“As far as I’m concerned, if something is so complicated that you can’t explain it in 10 seconds, then it’s probably not worth knowing anyway.”
Bill Watterson (Author; The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes)
“I don’t know what good it is to know so much and be smart as whips and all if it doesn’t make you happy.”
J.D. Salinger (Author; The Catcher And The Rye)
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
Albert Einstein (Nobel Laureate; Theoretical Physics)
Intelligent people don’t just do the right things, they also refuse to do the wrong things.
“Are you ready to be a West Point cadet!?” For weeks, different military captains had been calling me at 5:30AM and yelling this question in my ear. Actually they had been calling my Mom who then woke me up and gave me the house phone – one of those wireless landline phones with a “find me” button that only hotels have now. But I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t even ready to get out of bed. It was my senior year of high school – the second semester – and senioritis was firmly in place. I really liked the idea of going to West Point though. A lot of presidents went to West Point. And it was cool to have a college chasing me for a change.
The screening process was intense. Military personal contacted everyone that I ever used to know, including a burnt out guy at the Daily Bee who taught me how to throw newspapers when I was in the 6th grade. I also had to go into a military base and perform a variety of tests, some of which made no sense to me. I had to get dental X-rays, run shuttle-sprints, throw a basketball from my knees, go through a psychological exam, and sit in a soundproof booth and click a red button in response to different frequencies. They also lathered, poked, and prodded my unmentionables (which was mostly unpleasant). The last thing I had to do was get a recommendation from a state senator or house member. Not really. That was the second to last thing. The last thing was signing the 23-year contract to go to West Point. And I almost did too.
Four years for the undergraduate program, 5 years of service to pay for the undergraduate program, 4 years of military medical school, and 10 years of service to pay for medical school. Twenty-three years of my life to be decided at the age of 18. A billion life options annihilated in a single pen stroke. But I refused. Barely.
What Would An Intelligent Person Do?
The ability to make intelligent decisions is the most important human skill. At the same time, it’s the toughest skill to master. This is because our brains can do things like trick us into replacing difficult decisions with simpler decisions. In the book Thinking Fast And Slow, Author Daniel Kahneman describes a type of mental shortcut, or heuristic, that humans often make, which is replacing the answer to a hard question with an answer to an easier question. For example, when Facebook released it’s IPO in 2012, a lot of people bought a lot of stock and subsequently lost a lot of money when the stock plummeted because, instead of answering the difficult question of whether or not Facebook was overvalued, they answered the easier question, “Do I like Facebook?”
Intelligent decision-making also relies heavily on our ability to understand and manage our emotions. Studies show that emotionally intelligent people are better at making unbiased decisions. In particular, researchers found that people with high levels of emotional intelligence are able to block anxiety and its effects on decision-making during the process of making a difficult choice.
99 Things Intelligent People Refuse To Do
Intelligent people are normal people who have mastered the art of refusal. Life is full of tough choices. The more intelligent choices you make, the better your life will be. The key is that being intelligent always involves a decision. And a decision is not just choosing what you will do, but also, more importantly, choosing what you will NOT do. The cis in de-cis-ion comes from a Latin root which means to cut. As in to cut off, or refuse, all other alternatives. This means that the first step to increasing your intelligence is knowing what to refuse. Here are 99 things wildly intelligent people (like you) refuse to do.
1. Sacrifice their health to their goals. – The one-two punch of achievement and fulfillment is impossible without physical health. If you start sacrificing your health on you way to the top, you’ll either fail to reach the top or you’ll be too messed up to enjoy the top.
2. Sacrifice the health of others to their goals. – In the book, Into Thin Air, author Jon Krakauer discusses the difference between drive and overdrive in climbers who have to make the heart-wrenching decision to turn around just before reaching the summit of Mount Everest. Many climbers are so consumed with summit fever that they refuse to turn back and, as a result, die. In some cases, these decisions result in the death of several people. Drive is a healthy form of ambition but overdrive is a destructive form that can result in death.
3. Sacrifice their goals to relationships. – Overdrive is not an excuse to give up on your goals and biggest dreams. Intelligent people know that they should not sacrifice their long-term health or the health of others to their goals, but, at the same time, they do not hesitate to sacrifice negative relationships or activities in order to achieve their goals.
