How to Be Smart in a World of Dumb People – 8 Precious Pieces of Advice
I know you are going to hate me for that, but can I be profoundly honest with you for a moment?
And I am not talking about the kind of honesty where someone points out the spinach on your teeth. I am talking about brutal, straightforward, eye-opening honesty that hurts like a bitch.
You might have never heard it before, but even if you have, you were too preoccupied with your ego that you didn’t even pay attention to it.
Now is your moment of truth; a truth that you will most probably not enjoy.
In fact, I have been holding off telling you this since I started writing, hoping that somebody else will come forth and tell you. But no one has.
So out of respect to you, myself, and all the people who have successfully managed to deal with this truth, it is time to reveal it.
You know how you have been struggling with your life? You read tons of self-improvement books and articles and still didn’t see any major improvements in your reality?
Well, it’s not because the authors didn’t use the right language to express their views. Nor was it because they lacked the required scientific evidence to support their points.
It’s because of one, unquestionable and undeniable reason.
It’s because you are lazy.
And you know what this laziness is doing to you? It is making you dumb.
There I said it.
Now, I know that you feel insulted and hurt, but if you ever want a chance in hell of actually improving your life and escaping mediocrity, you’d better listen up.
Did I Just Call You Dumb?
Yes, I did. I think it was about time somebody would tell you and I actually feel glad that this somebody is me.
Now, I want you to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and objectively evaluate yourself and your progress over the past three years or so.
What do you see?
Do you see any fundamental improvements with regards to your emotional, physical, financial and spiritual well-being?
If yes, then you are on the right track and consider this narrative as a reminder of what will happen if you don’t keep performing at this level.
If not, then pay close attention to what I am about to say.
Successful People Are Smarter than You Are
And before you start complaining, let me get one thing straight. When I say smart I am not talking about IQ.
IQ is nothing more than your ability to recognize patterns and process information fast. And trust me, if you have an average IQ, this is more than enough to help you deal with our relatively complex reality and become more successful.
Especially when you have your personal computer in your pocket all the time, ready to help you deal with this complexity faster.
Successful people are smarter in terms of emotional, social and existential intelligence and here are some of the things that distinguish them from dumb people:
- They accept failure
- They accept rejection
- They accept that they are not special
- They accept that knowledge never ends
- They embrace chaos
- They embrace complexity
- They believe in realistic idealism
Well, if all these sound overwhelming, it is obviously because you are not smart enough to understand their simplicity.
This is the one and unquestionable truth and the sooner you deal with it the sooner you will accept your life and either move on to a more successful one or you will keep sinking in mediocrity.
How to Be Smart
Each and every one of us decides who we are. No, you may not be ready to be extremely successful in all the fields you pursue but you can become ready.
You can decide to be smart.
Just accept the truth, raw and painful as it is, allow logic to rationalize your emotions and read carefully the following 8 pieces of advice.
1. DO EASY
I recently stumbled upon the following video clip from Gus Van Sant.
The “Discipline of Do Easy” is one of Van Sant’s earliest works and signifies the director’s intention to propose all human activity to be done in the simplest, easiest way possible.
One of the main reasons I chose to project this idea through this short film is its ironic tone. Our inability to be present and pay close attention to small, every-day activities that automate our lives, thus making it easier, can’t be described as anything but ironic.
Smart people are excellent at this. They never let small, mundane tasks get in their way. They never let small everyday distractions misalign them from their goals and intrude their emotional state.
They adopt habits, they adopt processes, they adopt systems.
“30 Challenges – 30 Days – Zero Excuses” can help you dramatically in that respect.
2. Be Honest
Quan has covered the concept of honesty extensively in his article “No legacy is so rich as Honesty.” The reason I mention it again, however, is because most of you fail dramatically in understanding its core importance.
Honesty is paramount when it comes to building a successful lifestyle because honesty gives you clarity of intent.
An honest person is absolutely fine with who he is and has the ability to communicate his needs clearly and congruently without coming across as needy.
Being honest gives you extreme freedom of choice and lets you weed out people incapable of following you in a so-called “mutual need satisfaction process.”
And most importantly stop being dishonest hoping that you are going to win some stupid manipulation game or that you will not hurt someone else’s feelings. You hurt people even more if you don’t tell them the truth and let them stay around a fake version of you.
By being honest you give them a choice. Whether they will make the right choice or not, is none of your business.
And finally as Warren Buffet very successfully stated in the past:
“Honesty is a very expensive gift. Don’t expect it from cheap people.”
