Maybe the biggest problem really intelligent people have is that they spend more time being clever than being effective.
I used to suffer from this disease of the mind. I'd want to do something new, novel, and fascinating - instead of just getting something done.
The really effective people I know, the people who make the biggest difference in the world, who make the best things, who get the most done, who live the best lives - they all are more concerned with getting something done that fits than with making it clever.
Over-researching relatively minor things is a great example. Take a quick look, get an understanding, choose one. Change later if it becomes an issue.
Trying to reinvent the wheel constantly.
Using words people don't know - maybe makes you seem clever, but makes you much less clear and less effective.
Trying to show off instead of listening.
Trying to make a point in an obscure way for no good reason - instead of just saying it outright.
The absolute worst one? Arguing with people over stuff that doesn't matter - you win the point, but become radioactive to whoever you were arguing with. Proving someone wrong? Yeah, clever. Very ineffective, though.
School plays a big part in this... it's entirely geared towards cleverness - get A's in Maths and English = success/approval, as opposed to get things done, shipped, put together, etc.
I could wax lyrical about business concepts, and love it. But there's someone out there saying "ok fine, now let's just do this" who is making 10x more money than me.
What's even more screwed up, is the kids who don't do well in school and drop out and take menial jobs and go through life thinking they are failures because they aren't clever. Beliefs like "I can't earn good money, I'm not clever enough and didn't go to university"... ugh! Toxic.
Omg! Where have you been all my life!!! :D I don't know how many times I use to tell myself, if there was only a "class/course" on this stuff I would definitely be taking it, as many as I could. I just had a scary thought, I wonder what I could've become and how my life would've/could've been different if the Internet HAD been available to me when I was young. I would be happier. I would've had access to alot of very valuable tools I need(ed) practically for free. Alot of wasted, unhappy years. Now the future is looking brighter, Wish me luck.
Great post that reminds me of a frequent warning I give people where I work, and that is "the perfect is the enemy of the good." I can't recall who coined that phrase, but the general idea is in line with your post. Too often I see problems persist for years because we can't get funding or time to implement the "prefect" solution.
The strategy I employ is to take the tiniest step towards improving the current situation, and try to measure the impact. Lather, rinse, repeat. After a while we've either made it "good enough" and we move on to something else, or we've gained enough converts to the cause that we can implement the perfect solution after all.
EXCELLENT points made in this post. I frequently find that my biggest road-block in being effective / getting things done is my tendency to over-think and prematurely criticise my ideas.
I'm starting to get better but it's still something I constantly need to watch out for.
Related to: Rationalists Should Win, Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate, Can Humanism Match Religion's Output?, Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic, Paul Graham's "Why Nerds Are Unpopular"
The "Prisoner's Dilemma" refers to a game theory problem developed in the 1950's. Two prisoners are taken and interrogated separately. If either of them confesses and betrays the other person - "defecting" - they'll receive a reduced sentence, and their partner will get a greater sentence. However, if both defect, then they'll both receive higher sentences than if neither of them confessed.
This brings the prisoner to a strange problem. The best solution individually is to defect. But if both take the individually best solution, then they'll be worst off overall. This has wide ranging implications for international relations, negotiation, politics, and many other fields.
Members of LessWrong are incredibly smart people who tend to like game theory, and debate and explore and try to understand problems like this. But, does knowing game theory actually make you more effective in real life?
I think the answer is yes, with a caveat - you need the basic social skills to implement your game theory solution. The worst-case scenario in an interrogation would be to "defect by accident" - meaning that you'd just blurt out something stupidly because you didn't think it through before speaking. This might result in you and your partner both receiving higher sentences... a very bad situation. Game theory doesn't take over until basic skill conditions are met, so that you could actually execute any plan you come up with.
If you’ve been following my blog since the very beginning you may have read my post on Why I Love Everyone. In that post I said you’d live a happier existence if you did your best to understand and love everyone. I still stand by that.
Let’s be honest though, 99% of the world doesn’t live by that philosophy so if you’re an annoying brat you’re not going to get very far in life. If you’re constantly being a jerk, or leeching off other people nobody’s going to want to have anything to do with you.
I’ve got a few haters myself, but for the most part people consistently tell me I’m a really likable person. I used to be the annoying leech though so I’m going to share with you some reasons why people hate being around you, and what you can do to change.
You’re A Value Sucking Leech
Relationships are like phones. They go both ways. If you’re constantly hitting me up for favors, yet you magically disappear when I need one it’s no wonder we don’t get along. What kind of brothership is that?