4. Wing it. – You can’t wing your way to the top. Not even masters at the top of their game wing it. It only seems like they’re winging it because they’ve practiced for 10,000 hours or more.
5. Plan everything. – No plan survives contact with reality.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson
6. Say “yes” to everything. – Kevin Ashton, the co-founder of the MIT Auto-ID Center, sums it up well here: “Saying ‘no’ has more creative power than ideas, insights and talent combined.” No guards time, the thread from which intelligent people weave their creations.
7. Be manipulated by friends and family. – Most people give their friends and family too much slack. If the people close to you are manipulating you or subtly attacking your dreams, draw a line in the sand and make them choose between supporting you or taking a hike.
8. Lose control of their emotions. – Intelligent people choose to express whichever emotions best serve the situation they’re in. They never let their emotions make choices for them.
9. Rent out space in their heads. – We’ve all met someone that we just can’t stand. We do our best but this person just rubs us the wrong way and for whatever reason they stay stuck in our heads. Over the years, I’ve realized that the people who stick in my head are those who challenge my ego in some way. Whatever I find annoying in them sheds light on something I either don’t like in myself or something I like too much in myself – something like a skill, talent or personality trait that I see as significant. Either way, the sticky part of this person is at odds with my identity and the only way to fix it is to turn the mirror on myself, not them.
“It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.” -Sally Kempton
10. Meet other people’s expectations. – Intelligent people work to meet their own expectations because other people’s expectations are too low.
11. Care what others think. – What a waste of time. Other people aren’t thinking about you (you arrogant ass); they’re thinking about themselves.
12. Never value the opinions of others. – Intelligent people know that other intelligent people exist and that those people also have great ideas from time to time.
13. Choose looking cool over caring. – It’s better to care too much and appear wanting than care too little and hope to appear cool. Intelligent people know that if you spend all of your time trying to be cool, they’ll never have an impact.
14. Multi-task. – The research on this is clear: multitasking undermines efficiency. Even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40% of someone’s productive time.
15. Focus on only one thing. – Multi-tasking is always a mistake but so is putting all your eggs in one basket. Intelligent people take on multiple projects but only work on one project at a time. Multiple projects equal multiple successes.
16. Pigeonhole themselves. – Reinvent yourself often and stay active in more than one industry. Strive to constantly increase your options.
17. Give up options. – In any power struggle, whoever has the most options wins. Intelligent people collect options like stamps or baseball cards.
18. Never commit. – Options are useless if you never commit to any of them. What’s the use of building the perfect wardrobe if you never pick an outfit, put it on, and go outside.
19. Stay attached to clients. – They are going to leave you. It sucks. Don’t chase them. Just be nice, wish them the best, and start following up with them in a month or two.
20. Stay attached to employees. The best employees do not plan on working for you forever. They have their own dreams. Let them move on without being a jerk about it.
21. Stay attached to their jobs. If you’ve been at the same job for 10 years you better be the founder, owner, or CEO.
22. Ignore trust. – Trust is the most important factor not only in your personal life but also in your professional life. This is why almost half of all job hires at top tier companies are referrals.
“Where does trust come from? Hint: it never comes from the good times and from the easy projects. We trust people because they showed up when it wasn’t convenient, because they told the truth when it was easier to lie and because they kept a promise when they could have gotten away with breaking it. Every tough time and every pressured project is another opportunity to earn the trust of someone you care about.” – Seth Godin
23. Force friendships. – Some people will never like you. Accept it. Other people will like you for a while but then you’ll grow apart. The truth is, most friendships end (or should end). Let these relationships run their course and then move on. And don’t cause a fight to make moving on easier.
24. Not give second chances. – Fool me once, shame on you. Everyone deserves a second chance.
25. Give third chances. – Fool me twice, shame on me. No one deserves a third chance.
26. Quit at every plateau.
27. Never take a break.
28. Never be present.
29. Sit down all day. – Sitting increases your chances of developing kidney disease, depression, anxiety, colorectal cancer, and a host of several other chronic problems. Not convincing enough? Studies show people who sit for more than 11 hours a day have a 40% higher risk of dying within 3 years.