3. Start Therapy
Advancing from my last point about honesty and being able to express your needs, I want to make something clear.
You will never be able to successfully express your needs if you have no idea what these needs really are and where they come from.
And this is where therapy comes in.
Let me illustrate my point with a personal story. I am in a relationship with a girl for almost a year now. I am 28 years old and this is the first girl I really felt connected with and actually decided to start a serious and committed relationship with. I have never felt this need in the past because of two reasons:
- I wasn’t ready.
- No girl ever evoked the right feelings in me in order to realize that I had the need for such an intimate relationship.
To be honest, I never knew that this need was there. I had to let myself go and become incredibly vulnerable and intimate with her in order to realize that it was there.
This was something extremely scary because I have always been a strong, self-reliant, independent character.
Being exposed to such a novelty was something groundbreaking for me.
It was so difficult to accept this new reality that I decided to start therapy, hoping that it can help me cope with it.
And it helped.
Firstly because it helped me identify the root of my need for deep intimacy, which was originating from the deep connection I developed with my mother during my early childhood. And secondly because it helped me realize that in order to satisfy this need I have to meet a person who can understand it, embrace it and presumably share the same need.
Therapy helps you understand to a large extend who you really are and the reasoning behind your actions. Then it is up to you how you will use this knowledge.
It is crucial to realize that you will never understand what you want if you don’t understand first who you really are.
4. Understand That Relationships Are Hard Work
I want all these points to have a degree of continuity that can help you progress from one point to the next without getting lost in their translation.
Therefore, now I am going to reveal another important truth that you seem to be ignoring for quite some time.
You know how you start relationships that usually lead to a dead end?
This happens mainly for two reasons:
- You haven’t precisely defined what you want and failed to communicate it effectively (read the previous point again carefully).
- You fail to understand that relationships are hard work.
You think that because you somehow managed to attract and eventually seduce another person, this attraction will last forever.
Well, think again.
Women and men are attracted to specific characteristics. I guess that since you got the girl or the guy in the first place, you managed to successfully identify and adopt these characteristics and props for that.
But I also assume that you failed to keep the girl or the guy, or that you got bored of her or him, or that for some reason or another at some point the fairytale went bad.
Well, because this pattern will keep repeating itself in the people you will meet in the future, it is time to wake up and face reality as it is – raw and painful.
Divorce rates have soared over the past decade. People cheat on a regular basis without experiencing the slightest feeling of self-remorse. Single parents are a common theme among so called civilized western societies.
And the thing that annoys me the most? Everybody is whining about their inability to meet the right person.
You know who whines? Babies whine.
And, obviously, if you want to be treated like a baby then you are not ready to enter a serious relationship with another person.
Now listen up. If any of the following applies to you, then don’t start a serious relationship under any circumstances.
- You haven’t educated yourself with regards to what women and responsively men want.
- You haven’t educated yourself with regards to what you really want.
- You haven’t decided to embrace monogamy.
- You don’t understand social and behavioral dynamics.
- You are not comfortable with your social skills.
- You don’t feel comfortable around people of the opposite gender that you don’t know.
All these are crucial parameters of the relationship equation and the sooner you realize it, the sooner you will stop whining.
I stress out the importance of these parameters because no one seems to pay attention to them. Everybody suddenly becomes a self-proclaimed expert and decides that he or she is ready to enter a serious relationship.
What most of you fail to understand is that relationships are hard work and that in order to enter one, you need to be ready to perform.
If you are not ready to perform please do yourself and the rest of the world a favor and stay single.
And, apparently, this is not a one-way street. The way you are supposed to perform and constantly invest in yourself, the same way your significant other needs to understand this new reality and also perform at the same level.
Otherwise, you are flirting dangerously with disappointment and regret and eventually you will be the one hurting the other person because she won’t be able to follow your performance levels.
So, please, if you see that your partner is unable to follow, do them a favor and explain to them what performing means. If they fail to understand, then obviously they are not ready for a serious relationship.
Never stay in a relationship for the wrong reasons.
Mark Manson posted a great article on the topic here.
5. Educate Yourself – Not All Women Are Like That and Not All Men Are Like That
I keep discussing relationships because, whether you like it or not, no matter how hard you try to defy your human nature, you will always be a human in need for intimacy and romance.
So, if you don’t sort out the relationship equation soon, you will not be able to progress in other areas of your life and become successful in them.
That said, I want to discuss a common theme noted among dumb and lazy people – The theme of generalization.
