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“I’m so smart” vs. “People are Stupid”

As someone dependent on marketing for web publishing success, I am always evaluating people and their behaviors, comparing them against ever evolving models I use in my work. In-person interactions are far more valuable than social media, for example, for “understanding” humans. People do one thing, while saying another. I need to know why they do things.

Lately I notice a contrast of generations. Another one.

My people (educated or very experienced, between 35 and 50, bolder than average, and often more independent than the norm) have long lamented that people have been getting dumber. “People are stupid”, is a common casual remark among those peers.

These days I notice the “under 40” technology sector has inverted that lament. “We are smart” seems to be the new perspective.

I think this is a very important observation.

I don’t think anyone is all that smarter or dumber than they were before. I do believe that our collective education system has largey failed us. I do think the new emphasis on “me” has skewed perspectives, so that things like trophies and imposter syndrome are given much more credibility than they deserve. And clearly the efforts of TheMan to isolate and divide societies has worked to quell shame, societal health, civic duty, and other group-think powers that once benefited civilization.

If you are one of these self-declared wickedly brilliant tech sector workers, are you really so smart (and apparently deserving) as you seem to suggest?

Oh I know, the Higher education has failed us, so of course you haven’t accomplished formal educational credentials, such as Master Degree or Ph.D or professional credentials. Truly smart people can’t be expected to fit those molds.

And yes I do acknowledge that different people learn different ways, so it’s ok you don’t have formal schooling/training/good grades even at the high school level.

Resumes are history as well. Who stays in a job longer than a year these days? Not smart people, for sure. Show me a boss worthy of keeping super smart people on staff….they are rare.

Sarcasm aside, ideas are a dime a dozen. Yet sometimes it seems to me that the only thing some of these self-declared wickedly smart people have are ideas.

I’ve had more ideas than I needed since I was 3 years old. I suspect that’s the case for many of us humans.

I am looking for evidence to support claims of brilliance and smartness and awesomeness. I believe, and I want to discover confirmation.

Do I see credentials? No. Do I see a storied professional career of meaningful and impactful positions reflecting such ability? No. Do I find insightful tomes expressing topical expertise or profundity? No. How about an academic record demonstrating commitment, strident achievement, or even recognition from a society of capable peers? No.

Do I see find more traditional reflections of ability, such as a happy or at least enduring marriage or committed relationship? Any children? Any children who appear to be stable, happy, or potentially impactful?

Perhaps I need to look at health and wellness. Do I see healthy, or just fit? Do I see signs of wellness, such as curiosity, wonder, good-natured humor and occasional goofiness? Have things like joy and love and respect been anchored within a personality, or has character been overrun with disdain, contempt, ego, or compulsiveness?

Hard questions, but nothing harder than a first level human psychology class in college. First level. Perhaps even high school Health class.

The only consistent evidence I see is an ability to learn, in some contexts. I see that┬áthese “brilliant people” can dig into something new and perhaps esoteric, and get up to speed quickly. Like a coding language, or a computer skill, or a complex system of interacting pieces (such as a set of teams working on parts of a web project).

When I examine closer, I often find that really it’s a combination of boldness and determination that is creating this evidence, not actual performance. The work seems good, but is not actually great.

This may be part of the resume issue…move every year, getting credit for great projects when in reality it should be credit for digging in and pushing them forward towards a “this could lead to something” level. It could also explain the “not a good fit” issue I see, where super smart people try out jobs for a week and move on (these never show on LinkedIn profiles).

Could it be that these brilliant super smart people are actually super-determined opportunists?

People today may be ignorant and lacking in perspective, tolerance, compassion, or even health and wellness, but they aren’t stupid. And I dare say that many of today’s self-proclaimed smarties are desperate for something…something not yet identified or acknowledged.

My personal belief is that language and education is behind the failure to recognize and label it. I’ve often remarked that my early education in existentialism (high school and early college) drives much of my perspective on this….I feel quite privileged to have had some of the teachers I had, and lucky to have ┬álearned from them during times when they themselves were questioning their own “meaning”.

There is of course a chance that the missing piece is simply “opportunity”.