30. Eat gluten. – Gluten is a substance present in cereal grains, particularly wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. A study of 30,000 patients show that gluten resulted in a 39% increased risk of death in those with celiac disease, 72% increased risk in those with gut inflammation related to gluten, and 35% increased risk in those with gluten sensitivity but no celiac disease. Celiac or not, gluten will kill you.
31. Pull all-nighters. – That scene in Fight Club is wrong, insomnia can kill you. Studies show that sleep deprivation can cause you to gain weight, develop diabetes, become suicidal, or simply stop breathing.
32. Never pull an all-nighter. – Sometimes you have to give 110% effort. The results of a famous longevity study that tracked 1500 people for almost 100 years found that sacrificing work-life balance to accomplish goals and live up to one’s potential helped individuals live longer. Yes, you read that right. People who lived part of their life way out of balance to achieve something important lived longer than people who lived well-balanced lives.
33. Sleep in. – The best hours of the day are the first few that you’re awake. The problem is that most people give these hours away to others, or, they sleep right through them. Studies show that people who wake up early are more proactive, get better grades, and are, in general, more successful in life. Early risers have also been shown to be happier and more confident leaders.
34. Always be around other people. – Stop spending time with other people and start spending some time with yourself. Take some time to figure out who you are. Get your thoughts in order. Research shows that purposeful solitude comes with cognitive benefits such as enhanced creativity and improved concentration.
35. Ever be around negative people.
36. Stay balanced. – Balance is bullshit.
37. Obsess over minutia. – Don’t try to change the person or situation standing in your way. Zoom out and focus on changing the larger system that is empowering the person or situation.
38. Do everything themselves. – Intelligent people never micromanage. They set up a system or train an employee perfectly and then let go.
39. Stop scaling. – Aggressively scale both yourself and your business. Every second. Every day.
40. Count on other people to pick up their slack. – Outsourcing and automating your life or business is not an excuse to be sloppy. There’s no room for slack when you’re scaling.
41. Follow the rules. – After high school, Steven Spielberg got his start in the film industry by sneaking into Universal Studios, commandeering an unoccupied office, and introducing himself as a producer on movie sets. By the age of 30, Spielberg had directed two of the top-grossing films of all time: Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Bill Gates created a computer program that allowed him to tamper with his high school’s scheduling system and get in class with “hot” girls while removing himself from Friday classes altogether. Gates is now worth over 70 billion dollars. Intelligent people act as if the rules don’t apply to them.
42. Break laws. – Studies show that defiant behavior predicts entrepreneurial success more than any other factor, including creativity, IQ, and parental socio-economic status. But, while rule-breaking correlated well with successful entrepreneurship, having a criminal record did not.
43. Give up control. – People who tell you to give up control want to be in control. There’s a difference between giving up control and letting go of things that aren’t worth controlling.
“Never give up control, live life on your own terms…I’ve been living with cancer for the better part of a year. Right from the start its a death sentence. That’s what they keep telling me. Well guess what? Every life comes with a death sentence. So every few months I come in here for my regular scan knowing full well that one of these times – hell! – maybe even today, I’m gonna hear some bad news. But until then – who’s in charge? Me! That’s how I live my life.” – Walter White (Breaking Bad)
44. Be tactical. – Control the big things, ignore the small things. Intelligent people are strategists, not tacticians.
45. Whine. – This isn’t a macho thing, it’s a human thing. Whining is not vulnerability. Quit being a crybaby and cowboy up.
46. Worry. – There are quotes about the uselessness of worrying dating back to Biblical times. It was useless then and it’s useless now. Worrying about something is what most people to do make up for the fact that they’re too lazy to make an intelligent decision.
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27 (New International Version)
47. Be afraid. – Fear only motivates people to make stupid decisions.
48. Not simplify. – To paraphrase Einstein, everything should be made as simple as possible…
49. Oversimplify. – …but not simpler.
50. Ignore sequence. – You can’t put the cart before the horse. Most things in life, from automobile assembly lines to multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industries performing clinical trials, have a specific sequence. If you do things out of order, people die. On a personal level, the first thing you should concern yourself with is finding a purpose for your life.
