punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Is Punkie Smart? No, but I am learning to be...

This is a difficult topic for me, because I hated being known as "smart" by others for many years, because I constantly feel limited by my own skills to solve problems and figure out my fellow humans. Plus, I was labeled as a "genius" (I used to *loathe* that word) at an early age, so for the rest of my academic life, it was always the same counter-label, "Doesn't live up to expectations." That would be like someone calling you psychic, and then getting mad when your predictions came out wrong, and even go so far as to accuse you for not even trying! Uh... *you* said I was the genius, not me.


Is ignorance bliss? Many smart people think so, but I think they confuse "hyper aware and worrisome" with intelligence. You can know what's going on, and not care, and be happy. I think happiness is all about known what to take seriously, and what not to. You know, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." That's where that phrase comes from. I think "smart" people are frustrated that they can't be all logical all the time, in a world where they themselves, as well as everyone and everything else around them, are emotional, irrational, and sometimes random. That's why Spock was so popular with sci-fi geeks.

For me, I divide "smart" into two skills: intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is book smarts; how much you know. Wisdom is street sense; how you use what you know. You gain intelligence by study, wisdom by experience. I know many intelligent people who are total idiots in the real world. I know some wise people who don't know how to use a computer. This division also helps separate the "smart" category into "smart as what?"

For instance, I know many computer science grads who got all high marks in school, but when they enter the workforce, they totally flub up, even if they studied the very thing they flubbed up. It's not that they don't know it, they just never actually worked with it in a real world experience. As the saying goes, "Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted." Good teachers know this, and often have great lessons that incorporate mistakes. I had a chemistry teacher who taught us a valuable lesson by giving us faulty products and false goals. He said, "You add four drops of this, and the liquid should turn blue." Well, it didn't, and those who accurately reported what they saw, and recorded the data truthfully got an A in that lab. Those who didn't got a C, and warned next time it would be an F. He proved to us, the next day, that the scientific world is full of mistakes like that, where someone "made the hypothesis fit the data" rather than disprove the original hypothesis (using your data, even if it contradicts your hypothesis, is called "critical thinking"). Many scientists make this mistake a lot because they are afraid they'll lose their funding, like say, a pharmecutical company wants to know if a drung they made makes people sick... they don't want to hear "yes." I see this all the time in the tech world. Backtracking lies and so on.

But, to answer the topic question, I do have some "smarts" in certain topics, and none in others. Generally, people have labeled me as "smart," but I don't. I think I am on the high end of average, and always find smarter people (like most my friends) to surround myself with, so I become smarter.

So when people ask if I am smart, I say, "No, but I am learning to be..." and I will *always* say that.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000022.html
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