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The 5 STUPID THINGS Intelligent People Do (That Keep Them From the Success They Deserve…)

13 December 2010 8 Comments


the triumph of the stupid by mark widawerSo I stumbled on this short booklet the other day, The Triumph of the Stupid: How Your Intelligence & Creativity Are Keeping You From the Online Success You Deserve…” by Mark Widawer.

Technically, it’s about internet marketing (how to build a successful publication business online), but it’s also very practical and could be generalized to encompass A LOT more.

It’s a pretty simple book: he breaks the stupidity down into 5 simple things, so let’s get right into it…

note: A lot of this applies to me as well…there’s nothing wrong with recognizing your own shortcomings, so as you read, make sure you don’t project this on to anybody else. Apply it to yourself.

———— The 5 Stupid Things (Abbreviated) ————

STUPID THING #1: Trying to Be Everything to EVERYBODY…

Smart people tend to be very creative, and this seems to be the root problem…

bald african american feeling sorry for himself

What I mean is that they tend to use their creativity in ways that create unnecessary challenges for themselves.

Specifically, rather then specialize in solving one particular issue, they’re more apt to aim at solving large-scale, generalized concerns.

Think of the field of medicine: as it turns out, cardiologist who hone in on one demographic (post-menopausal women, for instance) tend to have A LOT more success then general practitioners.

If you had a problem with acne, who would you go see? Most likely a dermatologist, NOT a general doctor.

But if you’re a creative, intelligent type, you’ll tend to want to have broad knowledge and expertise…you’ll want to find a genius solution that’ll solve EVERYTHING for everybody.

african american woman finding her size.If you’re a creative, intelligent type, you’ll be more likely to write the book “The Universal Science to Everlasting Health,” rather then “5 Simple Steps to Lose 25 lbs. in 25 days….”

This is a recipe for failure because NOT EVERYONE THINKS AS ABUNDANTLY & AS DEEPLY AS YOU DO.

People generally aren’t concerned with universal keys, abundant, abstract thinking or anything else a long those lines…they’re concerned with getting their problems solved, so if you don’t get specific with the solution, you’ll just get bypassed.

“Oh, ‘Universal Science’ huh? I’ll get back to that later when I have time…”

In fact, being too general takes away from your credibility. People doubt it when someone comes off as knowing everything.

Take this guy Mark Widawer for instance…his book is about the 5 stupid things intelligent people do when trying to succeed ONLINE. (I’m the one who extracted it to a more general level…it’s a problem intelligent people have because we tend to look at the root of things.)

So the solution???

SOLUTION: Find your circle. Stop being so much of a generalist and find a specific problem and a specific crowd, and then speak to just that…

STUPID THING #2: Making Simple Things Complicated…

bald african american intelligentSmart people like to make things more complicated then they need to be…it turns us on for some reason.

The more complex something is, the more mental work it takes to understand it (which is enjoyable if you’re intelligent) but the less APPLICABLE (action-oriented) it becomes (which is bad for success).

This is especially bad if you’re in a teaching position of some sort, because people won’t respond to you.

SOLUTION: Keep it Simple Intelligent. Grossly oversimplify and break things down to their most essential parts…stop using your intellect to avoid taking action

STUPID THING #3: Doing to Many Things At Once…

bald african american males too intelligentSmart people LOVE multitasking. They love to to keep their plates spinning with several things because they love the entertainment, excitement and stimulation.

It’s not just because of the (false) notion that it makes us more productive, but because “we’re smart enough” and we think we can handle it.

Multitasking actually WASTES energy and leaves nothing complete. Let me prove it to you…

Even deeper, smart people are always jumping from one project to another: once we have something conceptually laid down and the only thing left to do is actually work on it, we don’t.

Instead, we re-exercise our creative, intelligent muscles and try do start an entirely different thing. It gets us excited…

SOLUTION: Do one thing at a time. Discipline yourself and get focused on taking action. For more about productivity, click here.