51. Live without purpose. – Your purpose is not just what you want, it’s also who you are and how you live your life. This means your purpose is closely tied to your identity. And everything in life is downstream of your identity.
52. Put purpose second. – Intelligent people put purpose first. If you put a job promotion, a product you want to sell, or a get-rich quick scheme first, you’ll either run out of steam before you succeed or succeed and get bored and throw it all away. If you put building your network or platform first, you’ll fail because your message will be empty (or fickle) and people won’t know how to rally around it. But, if you put your purpose first, you’ll be able to build a strong platform around it and then launch products from it for the rest of your life.
53. Not build a platform. – Your network is your net worth. The bank can take away everything but your health and relationships. This means your time and money is best spent investing in yourself and others, NOT housing, the stock market, or even college.
54. Never create a product. – One way or another, you’re going to spend your life creating. You’ll either spend your time creating other people’s products and services, or your own. Why not give the latter a try – just once?
55. Choose popularity over remarkability. – Do you know the difference?
56. Choose reach over engagement. – A million people saw your article or video!? So what? Did anyone react to it? Did they share it with their friends or did it just float past there eyeballs in a sea of information garbage?
57. Choose virality over conversion. – Your article or video went viral!? So what? Did you capitalize on it? Did you convert it into even one sale?
58. Treat all of their clients the same. – Your go-to-market strategy and customer groups should be broken into segments. If you are sending the same marketing message to prospects as existing customers you’re failing. Divide prospects into verticals, whether by geography, industry or size. Create messaging specific to each group. Make sure they are not receiving a spray and pray marketing campaign.
59. Not follow up. – Create a system that ensures everyone continues to hear from you. The fact is, 95% of people are not ready to buy when you reach out to them, maybe even 99%. A well thought follow up strategy that puts everyone you talk to, or that responds to an outbound campaign, into a nurturing customer touchpoint plan is essential.
60. Choose likability over selling. – Smiles don’t pay the bills. The only way to stay in business is to sell. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to suck it up and ask.
61. Choose selling over closing. Leads, opportunities, and funnels are all just gossip until someone signs on the dotted line.
“The leads are weak?…You’re weak.” – Glengarry Glen Ross
62. Be passive. – You can either initiate action or respond to it, not both.
63. Be passive-aggressive. – Grow up, we all know what you’re doing.
64. Play the victim card. – You’re only hurting yourself by acting weak or by drawing attention to someone taking advantage of you. If someone is bothering you at home or breaking the rules at work, call them out on it. If someone is doing something illegal, call the police. Otherwise, shut up.
65. Bully. – Forcing people to do things only results in two things: resentment and plans for revenge.
66. Quit their day jobs for their dreams too early. – This doesn’t need to happen right away. Intelligent people start by building Rome around their safety nets.
67. Never quit their day jobs for their dreams.
68. Be inflexible. – No matter what your goal is, there’s many different ways to accomplish it. Don’t lock yourself into only one. Realize that perspective is your friend. The broader your perspective, the faster you’ll achieve your goal. If you’re struggling to enlarge your perspective, consider this: Eskimos have 50 different ways to say “snow.” How many do you have?
69. Be flakey – Flexibility is not the same as flakiness. Gold prospectors know that gold found by panning can be scratched and easily flattened with a hammer, all while maintaining its shine. But pyrite, or fool’s gold, crumbles, flakes, and loses it’s shine in the shade. Are you gold or fool’s gold?
70. Ignore pain – Moderate pain is your worst enemy. When a situation is just painful enough to be distracting but not painful enough to make you change, you end up stuck. Don’t ignore moderate pain, actively turn up it’s intensity until taking action is your only option.
71. Ignore haters. – Intelligent people never give haters a free pass.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
72. Shy away from conflict. – The world is not going to just give you what you want. You are going to have to take it. The sooner you embrace conflict (without causing it for no reason), the better.
