The Trouble with “Smart”

Tell me if this resonates with you.

I’ve been called ‘smart’ my whole life.

I hate it.

“You’re so smart” discounts any effort I make about educating myself, learning things, questioning assumptions.  It narrows it down to merely a trait, over which we have very little conscious control.

“You have brown hair” … “You’re so smart”.

It can be intended as a compliment, or a communication of disappointment.  “You’re so smart, why did you do this dumb thing?”

It raises expectations and makes failure a lot more perilous, because its becomes less about trying something lightly and moving on if it doesn’t work and more about (say it with me now, those of you who’ve ever had a report card) “Not living up their potential”

Great. So if I try something and I’m not good at it right off the bat, I disappoint those who care about me, who have high expectations of me (including myself)? Well then, I’d better not do things that I don’t already know that I’d be good at.

And the world becomes small.

It turns out this is an actual thing amongst kids praised for their smarts rather than their effort, and not just me being crazy.

But I think there’s a secret to this whole “smart” thing.

The thing I’ve noticed about others who are perceived as smart is this: It’s not about knowing stuff.  It’s about being able to connect seemingly unrelated things at speed.

“Smart” is all about pattern matching.

And the best way to learn how to see the connections between otherwise unrelated parts of the world is to be curious.

But I’ve done plenty of writing about curiosity already.

So maybe I’m not Smart.

Maybe I’ve trained myself to see connections.

Thats a much more interesting thing to be, and do, and a conscious choice.

It gives one credit for their own brain.


The dilemma of the curious

I’ve always been someone who is hungry for information. I’ve never met a subject I wasn’t at least a little interested in learning more about. Curiosity is something I’ve always innately had. Which leads me to my plea to the internet:

Could you please slow down just a bit?

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The rise of blogs, micro-content, sites like tumblr and posterous, RSS, and others have made it very simple for anyone to publish their thoughts online. As it turns out, there are thousands of interesting people posting all kinds of informative and interesting information on thousands of different topics on thousands of different websites, and every time I stumble across another one of them, my curious mind wants to poke around and read all the articles, and then I look up and its 4am and I have to get up at 7.

So I implore you, Internet. Stop being so interesting.

Somewhere along the way we hit a tipping point where there’s way more stuff out there that I’d be interested in reading, listening to or watching than minutes in the day to read, listen to or watch them. It makes me kinda sad that I won’t ever get to all of the posts that would enrich my life. I hope that this one and the others on my blog have enriched yours in some small way.

I guess there are worse problems to have…

SQUARE ONE! Do doo de doo doo…doo dooo…

Square One Logo

Anyone other than me grow up watching the wacky antics of the cast of Square One TV on PBS?

Well, some enterprising lad has posted his full collection of MathMan videos from that show on YouTube. This clever parody of Pac-Man challenges our intrepid hero to only eat numbers that match certain criteria, or risk being eaten by the tumultuous Mr. Glitch.

Check it out, true believers.

And when you’re done, look at the newgrounds video of why he pissed me off.