Many of you after having experienced the magic of relationships and after having associated yourselves with different people, if you experience similar behaviors among women or men, you like to generalize and revert to aphorisms like “all women are like that,” “all men are like that” and similar comments.
I admired specificity from an early stage in my life and now I know why. Lack of specificity is a quality that characterizes dumb and lazy people who are unwilling to justify their laziness.
Now, stop generalizing and read slowly and carefully the following words.
Hypergamy, Solipsism, Rationalization, and Dark Triad traits.
If you are familiar with these terms then good for you. If not, unfortunately, I am not going to explain them to you. Now is your chance to prove to yourself that you are not that lazy.
Regardless of your familiarity with these terms, it is critical to understand that they are paramount when it comes to helping you improve your understanding of how social and behavioral dynamics work.
These are all traits observed in all human beings, which means that every single one of us has them.
The difference is the degree. And that’s where the subtlety in understanding why “all women are like that” and “all men are like that” is utter nonsense comes in.
We are all made from the same matter, but at the same time we are all different. We are different because of our upbringing and because of your personal and cultural background. We are also different because some of us have progressed to different ways of thinking. Ways of thinking that help us live a different, more purposeful life.
So please educate yourself and stop generalizing. Start looking for different thinking patterns and associate yourself with people who can communicate in the same patterns.
6. You Are in Control – Learn to Manage Your Relationships
After you stop generalizing, it is time to take control of your life and most importantly your relationships. And I am not talking only about your romantic ones.
You are surrounded constantly by people, which means that you need them and they need you. In this “mutual need satisfaction process,” most people fail dramatically, thus ending up alone and isolated.
If you don’t want to end up like most people, I will suggest a simple categorization I use extensively that has helped me manage most of my relationships successfully.
Although this categorization might be altered to accommodate your particular agenda, most of the things you will read below can be used as a rule of thumb when managing your relationships.
1. The Party People
These are people in your environment who can be great assets when it comes to social gatherings. They are usually extroverted by nature and can easily adapt to dynamic and high-energy environments. If you are an introverted character, those people can help you discover your extroverted edge and also help you create new acquaintances. If you are an extroverted character, these people can supplement you in a great way and also boost your social value even more.
The caveat when it comes to party people is that their management requires extra attention when you want to keep them around you for a long time. They are usually people who seek validation and will most probably demand from you to reach their energy levels in order to get along with them.
There are usually three ways to successfully manage them:
- Give them validation in small amounts so they can keep coming back for it.
- Don’t stay too close to them and avoid speaking about personal matters that have no relation to the party environment.
- If you feel comfortable with meeting new people, introduce them to each other and also use a churn-approach when the fun you used to have with them is being jeopardized.
2. The Partners
These are people who you can build a strong emotional connection with. This connection usually comes from sharing common beliefs, values, and ideas. They can become great romantic partners, business partners or intellectual partners and you can experience mutual benefit when it comes to emotional and intellectual activities.
The success of your relationship is founded upon the ideas of respect, loyalty, and understanding. If these ideas are not present, a partnership can never flourish and grow. Both you and they need to be constantly aware of their presence and actively communicate it through your words and actions.
It is also crucial to understand that if your relationship with them branches out to the other two categories, you are flirting with the idea of imbalance. Partying with them, although it is an option, could lead to you questioning your relationship with them.
3. The Followers
These are people who admire you a lot and believe that they can be positively influenced by your presence. Although we have the bad habit of associating the word “follower” with something diminishing, we need to realize that we all are or were followers at some point in our lives. So, the idea of a follower is great if you are conscious about the help you can provide.
From your perspective, a follower is a person that respects you a lot and looks up to you, thus helping you boost your confidence and increase your value as a person. From their perspective, the interaction with you can help them solve some personal problems and also put them on the right track for further growth.
Followers can become partners at some point, depending on how well you can evaluate your relationship with them, but in order for this to be accomplished both of you need to become aware of it and move from a follower-leader to a leader-leader dynamic in your relationship.
Although the three categories are open to further analysis, on a surface level, they are the only categorization you need.
It is always up to you how and why you will decide to manage your relationships, but at the end of the day the infamous African proverb makes more and more sense:
“If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go with others.”
7. You are an Entrepreneur
If I was to make a rough guess, I would say that most of you work for others. By others, I mean medium to large-sized corporations where you have very little responsibility and your accountability is limited to the amount of milestones you reach. Milestones that probably somebody else picked for you.
Well, although this comment is flirting with the idea of generalization – an idea that I very much despise as you have already realized – it also holds some undeniable truths.
