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.