Ways you can bridge or conquer intelligence gap
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By Steven Campbell  September 20, 2013 12:00 am

One of the highlights of being human is our tendency to try things we may not be able to do.

A person with an IQ of 160 is no better than one with an IQ of 120, although he or she is probably better equipped to do abstract math. However, she is less equipped than someone with an IQ of 180, and that person is less equipped than a person with an IQ of 200. And so on.

The downside of this is the bad feelings we experience about ourselves when we recognize that what we would love to do (whether it is high-level physics, writing a novel or having the most amazing singing voice) may be unavailable to us, or unavailable enough to make us doubtful to proceed, or just unavailable enough to make us feel bad about ourselves.

When this happens, not only do we not try to proceed, we also sense that we are not moving forward because we’re simply not smart enough or gifted enough or attractive enough.  When this happens, we may feel robbed of our chances to succeed in the way we want to.  Then comes the sadness and frustration, all because of the gap between what you want to do and what you can do.

This is an emotional pain that psychology has not yet examined; the pain of wanting to do things but not being equipped enough to do them. We’ve seen documentaries about dancers who couldn’t rise to the top because they lack some physical endowment or other documentaries about pianists, violinists and singers.

As all of us know, this gap can be painfully real. Dr. Eric Maisel, author of “Why Smart People Hurt,” describes this in his article “The Smart Gap.”

“It is in the American DNA to act as if there is an answer to every problem. What happy face should we put on this particular problem? That short, stout man, while he may make the occasional beautiful shot from mid-court, really can’t play center for the Celtics. That singer with an ordinary voice does not have the voice of a singer with an extraordinary voice. Some things really are a matter of endowment.”

But although you may not be fast enough, tall enough, beautiful enough or smart enough to meet all of your ambitions, there are tactics that help to reduce the pain. Here are three of them.


• First, you can help your brain be its best. This means many things, from getting enough sleep to not drinking (the obvious ones), to silencing that self-condemning talk we all get into. Remember this, your brain believes that negative stuff, so it can rob you of the confidence you need to tackle the things you want to do. This may mean getting a grip on your mind, thinking fewer small thoughts for the sake of your big ones, distracting yourself less and making fewer excuses about why you don’t have the time, patience or ability to think.


• Second, think through what you can do. It is entirely possible that choosing a simple plot that allows you to write a deep, lovely but also straightforward novel, rather than a complicated one, will work better for you (and your readership). Dr. Maisel suggests that “maybe there is a puzzle in your field that suits your brainpower, a corner of your field that is delicious but easy, a way to do the work you want to do that makes use of your other strengths.”

• And finally, beat yourself up less. How many smart people end up torturing themselves because they can’t turn out poetry as brilliant as Emily Dickenson’s or can’t solve the mathematical puzzles that challenged Einstein or can’t create summations like Clarence Darrow? 

Remember that your intelligence is not fixed. Studies now confirm we are smarter on some days and duller on others. So build a little optimism into whether you are smart enough for the work you want to do, and then temper this optimism with the understanding that we have not been built for the purpose of solving intellectual puzzles that are too puzzling for us. 

All of us feel the gap between the fantasy of pitching in the seventh game of the World Series and the reality of the person that we are. So, although you may not be a Newton or an Einstein, you have been given the little world you occupy as a gift that no one has but you. So, become the king or queen of that little world, and treat yourself as such.


Steven Campbell is the author of "Making Your Mind Magnificent" and conducts "The Winners Circle" every two months at Sonoma Mountain Village in RP. He can be contacted at 480-5007 or steve@anintelligentheart.com. For more information, go to www.anintelligentheart.com. 

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