I have a Master’s Degree but I still don’t do a very good job with the punctuation, and other basic English requirements, in my writing. Truthfully, I’m not sure that intro sentence I just wrote is grammatically correct. In the same vein, I can be ridiculously ignorant in social situations when my focus moves from what the person in front of me is communicating to “what the hell is wrong with the person in front of me?”
The challenge here is that I, like many others I know, get paid for what is happening between my ears. In other words, being “smart” is what allows me to have a paycheck and provide value to clients I serve. But every time I look at the limitations in my writing, lack of social skills, or any of the other thousands of things that could be defined as unintelligent, stupid or dumb I start to question whether or not I am “smart” enough for people to listen to what I have to say.
I do a lot to try to correct for these limitations. I can spell check or catch myself drifting off in a conversation. I can get certificates of completions, degrees, and letters of recommendation that show my mastery in specific subject matter. The problem is, none of these help me feel any more “smart” than I was before I started. For every limitation I try to overcome ten more pop up and I continue questioning whether or not I am smart enough to be paid for my smarts.
Eventually, if we are to continue to be paid for our smarts without feeling like we are pulling the wool over someone else’s eyes, we have to have a better definition of what “smart” is.
Smart is not categorical. The question is not if we are smart, but where we are smart. If you judge an elephant by his ability to climb a tree, as has been said, you will always consider the elephant lacking.
Smart is identification of individual strengths. No one is good at everything. The best, or perhaps smartest people, are simply those who know what they do well and don’t allow their insecurities to get in the way of letting someone else bring their unique smarts to the table.
Smart is about creating a niche not accepting a category. Being in the practice of knowing, specifically, what I best bring to the table allows me to find the area that I bring the most value. Trying to fit into someone else’s categorical definition of smart simply makes me more like other people. And I can never be 100% trying to be someone else.
How I ask the question has huge implications on the quality and usefulness of the answer and, more importantly, the value I can bring to an individual or organization with my smarts. If I go be some external definition, I fear I may never meet the expectation and will continue to question my ability, value and use-fullness.
When will I be smart? Right now. If I choose to be. We are all smart, if we are willing to do the work required to find out where.