STUPID THING #4: Always Doing Something Different…

bald african american male very intelligentBesides always starting different projects, smart people are also always responding differently to specific problems and tasks.

Smart people think they’re too smart for routines that don’t require thinking. It feels mechanistic to them…

Hence, smart people don’t know the power of CREATING SYSTEMS: they always try to think their way through problems and through their work rather then create automated process and routines for whatever may come up.

They assume that every new task or situation requires new thinking. It’s actually pretty funny…

Think about it: think about the last argument you had with your partner, everything you did yesterday and everything you did the day before that. How much of that was new???

As much as we’d hate to admit it, we’re all creatures of habit. Pretty much everything we do can be reduced down to a ritual or routine that requires almost thinking at all.

But smart people don’t see it like that: they feel like if they don’t have to “figure something out,” then something is wrong.

(This was me for a long time: seeing something step by step – in a book or a classroom for instance – felt like an insult to my intelligence.)

You’ll notice that when intelligent people run businesses or organizations, they’re always “firefighting”: they’re always stuck figuring out day-to-day level issues and they get stressed out playing the dramatic hero because they don’t create systems to handle problems…they treat each one like a new jigsaw puzzle instead of looking for the pattern.

This is also why they have a problem delegating work: they assume that only THEY are smart enough to do x,y and z, so they never think of the simple steps they could even get a “stupid” person to do.

SOLUTION: Start thinking “how-to.” Start describing some of your daily tasks as step-by-step, robotic (yes, I said it) processes, and LEAVE THE THEORY OUT.

Look at About.com or Expert Village on Youtube for examples.

Remember, different personality types learn in different ways (it’s not less intelligent). There’s actually four different learning styles I’ll blog about later…it’s pretty interesting.

STUPID THING #5: Thinking that “Knowing” is the Same as Doing…

This is what made me start a website in the first place. here’s what Widawer has to say:.

bald african american intelligent  man

“We smart people are too smart for our own good. It’s plain to see.

We’re so smart that we think simply knowing what to do is a reasonable substitute for actually having DONE the work..

Ask yourself: how many books, courses and video lectures do you have that you’ve never completed???

…it’s sad. For some reason, we tend to think that because we’ve purchased a book on basket weaving and that it’s sitting on the shelf, we know how to weave baskets.

Or maybe we do get around to reading the book. every single last page. Does that mean you know how to weave baskets???

NO, it doesn’t…

You’ve got to do the work – you need the experience. You have to feel the weaver in your hands and understand what it feels like to route the weaver up and down through the stakes.

…and how to finish the base. And curve the weavers up to build the sides… and that special way to weave a handle so that it’s strong enough to lift the basket, but doesn’t look out of place.

Again, YOU NEED THE EXPERIENCE. You’ve got to come up against obstacles and find ways to deal with them in order to truly understand what it takes. (That’s where true knowledge comes from.)

In Spanish, there are two very different words for “to know.” The first one is “conocer,” which means to have knowledge of something (as you might know a phone number or some facts.)

The other Spanish “to know” verb is “saber,” which has a much deeper menaing. For you to “saber” skiing, for example, you’d know how to ski. I could drop you off at the top of a lift and you’d ski down.

When you “conocer” something, you’re familiar with it. You’ve heard about it. You’ve read about it, etc.

But when you “saber” something, you have experience of that thing, You know HOW to do it because you actually have.

Reading about skiing is very different than knowing how to ski.

Maybe that’s why one of the sayings of Spanish-speaking children is “Del dicho al hecho, hay un gran trecho,” which means “From the saying to the doing, there is a big gap…”

Likewise, far too many people invest in education only to leave the books, ebooks, CDs and DVDS on the shelf, collecting dust. They buy a program, do nothing and see zero results.

