Why being smart does not translate to success; emotional intelligence does


emotional intelligence

Most of our education systems show us that great performance is all we need to succeed in life. So when you are smart, and your grades made you the teacher’s pet in school, you grow up thinking that you are smart. You think that this is a ticket to help you open many doors in life.

Don’t get me wrong, intelligence is great, it is important, but it is not enough. Let’s face it, we have seen a lot of talented, brilliant people drive their lives down the drain. This is because emotional intelligence goes hand in hand with IQ and sometimes, you don’t even need that much high IQ, you just need the intelligence to manage your emotions, be disciplined and achieve what you aim for.

The self-control test

Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence writes about a research conducted on kids of a certain grade. They were tested on self-control at a young age. Later in life, a follow-up analysis shows that some of the most intelligent kids who failed on self-control tests, did not do so well in life. They had not managed to advance their careers and hold onto healthy relationships. On the other hand, kids who passed in self-control tests, and had high IQ, were doing quite well in their careers as well as relationships. Lastly kids who passed on self-control tests, and did not have very high grades, have also managed to hold onto successful careers as well as healthy relationship.

This explains how being smart is or talented is nothing if it cannot be well managed. So I could be smart and know it, but what good does it do me when I wake up and watch Netflix all day, just because I can? What good does it do me when I screw up my relationships, just because I am smart and I don’t care?

For intelligence to be used effectively to bring success, it must be managed daily and this management means discipline, self-control, delayed gratification. Smart people who neglect to make the right decisions relating to their success end up regretting later in life, and the last thing you want is being in your deathbed cursing that you are sending all that smart brain to the grave.

Interpersonal intelligence

Another of the traits of emotional intelligence is interpersonal intelligence. This is understanding other people and recognizing the emotions of others. It is what we call empathy, or people skill. This is especially important in maintaining relationships, both personally and professionally. Daniel Goleman defines interpersonal intelligence as ‘being able to form an accurate, veridical model of oneself and use that model to operate effectively in life’. Our success is also defined by the value of relationships we create. Successful and emotionally balanced people have managed to create successful relationships around them or what I like to call a support system.

The sad story of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was one such person that dies with regrets. He was a poet, playwright, novelist, critic and super smart with unlimited potential. He had won scholarships to some of the best schools in Britain at the time and won numerous awards for his professional achievements. However, at the last days of his life, Oscar Wilde wrote De Profondis while in prison where he was regretful and miserable. In this letter, he acknowledges that he ruined his life and wasted his talents because of his lack of self-control. He also admit that he hurt those around him because he lacked interpersonal intelligence. You can read the letter here.

Oscar Wilde is one of those talents that went to loss, and had he lived up to his talent and intelligence, he probably could have been quoted at the levels of Shakespeare and other great writers.

This being said, you cannot let yourself get away with the wrong things just because you are smart. In the same beat, you cannot think that you are smart hence everything will take care of itself and lead you to where you want. As I have come to learn, persistence, hard work and self-discipline will take you further than talent ever could.

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