73. Stop taking risks. – People who feel stuck in their own lives–unmotivated, depressed, out of options–often have decreased levels of dopamine. Ironically, other studies show that one of the best ways to increase your dopamine levels is by taking risks. Risk is an essential ingredient to both staying happy and staying inspired.
74. Stop learning. – Lifelong learning leads to happiness and longevity.
75. Choose unhappiness over uncertainty.
76. Choose comfort over change.
77. Choose talk over action.
78. Watch a lot of TV. – Studies show that every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes (smoking a cigarette only reduces expectancy by 11 minutes). This means that an adult who spends 6 hours a day watching TV over his or her lifetime can expect to live 4.8 years less than an adult who does not watch TV.
79. Watch trash TV. – Intelligent people don’t watch The Jersey Shore or Real House Wives of (insert city). Studies show that being exposed to negative television (and negativity in general) peels away neurons in your hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for problem solving. Trash TV literally rots your brain.
80. Never build a website. In 2012, Pingdom reported that there were over 630 million websites with more than 50 new sites being added each year. Currently there are more than 15 billion webpages on the World Wide Web. Are you really going to let everyone else control the content?
81. Never learn any code. – Websites are created with code. Refusing to learn any code is like having the Complete Works Of William Shakespeare on your desk and never cracking the cover. Intelligent people open the book and at least read a few lines.
83. Stop reading for pleasure. – Studies show that reading fiction makes you smarter (and nicer). Deep reading — slow, immersive, rich in sensory detail and emotional and moral complexity — is different from the superficial reading we do on the Internet. The rich language, allusions, metaphors, emotional situations, and moral dilemmas found in literature are vigorous exercise for the brain. Putting yourself inside the heads of fictional characters by reading literature acts to both increase your intelligence and your capacity for empathy.
84. Ask permission. – Never do this. Everyone will always say no. Whether it’s your parents, boss, manager, friends, or significant other, they will say no to either keep you beneath them or protect you. Asking for permission gives away your power. Unless what you want to do will hurt someone else or break the law, never ask.
“It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” – Grace Hopper
85. Deny responsibility. – Punting responsibility is a giant waste of time and makes you look like a coward. On the other hand, taking responsibility, even for the mistakes of others, establishes you as a confident leader.
86. Make small talk. In the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Caine discusses scientific evidence showing a strong correlation between intelligence and introversion. One study showed that introverted people are often incapable of small talk. In fact, discussing trite topics like the weather or a recent sports game with strangers can actually be a painful and de-energizing experience for introverts.
87. Posture. – If you have to act important, you’re not important.
88. Chase titles. – I went on LinkedIn the other day and everyone I was connected to was either a Founder, President, or CEO of a company. Titles mean nothing.
89. Chase monthly paychecks. – A steady paycheck rots your brain.
90. Always respond. – Intelligent people know that not everything deserves a response. Most people’s opinions (and emails) don’t matter.
91. Over Promise.
92. Under deliver.
93. Ignore fatigue. – Everyone has a daily willpower limit. Studies show this limit consists of a set-number of decision-making units. These units affect your ability to not only make good decisions, but to focus and concentrate in general. Regardless of whether or not you can increase your willpower, the amount of mental strain you can put yourself through each day is limited. Once you reach your personal limit, you will lose your ability to concentrate and make good decisions.
94. Try to please everyone. – You should never waste your time trying to make everyone happy…
95. Ignore feelings. – …but you should always respect the importance of how you make other people feel.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou
96. Be agreeable. – Constantly agreeing with other people means one of three things: you don’t know what’s going, you don’t know who you are, or you don’t have your own opinion. It can also mean you don’t care. If that’s the case, at least have the guts to tell the other person you don’t care.
97. Disagree with everything. – Most people are too eager to jump into the middle of a conversation or an explanation and tell you everything they don’t agree with. This is their way of exerting their self-proclaimed expertise and significance. Disagreeing with everything is really a sign of insecurity and insignificance. Intelligent people listen more than they talk and only offer their valuable opinions when asked for them.
98. Follow the advice of others. – This is a bad idea 99% of the time.
“Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the f– you were going to do anyway.” -Robert Downey Jr.
99. Change to fit in. – Those who sacrifice their identity to achieve success, will end up with neither.
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