Working for others limits your ability to manage your own life effectively, thus making you less responsible and more lazy. I am not saying that all corporations are the same, but most of them are like this and the ones that aren’t, are extremely rare to find.
Now, regardless of whether you work for someone else or not, you need to realize one thing.
All of us are entrepreneurs.
In order to illustrate my point, I will cite a part from an article on Forbes I stumbled upon recently:
“We are all born with the innate ability to survive; and survival involves innovative thinking. Think about your life. Think about the times you needed to make a decision –- a choice –- that involved doing something innovative (something you were not accustomed to doing) so that you could “move on” or adapt to a challenging situation. In our normal course of daily living, we are faced with choices.
Granted, some of these choices are more significant than others. And these are the choices that I am addressing; the choices that are out of the norm; the situations that afford us a real opportunity to change our lifestyle — our life — and adapt or destroy our normal way of approaching whatever life throws at us.
When we choose to embark on a path not chartered, we are engaging in a “small act of entrepreneurship.” Being entrepreneurial is essentially about thinking and doing something that we have not done before, in order to achieve a desirable goal or outcome.
It is about assessing a situation, designing alternatives, and choosing a new way — or perhaps a combination of ways — that we hope will lead us to something better; however we happen to define “better” at that moment.”
“Smart” people do that very well. Even if they aren’t entrepreneurs in the literal meaning of the term, they think like ones.
You are selling yourself short if you do not define yourself as entrepreneur – if you choose to accept that “entrepreneurs” are the “other” people who take a chance, who think and act differently when challenges arise.
Stop underestimating yourself and your capabilities. Take this chance, think differently, think innovatively.
When you think innovatively and act on that innovation, you are an entrepreneur.
8. Embrace Complexity
The last and probably most important reason you are dumb is that you keep viewing life from a simplicity perspective. And please don’t confuse simplicity with minimalism, essentialism, zen-living and other similar ideas.
Simplicity, in a nutshell, means that you rely on simplistic, outdated and sometimes predefined notions in order to explain the world around you.
And this is so wrong for your development.
We live in an extremely complex world that changes dynamically every day. Embracing this complexity, although it seems overwhelming, is the secret to sustainable growth and success.
Now, I cannot explain you complexity theory in just a few paragraphs, but I can suggest some of its underlying principles at work:
- Support the idea of self-organization of individuals, meaning that whoever you are, in order to thrive in any environment, you need to dynamically pursue the necessary skills, awareness, and sense of responsibility.
- Ensure thinking diversity, which is a key driver of innovation and minimizes the risk of falling into the trap of “group think.” It is important for individuals to enable the understanding and appreciation of diversity necessary to achieve superior results.
- Keep moving, be agile and move slowly in order to respond to changes in the environment; this is supported by experimentation, considering failure an essential aspect of learning and letting go of an obsession with perfection.
- Think at the systems level, which is about seeking to understand the implications of our actions, our skills, role and contribution from a wider systems perspective.
As you can see, complexity theory is a concept strongly related to personal development. Dr Bettina von Stamm, director and catalyst of the Innovation Leadership Forum, puts it very nicely:
“If you want to thrive rather than just survive (which the great market economist, Theodore Levitt called “a so-so aspiration”), understanding and embracing the principles of complexity theory can be extremely valuable, and by embracing and living by those principles you will be able to achieve what everyone is yearning for: simplicity.”
I hope that after this extremely educational rant you started feeling a bit smarter. I can actually guarantee for that because you belong to the small percentage of readers who actually read it. Most of the lazy people stopped after the first paragraph or went quickly through the main points.
However, now comes the difficult part. The part where you decide to take action.
Because no matter how much you read, if you don’t take actionable steps towards this direction, your dream of becoming “smarter” will remain just a dream.
I will leave you with the hope that you will become “smarter” soon because we really need “smarter” people in this world (at least I do in my world) and with a quote from one of my favorite thinkers, Nassim Taleb:
“Difficulty is what wakes up the genius.”
If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to our email list and we’ll send you new posts right when they come out.
A great way to make sure you are on the right track is to improve your skills on the topics of Masculinity, Attraction, and Deep work. I have created three mini-courses for this specific reason that can prove invaluable along the way.
Latest posts by Andrian Iliopoulos (see all)
- 5 Critical Mental Models to Add to Your Cognitive Repertoire - June 12, 2017
- The Art of Storytelling: Taking a Deep Dive Into the Mechanics of a Great Story - May 25, 2017
- The Anti-Motivation Manifesto - May 18, 2017