The concept of ‘Intelligence’ is one that fascinates me. Mostly because I’ve been accused of having it all my life. I’ve never really found a satisfactory explanation as to what ‘it’ is, everyone seems to define it differently and emphasize on its different manifestations. Emotional Intelligence, Street smarts, Higher level functionality, Savant ability, Physical Intelligence… ad infinitum, ad nauseam. I also know lots of people I consider to be intelligent but who dont have the documents and awards to prove it.
Todays post is the result of a discussion I had with a friend on one of the impact of ‘Intelligence’ on life and life paths. His name is Samson (@livin_episode), one of the best mathematicians cum poets I have ever met and these are his views, some shared by myself (and the post was edited to reflect this). Read, and let us know what your thoughts are.
So a while ago, I decided to do something new: delve into the lives of many accomplished mathematicians and physicists and rate their contributions to the world (and no, I’m not a geek), the results of which, I shared on Facebook. While I was studying the lives of people such as Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and their intellectual compatriots, I discovered something striking about each and every one of them. They possessed an impressive and incomprehensible, know-how of tackling problems in their fields. It was mind-blowing and as though these gifts were from heaven above. A renowned prodigy once said he “doesn’t even know where these things come from” in reference to his mathematical ideas.
While most of us cannot even write five lines of simple calculus without making a mistake, it was said that Lagrange would write more than 200 lines of equations (and these were in no way simple) without a single error. Euler was said to have performed complex calculations in his head with the ease with which we average humans breathe. (This is truly amazing; Try multiplying 237 by 61 in your head and you should have a feel of what I’m talking about) As anyone should, I became jealous and having recalled the cliché that everyone was born with something special and a unique capability to do something different, I began to question myself about what my special “thing” was or what others around me had within that was waiting to be explored. I wondered why, if everyone was so unique, why do we have more unskilled labor around as opposed to just a few good men and women who have found where they’ve been placed to excel. Why are some people janitors and others excellent speakers and thinkers?
I therefore came to the conclusion that our competency in form of numeracy, eloquence, literacy, artistic skills and all there may be out there all have something to do with intelligence quotient (IQ). This is not a unique conclusion, many people have postulated that IQ is the key to understanding human capability. For the purpose of this post, I will slightly abuse the definition of the word IQ, although used to rate a combination of different types of intelligence; I would restrict its definition to the ability to recognize and create patterns. This ability is the basis of expertise in many different areas of endeavor. From physics equations and musical notes to detective work, paintings and even prose and poetry; the ability to see and create patterns is what serves as a basis for intelligence and talent. It is in my opinion that functionality is largely dependent on one’s IQ.
I will classify IQ into five categories:
1. Below average (less than 80)
2. Average (80 – 120)
3. Above average (121 – 140)
4. Very Intelligent (141 – 160)
5. Genius (Above 160)
[Note: IQ is usually presented on a scale of 0-200 with many different ‘experts’ having their own classifications. These are mine]
What I observe is people with extremely high IQ (category 4 and 5) discover their place of confidence and forte in esoteric subjects like quantum physics, complex mathematics and science based occupations very early. Similarly gifted people with evident skills in art also discover their purpose very early in their journey through life; a perfect example is the phenomenal Michael Jackson. These people account for a small percentage of the human populace, and that leaves us with the question, where do the others (categories 1 – 3) fit? What are the rest meant for? How are the rest supposed to contribute to the development of human race? Taking an example from myself (samson), I have come to the conclusion that I am only slightly smarter than most people and therefore most likely belong to category 3. I am largely better than moderate at a few things I have attempted: sports, writing, and academics which provides me the flexibility of doing quite a number of things with a modest reputation.
I also discovered most people like me who have quite an above average IQ can do up to a number of things. These are the kinds that can work with an insurance firm if they ever lose their job as an auditor; they are the kinds that can write movie scripts if they lose their jobs in acting, these are the kinds that can work in photography if they become fed up of editing shows. What I’m driving at here is that while people with extreme gifts are blessed with what they have, they are not as quite as flexible as those in category 3. Oddly, Those not so gifted peoplein category 1 and 2 are also quite inflexible.
The advantage with being in category 1 or 2, is that you are forced to stick to the few (maybe only one) areas in which you possess some modicum of talent and with focus and hardwork you can truly excel at it. Similarly, those with extreme talent (4 and 5) usually focus their efforts in one direction beacuse they are drawn toward it. Therefore being as flexible as with category 3 in this context is not nearly as much an advantage as it is a disadvantage. Being flexible makes most people complacent of what drives them, it rips them of the curiosity of finding out what makes them tick… passion. This makes some folks apply for almost every job that is available (in addition to having a fang-toothed dragon-like economy as the one in Nigeria).
I think the worst thing that can befall a man is a lack of purpose, passion and a sense of definition. While many of us may not possess distinct gifts of drawing, singing or the ability to solve complex equations in our brains, our ability to accomplish a great feat lies in our will, purpose and determination. This would explain why many people who are apparently in category 1 or 2, can indeeed supersede their ‘betters’ in category 3. The lack of focus is a problem almost unique to category 3.
Bill Clinton had a dream of becoming the American president at an age of 14 and the rest, I’m sure you know, is history. Another example: at the age of 10, Andrew Wiles had a dream of proving Fermat Lasts theorem (a 350 year old mathematical problem which hundreds of mathematicians had attempted but failed) and he did prove it!
I could go on and on but let me conclude that while my suggestion is counterfactual, there is something unique about you, regardless of the IQ you possess. My point is, while IQ may be very important in determining ability, it is drive and purpose that determine eventual success for most of us. Look inwards to find what makes you happy, explore what gives you a deep sense of satisfaction, search for it and you’ll be happy you did. God bless.