Admiring Choices

December / 2020
Authors: Shane Walsh

Living in my hometown of Austin, Texas, I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing people that have  come to town from all over Texas, all over America and all over the world. Texas is a unique place that’s  been built by some of the friendliest, most hard-working people you’ll ever meet. It’s a beacon for  what’s possible in America today and because of that, a lot of truly brilliant people have chosen to make  it their home. Austin’s technology ecosystem, and the investor ecosystem that supports it, are made up  of some incredibly smart people who have done remarkable things that are worthy of admiration.  

But is their intelligence what we admire? Or is it what they’ve accomplished with that intelligence? 

In the last few years, our world has begun a movement toward what I refer to as worshipping at the  altar of intelligence. People are now frequently admired simply for the quality of being smart. I’m not  talking about being admired for working hard and using intellect to build something, or to make a  difference in the lives of other people. I’m talking about the idea of intelligence itself. Think about it – when you describe someone that you know who’s really smart, it’s usually the first thing you say. “She’s  super smart,” or “He’s truly brilliant” are often the phrases we use to illustrate why this person is  exceptional – and why we admire them. 

But is intelligence – in and of itself – something that we should admire? 

It’s important to draw the distinction here between being impressed by intelligence and admiring  someone for it. It’s easy to look at someone and be super-impressed by their ability to grasp abstract  concepts with about as much effort as it took them to get out of bed that morning. But being impressed  by something is not the same as admiring it.  

Intelligence, by and large, is simply a matter of genetics. In that sense, admiring someone for being  intelligent is like admiring them for being tall! They were born with that genetic makeup. Is something  that is largely the result of luck truly worthy of your admiration? 

In my opinion, the answer is – not necessarily. Speaking for myself, I admire those qualities that are  choices. Those people that choose to work hard, that choose to be kind, that choose to have high  character, that choose to be a leader – these are the people I admire. I admire these things because  they are the result of choices, not genetics

So if you’re a newly minted graduate, or if you’re one of those people that was fortunate to be born  with an exceptional intellect, don’t listen too hard to the people that heap praise upon you for being so  smart. More importantly, don’t be satisfied with being admired for your intelligence. Instead, make  choices to be humble, to be kind, to serve those around you and to help other people achieve their  potential. In doing so, you will deserve the kind of admiration that makes you not simply successful, but  significant.