The Intelligence Quotient (IQ) doesn’t measure what we know; it measures what we are able to understand. An IQ test consists of a series of exams aimed at assessing how well we reason, process information, and solve problems relative to other people our age. Anyone scoring within 10 points of 100 is said to be of average intelligence, which makes someone who scores a 130 the smartest person in the room. That is, unless they’re in a room with some certifiable genius types such as Einstein, Da Vinci, Plato, or Ivan Drago (aka Rocky Balboa’s rival), who all have an IQ over 160. But even those with the gift of genius aren’t handed a guarantee — success, like batteries, is sold separately.
Smart from the Start – Why it Matters
Since studying is unlikely to boost our IQ, being born with genius in our genes is kind of like hitting the intelligence lottery. Although it is possible to boost cognitive ability by learning new skills and playing problem-solving games, these changes are unlikely to increase overall IQ (sorry, Sudoku lovers). In this way, IQ is like physical health: We can exercise our brain and muscles to help them grow, but the changes aren’t permanent; the moment we stop exercising, our brains and muscles start to return to their original form
If we assume we’re all racing towards some version of “success,” a high IQ is one heck of a head start. But that doesn’t mean we should give up just because our number falls a little lower on the scale. The first runner out of the blocks doesn’t always win the race, and having the highest IQ in the crowd doesn’t guarantee success. That’s because there are some things an IQ test can’t measure. For starters, there’s no Street Smarts section on an IQ test, meaning a degree from the school of hard knocks doesn’t carry much weight. Testing our reasoning also overlooks the various ways we learn: Some people can read and retain information while others need to get hands-on, and so on. One method isn’t necessarily “smarter” than another; they’re just different.
IQ also overlooks what researcher Howard Gardner refers to as “multiple intelligences,” or the human capacity to possess a range of traits and abilities — not all of which can be measured via testing. Similarly, the IQ test fails to measure traits such as creativity, imagination and innovation, all of which can contribute to a person’s success (or lack thereof)
what iq can do for you — and what it can’t
Despite flaws in IQ testing, intelligence has been shown to play a role in determining achievement, business success, and even the rate of our mortality — mostly because IQ strongly correlates with income
But if being a brainiac was the one and only criterion for success, everyone with a lofty IQ would be wildly successful — and obviously, that’s not always the case. Even a genius can squander their intelligence jackpot
So if great intellect doesn’t guarantee success, what factors separate an average Joe from a highly intelligent outlier? The real question becomes: Can we actually compete with genius by going from good to great?
The Genius Myth — The Answer/Debate
Genius is real, but it can also be really misleading. For one thing, putting too much stake in “genius” implies the entire average-achieving population is virtually helpless. When taken at face value, the idea of innate intelligence plays into the genius myth. This legend would have us mere mortals believe that we either have it or we don’t — whatever “it” is. But when the curtain is pulled back, we see that genius is nothing more than a comforting parable. It comes in handy when trying to explain why some people seem to have it all, but it doesn’t accurately depict the full scope and scale of human intelligence.
In reality, success is based on a whole lot more than genius alone. Persistence, practice, socio-emotional skills, our environment, the way we’re raised, and luck all combine to determine what we will achieve
One of these factors — grit — has been shown to play a particularly big role when it comes to success. Grit is best defined as the perseverance and passion for a long-term goal. It’s a single-minded focus that allows us to persist well beyond the point at which others would give up. One study found that West Point cadets and spelling bee superstars linked this grit factor with success time after time
Smart Versus Successful — The Takeaway
When it comes determining to success, IQ isn’t a promise, it’s more of a performance enhancer. If genius is the elevator to the top, we’ll just have to take the stairs. It may take longer, but it’ll still get us to where we want to go.
Do you believe that a high IQ guarantees success? Share in the comments below!