Rajesh Kumar

Optimizing life, one day after the next

Rajesh on Smartness

29 Sep 2007

My first premise is that smartness is what we call in chemistry a state function. A state function is something where you don't really care how one gets to that state; all that matters is that you're there, period.

My favorite example is how common people don't really care how graphite gets converted into diamond. All they care is that the allotrope of carbon they're holding in their hand is a diamond stone, and that it's shiny, that's all.

People don't give a damn as to how smart people got smart in the first place. They don't care whether you cheated, whether you lied, whether you worked your ass off, or whether you copied it off someone else. All they care is that you're smart and that they can capitalize on your smartness.

The second premise is that smartness is something that slowly seeps into you through a very natural process of osmosis. I don't believe smart people get smart overnight as much as smart people would like to tell you so. And I don't believe you can force smartness into yourself or into someone else. The smartness factor just comes to you, slowly but steadily, when it creeps into you and finally takes control over you, and dictates how you think, how you speak, how you dress, how you parse and process things, how you listen, how you read, how you plan, and basically how you do everything. It changes the fundamental way you view the world.

The most exciting thing about being smart is that smart people seldom realize they're actually smart. This is premise three. This phenomenon is not unlike the fact that good programmers never really know they're good programmers. Even if you tell it to them, they'll simply take it as a compliment in passing, but never really get to believing it. Perhaps because it's the way our society is structured: We consider it taboo to think, believe, and call ourselves smart.

This is the real beauty that makes us admire smart people and gape in awe at them when you catch their smartness in action. In a sense, the beauty lies in the irony of it all because the first rule of being smart is to be able to recognize other smart people. And if you don't realize that you're one of them, you can't really be smart, can you?

That being said, the fact that smart people don't really know they're smart gets them into some real trouble everyday. Their smartness gets talked about so often in their absence to the point where it starts to become almost rude. There are all these comments constantly flying all over the place about this dude who's like real smart, but is too modest to admit it. Guess what, smart people don't admit that they're smart not because they want to be modest, but because even they don't know it to begin with!

To the smart one, other people pushing jobs on him just because he's smart isn't really taken as a compliment. It's more like the smart guy thinks the other guy needs an excuse to push work on him. And everyone knows no one refuses a favour request when presented alongside a compliment.

In the same light, the worst thing you could probably tell a smart guy is "you're a smart guy, you can figure it out." Because even if the smart guy actually could figure it out, he probably won't be able to now that you've connected his ability to figure things out to his level of smartness. From premise three, we know that smart people don't really understand they're smart, so they'll resort to every single possible technique at their disposal to disprove the hypothesis that they're smart.

Confused enough? Me too.

So next time you meet a really smart guy, don't let him into the secret that he's smart because he's not going to believe you. Don't worry about how he got smart. And don't bother questioning his ideals and his beliefs. The only thing you should be thinking about is how do I take advantage of this smart dude, and how do I capitalize on his smartness.

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