defining intelligence

“There’s street-smart, book-smart, and Survivor-smart.  The Brains tribe is definitely not the last one.” –commentary on a very good Season 28 of Survivor, where tribes were split into brain, brawn, and beauty.  will tony be able to win!?  only time will tell.

people use the word “smart” a lot.  but people often have very different interpretations of intelligence and have different ways of measuring it.  here’s how i define it/the qualities of intelligence that i respect:

the ability to pick up complex concepts and apply them quickly.  i think people generally use “smart” to describe people who are good at math and science because they typically have very testable concepts that you need to learn very quickly and very early.  imagine negative numbers and fractions moving on to calculus and imaginary numbers.  or force diagrams and chemical reactions and gravity.  but fuzzy subjects also have their own complex ideas.  i remember policy debate (BIG UGH) and dreading the dreaded K’s (for critiques… i forget why we didn’t use C) when i would just shout “DEONTOLOGY BAD” and hope that nobody listened to my content because i had absolutely no idea what i was talking about.  wow, i was a terrible debater.  this is the OPPOSITE of knowing rote trivia and random factoids. 

a willingness to question beliefs and a willingness to change them.  one of those, the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know situations.  they have open ears and welcome discussion, and most importantly, want to get to the RIGHT answer and not necessarily THEIR answer.  pride and stubbornness can be enemies of progress.

perceives reality “correctly” and is objective and fair.  how well do you trust their version of reality when you ask them “what happened?”?  do they understand why things happen the way they do?  how well do they understand cause and effect?  how well can they predict outcomes?  understanding people is essential. 

a strong understanding of themselves.  it’s honestly pretty difficult to understand oneself and your triggers and your values and why you behave the way you do.  not to mention incredibly easy to lie to yourself.

ability to think strategically and to optimize.  i don’t know if this is a bias from my bain days, but clearly being able to define your objective (e.g., “being happy”) and then knowing how to best reach that goal and then getting off your ass and doing it.  it is shocking how often people 1) don’t know what they want, 2) don’t think about how to best get what they want, or 3) don’t do it after identifying the relevant step.

trevor was still the smartest guy from high school.  more smart people than i could count in college. 


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