August 12 – There is more to success than brain power

August 12. “It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them: the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas.” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

The world is full of really smart people who never reach the potential of their brain power because they never figure out how to be successful. It is also full of people who are of average intelligence who succeed wildly compared to their IQ. Back in the late 1990s, Daniel Goleman wrote a book called “Emotional Intelligence”, that attempts to explain this phenomenon.

Goleman’s book explained what many had already observed, even going back to Dostoyevsky. That is that there are many other factors besides IQ, or brain power, that will come to determine a person’s success.

I am a very blessed person in life. I was blessed with a good memory, and fast recall. There was a time when I could look at something once and own it in my brain forever. As I have aged, some of that ability has waned, but I still know that I am blessed in that regard.

When I was in grade school I learned quickly that I didn’t have to study much to understand the materials in the classroom. As it turns out, I didn’t even really have to pay attention much to the teacher. I picked up on things quickly. This gave my active, adolescent brain plenty of time to wander. A wandering brain means an idle brain, and idle brains tend to find a way into mischief when they are perched atop an active adolescent. I tended to get myself into a lot of trouble, not because I was doing evil things, but because I was bored and talkative, and ended up talking way more than I should.

In the latter years of my grade school – 7th and 8th grade – I was finally able to get my tongue under control enough to stay out of trouble, and my grades went up as a result.

As I progressed through High School and College, I still struggled with the whole idea of studying. It was something I’d never had to do, and it was a skill I just didn’t have. It took me time to learn it. As the material became more difficult I had to increasingly rely in my ability to truly study. At times my grades would suffer, and at other times they were good.

One of the key things for my development in High School was joining the debate team. I know, it’s not the coolest group to join, but it appealed to my natural abilities for quick study and even quicker recall. The fact that it allowed me to talk A LOT was a bonus. The reason it was important to my development is that I had to learn to work with people who weren’t impressed with my fast recall abilities. We all had that trait. I was no longer a standout just based on my pure ability, so I had to work hard to shine. Over time I was able to have success, but only once I had truly learned how to apply my heart and my character, and I allowed them to grow as well.

Dostoyevsky understood what many struggle with. That is that brains will only get you so far in life. When it comes down to it, how I apply those brains, with love, understanding, fortitude, generosity, and kindness, will help determine how far I go in life.

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