. These people believed that they could never improve and didn’t see mistakes as learning lessons. Do the opposite and you’ll start winning.

7. They Have an Entitlement Attitude

A top pattern I’ve seen among high achievers is that they never complain and never act like they deserve anything. They work for it. Among average people, the opposite is true. They feel entitled to all sorts of things from food to shelter to tuition.

Try to not complain about anything for 7 days. Ask yourself “How can I get this?” instead of just thinking, “I can’t get this.”

8. They’re Tempted By Too Many Goals

In the modern world, there are plenty of shiny objects to chase after. You can fear missing out on something if you have to focus on something else. But this is wrong.

Here’s a story to illustrate. Once upon a time, there was a donkey. He couldn’t decide whether to eat some hay or drink some water. He was stuck in the middle between them, paralyzed with what to do. He ended up starving to death.

If he had just focused on going to one first, he would have found that he had plenty of time later to go to the other one. You must do the same in life. Focus on one thing for a few years. You have decades to spend.

“To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal.” – A.P.J Abdul Kalam

9. They Lack Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

One of the key discoveries of the recent century was EQ. It doesn’t have to do with numbers and math. It’s about how well you can recognize the emotions of others (and yourself) to better navigate situations.

What’s great about EQ is that it is learnable, unlike IQ. Even to this day, EQ is swept under the rug. Most people don’t bother to improve it and fail to achieve their potential in the areas EQ impacts, like wealth and relationships.

10. They Lack Social Intelligence

Similar to EQ, social intelligence is about effectively navigating social interactions and conversation. IQ is still over-emphasized in the modern world and social intelligence is just acknowledged as something that is there, which can’t be improved.

But the opposite is true. Social intelligence is critical to most of our lives. We are navigating with people all the time. This doesn’t mean that you have to become an extrovert. There are socially skilled introverts as well as shy extroverts.

You can improve it. Put yourself in more social situations in your career or free time. Join an improv class or get a job with more social interactions, like a salesman or waiter. Reflect on how you could have done better everyday and you will improve over time.

Which one of these are you currently guilty of? How are you going to improve it? Leave your thoughts below!
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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Brendan

    Sep 25, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    I enjoyed reading your post, but I’m still confused. I constantly deliver at work, I get nothing but praise and positive feedback. I ask for constructive or negative feedback but nothing is forthcoming. Then a fast talking idiot comes through the door, excels past me and then comes to me for the answers to succeed in their job. I get it that EQ and Social skills are important but how can we be blinded by fast confident talkers? They are the face but certainly aren’t making any significant contribution to decisions outside of delivering the message and claiming it as their own. Maybe this is why we have more and more crazy decisions going on in the world – the acceptance of the extroverted idiot with their big mouths and poor decisions.

  2. Adedeji oba Adesina

    Mar 19, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    This post is so sincere and blunt i think everyone needs to read this if it can be better equipped into a book it will go a long way. Thanks ive learnt to be better.

  3. Julio Maysonet

    Feb 25, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    I’m one of those dreamers type of person. I would over analyze set goals but never I achieve them because right away I get that dought feeling of “What if…” it doesn’t work, people don’t see my vision… I am teaching myself one thing and that’s to not multi-task and tackle one thing at a time.

    Thank you for the follow on twitter. I bookmarked the site.

  4. Taofeek Ishola

    Feb 5, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    I see myself a lot in the article and I thank you for bringing the items to my attention. I need to think seriously on how to deal with the bad habits. Thanks.

  5. Adam Riding

    Jan 28, 2017 at 12:11 am

    Rightly put as the number one reason. They just keep thinking and thinking and analyzing until the opportunity has past them by. Unfortunately, this one is not not just for the smart people.

    • Will Chou

      Jan 30, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      Yes analysis paralysis in the social world. The biggest drawback to intelligence (and I guess dumb people do this too)

  6. Pospi O Otuson

    Jan 27, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    Thanks for this post, I rely too much on intelligence and always avoid making mistakes. I pray for inspirations on how to set things straight.

    • Will Chou

      Jan 30, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      Thanks for reading this Pospi!

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