7 Stupid Ways Smart People Sabotage Their Success

7 Stupid Ways Smart People Sabotage Their Success


Sometimes the smartest people do things that seem to make no sense at all.

A group of Quora users drew from their experiences to address the question “What are some stupid things that smart people do?” The answers provide ways to overcome some of the common ways intelligent people unknowingly undermine themselves.

We’ve highlighted a few below.

1. They spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing.

“Because thinking comes so easily to smart people, doing becomes relatively harder. Research and planning are great in moderation, but can offer the dangerous illusion of progress,” says Silicon Valley entrepreneur Chris Yeh. Smart people who are perfectionists can get caught up in this kind of seemingly productive procrastination and often nitpick over minute details rather than finishing projects.

2. They follow the pack.

Venture for America’s Andrew Yang has written extensively about the trend of top college graduates going into the same few industries equated with “making it,” like finance and consulting, rather than following their passions. New York entrepreneurLee Semel agrees: “Many smart people often seem to be followers, probably because they grow up spending so much time pleasing others via academic and extracurricular achievement that they never figure out what they really like to work on or try anything unique.”

3. They stop trying.

People whose intelligence has helped them achieve a level of success can often get lazy. “These smart people fail to further develop their natural talents and eventually fall behind others who, while less initially talented, weren’t as invested in being smart and instead spent more time practicing,” Semel says.

4. They undervalue social skills.

Some intelligent people don’t realize that intellect is only one element of achieving success, and that personal connections are everything in the professional world. “They never try to improve their social skills, learn to network, or self promote, and often denigrate people who excel in these areas,” Semel says.

5. They place being right above all else.

Many smart people indulge a dangerous combination of ego and logic and behave as though being right all the time is somehow endearing (it’s the opposite), Semel says. It’s bad when they argue a point they’re misinformed about, but it can be even more embarrassing for them when they insist on arguing facts against someone’s long-held beliefs.

6. They equate education with intelligence.

A high academic pedigree can make some people think that where someone got their college degree reflects how smart they are, says Liz Pullen, a sociologist. In many cases, a degree from an elite university represents a great achievement, but there are countless instances where those who didn’t graduate college are more qualified for a job due to their real-world experience.

7. They are too independent.

Smart people can fail to develop healthy support systems that everyone needs to succeed. “Without a good support system, anyone can begin to slide down a slippery slope when they encounter hardship, miscalculate something major, or fall victim to the misdeeds of others,” says Quora user Andrea Martin. How do you develop a good support system? “Methodically place yourself in the company of the most mature, benevolent, competent people you can identify.“


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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