“Outsmart: To defeat or trick (someone) by being more intelligent or clever.”
Have you ever been told you’re “too smart for your own good?”
Yeah, me too. Quite often I was not only too smart for my own good, I was trying so hard to be smart I caused myself a whole lot of trouble. Usually when that happens for me, and probably for you too, it’s a reminder that I need to stop doing one of these five things.
1. Stop letting your fears decide.
I may be known as the “nothing is impossible, some things just take longer” type. But like anyone else I fall prey to the fear of failure, or of looking the fool. When those fears set in it’s easy to use our intellectual powers for evil and start rationalizing all the reasons we should’t even try.
When my intellectual demon starts reminding me of all the reasons it would be smarter to stay in the box, not go too far out on the limb, and avoid taking any big leaps, I go through all the times I’ve challenged the odds – and won. I list my successes, especially the ones that came after a series of monumental stumbles. If I put my mind to it I can come up with as many valid reasons for expecting success as for fearing failure.
Related: Know Yourself. Face Your Fear. Follow Your Heart.
2. Stop being so clever that nobody understands you.
When we’re really smart, but maybe a tad insecure, we sometimes want to show off instead of just showing up. So we flaunt our vocabulary, flex our Trivial Pursuit-worthy memory, and cite various passages of arcane texts just to prove that we are even smarter than we appear. In fact, I just did it. I could have said that sometimes we have a fear that someone else is smarter than we are, so we use big words and talk about facts that probably don’t really matter and quote ancient experts just to seem even smarter than we are.
Which, when you think about it, isn’t so smart. The old saying, “If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bull” is, well,bull. And so is the idea that anyone is really impressed with bigger words and more complicated ideas. Usually they’re not impressed, they’re intimidated. And no one really likes to hang around with someone who is intimidating.
3. Stop confusing research addiction with making a decision.
It’s a common hurdle for the terminally intelligent; the fear that the next fact, study or review is going to be the one that would have made all the difference between a really good decision and a disastrous one. The truth is that intelligence is based on the ability to differentiate. So if you want to be smart enough for your own good you’ll train yourself to differentiate quickly between essential details and anecdotal evidence so that you can make a decision before the opportunity passes you by.
Related: Why Your Neuroticism May Be the Key to Your Creativity
4. Stop wallowing in analysis paralysis.
The other affliction that keeps really smart people like us from grabbing the brass ring is being unable to prioritize the pros and cons inherent in any possibility. It’s not unusual for a brilliant entrepreneur to end up regretting decisions never made because they just couldn’t free themselves from the process of weighing out probabilities.
Start by establishing what you cannot live with and what you will not live without. If anything in either of those categories seems likely, or even within the realm of possibility, your answer is likely a resounding “no.” Then list the rest of your criteria in order of importance and match your best guess about probable outcomes against that.
Finally, get comfortable with uncertainty because it’s a fact of life. You aren’t going to outsmart a natural law.
5. Stop exalting intellect so much you ignore instinct.
Being smart is important for an entrepreneur, but having access to that sense of instant knowing is even more important. Instinct isn’t some magical gift. We all have it. But we often set it aside because if we can’t “show our work,” we won’t have a way to put our finger on the reference points that allowed us to come to that conclusion.
Maybe it has to do with whether someone can be trusted, or whether an opportunity is accurately represented. Often it has to do with a self-awareness that something is right for us, or it’s not. But if you ask entrepreneurs about the decisions they most regret, they’ll usually tell you they “had a feeling” that they were making the wrong choice but they did it anyway because the evidence supported the decision they made. Trust your gut, because it’s kind of like the “overflow for the brain.” You may not know exactly why your little voice is saying, “Do this and not that,” but chances are your little voice is smarter than you think it is.