It’s a tragedy…

They’d be better off had they never invested in the program in the first place. Quite honestly, the person who made the program who’d have been better off too (real teachers want a high batting-average of customer success stories, so if someone doesn’t do well with a our teaching products, it’s a strike against us.)” ~ Mark Widawer


SOLUTION: Go to your bookshelf (or hard-drive) right now and take off one of the smaller books.

Think about the reason you haven’t read it yet (or why you stopped) and then weigh that against the reason you got the book in the first place.

Is it still worth it? If not, toss it. But if it is, finish it to get some “conocer” and then go out and get some “saber”. Start with something small but meaningful…

and lastly…

STUPID THING #6: Thinking They Know Every Damn Thing…

bald african american male very intelligentI know I said five, but bump that: this is important…

Smart people – like young people – are the ones who argue back without experience.

They think so well that they think they can think through an experience without actually doing it.

Read that again. This is like stupid thing #5 to the third power.

So when you tell them something that doesn’t fit their way of viewing the world, their immediate response is to rationalize it off as wrong.

Since their so smart, they can actually convince themselves that their right (and not even realize it). When someone informs them of what they’re doing wrong, rather then listen and try to work differently, they stay trapped inside their own intelligence.

In fact, smart people don’t even like THE IDEA of learning something from someone less intelligent then them. It’s like it’s beneath them or something…

I put a facebook status up the other day that said:

Don’t let this be you…

SOLUTION: Shut up. Realize that if you knew as much as you thought you did, you wouldn’t be in the position you’re in now, and that that’s okay…

When someone says something to you, respond by paraphrasing FIRST. Say, “If I understand what you’re saying…x,y,z.” (Most people never get affirmed like this, by the way…they’ll love you for it.)

In fact, spend a month or so not even giving your opinion unless someone asks for it.

calendar use for intelligent people who talk to dog on much

Also, when someone breaks something down to you (especially if its about psychology) think about how it applies TO YOU, not to whoever they’re talking about or to somebody else you know.

Thanks for reading ~ now get out there and stop being so intelligent!

Also, before you go, leave a comment below and tell me what you think. Which point resonated the most? Did I leave anything out???


ps: Are you lazy? Unmotivated? Scattered? No strong purpose? Got you covered. Discover how to make positive thought and behavior modification virtually automatic by clicking here…

>> How to Get Focused & STAY THERE… (Videos, etc.).
>> Check out Mark Widawer’s Blog..
>> See below to “Share the Knowledge” w/ some of your friends, and
>> Check out the latest from the blog, “Today’s Transcendence…”


  • DRES tha BEATnik said:

    This was an Awesome read… Thanks for Sharing this, Man!! FOR REAL!! It’s something that we all fall victim to in one fashion or another. I love it!! Like I say to people every now and again… “He is stupid and He knows that He is Stupid and that almost makes Him Smart”

  • Bryan Ogilvie (author) said:

    No doubt. Glad you enjoyed it… I felt the same way when I got “put on” too. Stay safe…

  • Shanika Blanton said:

    This is a great article, I really can identify with realizing that “knowing of” something is very different from experiencing . This is a huge lesson for me and you made it very plain and simple to identify. Thanks Bryan.

  • Bryan Ogilvie (author) said:

    Thanks Queen: look forward to more great stuff like this come 2011…

  • Sepia Prince said:

    “I…don’t…know” – 3 very important words that make up a very short but powerful sentence. I’ve definitely embraced the simplicity of my words but always have to check myself for I may stray.

  • Bryan Ogilvie (author) said:


  • Sahar said:

    I really enjoyed this post. I really enjoy your blog. My favorite part of the post is telling others who you are teaching “I understand where you are coming from” which seems to take them off the defensive so that both parties can communicate if the other has a concern. I think that was a rly good point. Shalom :)

  • Jenn H said:

    Great post. Here are few more dumb arguments that ‘smart’ people make. http://www.statisticsblog.com/2010/06/five-dumb-arguments-smart-people-make/

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