The Deficient Quotient.

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.



50 thoughts on “The Deficient Quotient.

  1. I love this post… It has “gingered” me to look inward, and harness my potentials, while engaging in vigorous personal development!!!
    God bless you too and help us all!

  2. Samson is actually a maths genius don’t listen to anything else he tries to tell you. And yeah, about intelligence, I dare say the scientific measures of IQ are severely flawed and tilted in the direction of conventional scientific methods of thinking. Let’s just say society keeps failing woefully at placing humans in boxes where they do not belong. *drops mic*

    • But this is where I disagree. I think the same qualities that make a great mathematician make a great poet. I think (I added the part about pattern recognition) that the ability to recognize patterns is universal to types of intelligence, scientific or not. And while we may not belong in boxes, there is some merit to understanding the origin and limitations of certain things.

      • I think everyone is excellent at something. Untapped potential. Lack of opportunities. Misdirected careers. Could a Nigerian (African even) win a Science Nobel Prize? Is intelligence really that or just exposure? None of us uses up to 10% of our brain potential. And I agree that maths and the arts are terribly related. (Computers are the best composers, and forgers of music and art). I just believe no one intelligence test will be universal enough to classify human beings. We are bad like that.

  3. I Love this post. It hits on questions I’ve often wondered about. Distinguishes between the different classes and yet encourages us to be better. Nice work Samson.

  4. Shit! I don’t feel so dumb anymore. (But I don’t feel like a genius either) Samson has successfully put me in the ‘friend zone’ of intelligence.


    I give up.

  5. Allow me to quote Albert Einstein: “Everyone is a genius. If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, then it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” You have said it all in this post.
    Having said that, I’ll ask a quick question. If you as an employer of labour had to empoly someone to a repeatitive job process group and you had an incredibly smart guy with zero dedication and a complete moron with 100 percent hardwork and dedication to choose from who would you employ?

  6. Really love this post. it resonates very strongly with me cos I’ve never had a head for the sciences but I’m, hopefully without sounding conceited, very versed in several art forms.
    It’s always been a challenge for me knowing balancing my giftings and knowing which or the other to focus more on at any given time. Everyday, a lesson is learnt, and for today, this has been a good class.
    Thanks Samson. Thanks Wole

    • I personally believe for every science, there is a companion art. Math – poetry, Engieering to Writing, Biological sciences to dance…. etc, but that is my own view. Glad you enjoyed it

  7. Wow! Thoroughly enjoyed reading that. I’m glad I followed you on twitter. I like the variation between the last post and this post. I was thinking to myself just yesterday about what really makes one person smarter/more intelligent than the next person just because they are more skillful in a certain field compared to another. In the end passion, determination and hard work make the difference. Thanks for this thought provoking post.

  8. This is truly amazing. You take someone gifted in the sciences to creatively put an article about finding ones place in life in such a creative way and make it look so appealing. What gets me however, is how this post is soooo me…All the IQ tests I’ve done have fluctuated between 123 and 127 so accordng to this classification I’m above average right? 🙂

    Thing is, I worry about the path I’ve chosen. I mean when I was in JSS1 I wanted to be a doctor and eventually studied Civil Engineering because I excelled in Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics. Now I’m a Software Developer. But my true passion lies in the arts…*sigh* I worry…

    • Well, like the post says and I and samson believe, if you pick one area and focus on it, you will be great. So worry not, I say, Pick one thing and keep the others as hobbies.

  9. It’s funny how you just know you’re “kindred spirts” with some people even when you’ve never (and probably will never) meet them… the likes of wole, panda and samson fall into that class of people… (Y)

  10. I have a friend whom I believe, is very intelligent, and we had a similar discussion when I was much younger, but we came to the conclusion that intelligence can be determined by a person’s thirst to ‘know’.. An intelligent person will always ask questions. Sometimes voiced, other times, not voiced..

    But yea.. I used to think I was so smart till I met some really awesome people, and I’ve met one more today-Samson. The brilliance in this post (and the whole blog) is obvious..

    Very well written.. 😀

    • I think IQ simply sets upper and lower limits as to what you can do, some people utilize their range to the maximum, some never become even half of what they are capable of becoming. That is where the thirst for knowledge comes in. Good point.

  11. This makes sense.
    Something I’ve realized though is the importance of repetition in increasing the IQ of someone in a particular endeavor (if such a ‘compartmentization’ is permissible).

    I’ve never been a gifted dancer but my love for it made me a good one, I assume I could be great in it now, if I wanted (Chris Brown’s earlier dance videos on YouTube are pitiful). The same thing for chess and mathematics (which I later gave up).

    I recognize however, that one might not attain genius status or even become a great master of just any endeavor but I also have realized that one can increase his acumen in a certain field if one applies himself studiously.

    Like the hackneyed story of Ben Carson, we can learn to be smart. I did.

  12. This is my first time here and no one, i mean no one has written any piece like this and made me read to the end like you have done.

    Intelligent and inspiring…weldone!!!

    …..and yes, i will be back!!

  13. Now u guys have done it again. A combination of Talabi and Samson (The one a select group calls Layeni). To the topic, Genius is something whose definition the world has yet to grasp and mosttimes, we classify people as geniuses only after their demise. I’ve seen people with little formal education who are so good at what they do they r nearly perfect. An example is a machinist at d WAPCO plant I did my NYSC. That guy forges anything metal to near perfection. While I feel safe to classify myself above average ( I hope wole and Layeni agree), I must say this piece is Excellent!!!

  14. Honestly I was getting bored with the whole analysis up there, which seems to me like you were trying to show how smart you are.

    However, the last paragraph made up for it. Every human being needs to understand this.

  15. I don’t agree that IQ is a determinant of human capability. I believe its more of a case of talent meeting opportunity. Especially as regards the successful individuals mentioned.

  16. “I would restrict its definition to the ability to recognize and create patterns” absolutely correct definition, I have made this exact conclusion before. Also man is mainly driven by what he surrounds himself with or what he allows penetrate his core… It is only in the fulfilment of these questions that there can be happiness. Nice blog.

  17. Nice post.. i’ll have to read it again to fully comprehend. my mind is kinda slow right now 😐
    i’ve always sucked at basic arithmetics but i dnt let that get to me cos i know my strong points.

  18. Nice post,I realised that I’m comfortable in most things i find myself doing except (maybe) the arts & entertainment dept.
    This statement ——->(“I began to question myself about what my special “thing” was or what others around me had within that was waiting to be explored”) is the key to bn a genius *still searching*

  19. hahahahahahahahahah,oh yea dis isnt really a funny post…..well,it starts by testing one’s memory,in that u likely scrolled back up every time references to d categories were made,then continues in telling you where you going wrong,then finishes off saying “but if u re dumb there is no cause for alarm just look inside you”. No problemo

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