Monday, April 11, 2016

The Dark Side of Being Smart

While being smart is valuable, there is a dark side.  In some cases, being smart can serve as more of a shield to protect a person from being wrong.  In other cases, it can serve as a sword to invalidate others and back them off. Ultimately, it can allow the person to
look good and avoid looking bad.  Their stance to look good can be so strong it may be difficult to have conversations with them when the topic conflicts with their knowledge. 

Smart people usually trust sources they deem credible.  The credible source is often one that makes them look good and difficult for others to challenge.  This practice can sometimes lead to the dilemma Copernicus faced when he said the earth was not the center of the universe.  Copernicus’, then controversial perspective, caused him to be ousted from the scientific community.     

Furthermore, many smart people surround themselves with people who will agree with them.  When they encounter people who do not agree with them, they argue or walk away.  In Copernicus’ case, they drove him out.  Copernicus’ inquiry into the motion of planets exposed and questioned the smartness of a community filled with many well-educated astronomers.  At that time, if Copernicus were right, it would have meant the rest of the community was wrong.  That would make them all look bad. 

This type of situation is one consequence on the dark side of being smart.  There is another side.        

While being smart can protect the identity, it may presuppose there is something wrong.  What could be wrong?  The person may have had a childhood experience that made them feel they were inadequate.  As a result, they developed an identity of inadequacy.  Why else would one need to protect the identity?  To hide that self-imposed belief, they would continuously learn new information from credible sources to over compensate their believed inadequacy.        

Through an insatiable appetite to learn, the identity can hide its inadequacy.  Anyone who does not validate the smart identity’s beliefs, knowledge or way of thinking can be considered the enemy or someone to be dismissed.  This way of thinking interferes with in-depth dialogue that is not aligned with the smart person, since the identity is only interested in being right and validating itself.  This behavior can make the person very defensive.  If they are in charge – boss, parent or older sibling – it can be very difficult for those under their rule.  

This is unfortunate because the knowledge and information one possesses is limited.  No one has unlimited knowledge.  New knowledge is discovered everyday.  Sometimes it makes existing knowledge obsolete. 

When people are not open to other perspectives, it can create a scenario that is analogous to the emperor with no clothes.  Long-term the smart person may be vulnerable to people who do not always have their best interest in mind.  Or it can expose them to paths that lead to mediocrity.

Even though people now know the sun is the center of our universe, some smart people believe everything in life revolves around their limited beliefs and knowledge.  Until someone shows them what they know is incorrect, inappropriate or obsolete, they defend what they know.  And they try to understand any new information through that which they already understand.  This is a form of arrogance to believe everything is related to what you already know.  Because knowledge and information is limited, there are times when your knowledge is irrelevant or obsolete for new possibilities.  Do you live on the dark side of being smart?   

What do you think? I would love to hear your feedback. And I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know. 

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