I remembered one of my earliest job working at a restaurant and encountering one of the employees that thought he was way too smart for his job. I remembered all of the rants he would go on, the typical “if I was the manager or the owner…”, and how the restaurant would do better if his changes were implemented. Another co-worker told him to open up his own restaurant if he was that smart, and a prompt response came, “you guys need me here, that’s why I don’t leave”.
That’s always had an impression on me as a young adult because if you were truly that smart, you would be successful. But the truth is that, most people are just talk, the truly “smart” people are the ones that do it.
A humbling experience
You would think I would learn from that experience, but this was another trap I would fall into. Turns out the best lessons are most memorable when it shows you the consequences of being overconfident and unprepared.
I was hired to do payroll for a company and was offered the chance to be trained by the manager. The manager mentioned she was going on vacation and I wanted to leave a big impression by telling her I could handle myself and didn’t need any training. “I’ll just google it” is my thought and “how hard could this be? I’m not an idiot”. I couldn’t handle it and the manager had to take over for my incompetency.
I had thought every single payroll software was the same but I was sorely mistaken and almost cost the employees their paycheck for the month. Even if I did know the software, there might something different that company does that I might not know about. I was all talk.
A good exercise to practice
If I was that smart, why am I still stuck here/have these same problems/figure it out? You can fill in the second part of that question any way you want.
Any time you feel like you’re too good or too smart for something, ask yourself why you haven’t figure it out yet if you’re that smart. That’s exactly how I felt as a teenager when I thought I was too good for basic mundane tasks. If i was really THAT smart, I would have financial freedom and could pay someone to do that for me. It turns out, I wasn’t that smart.
Another great question to ask is, how would a really smart person tackle this problem? If you don’t have a reference, go look throughout history or on the internet and you’ll find many examples.
One of the most inventive example is how the Allies used inflatable tanks and dummy landing craft as a diversion for D-day, and diverged attention towards another fake large-scale invasion. This deception gave the allies the chance they needed to deal a crippling blow the axis and win the war.
A good lesson to take from this is someone smart would use deceptiveness to diverge attention away from the real goal. Similar to how if you wanted to get a raise for your job, perhaps a smart person would implant the idea in their boss and start creating tangible evidence of why they should be promoted. That evidence could be taking initiative for a project, or demonstrating improvement in areas that their boss mentioned. Even if you don’t get the promotion, the smart person will say the skills they acquire will allow them to transition to a better position or it has build a reputation that the smart person could leverage.
The key ingredient is of course working your butt off once you’ve declared your intention. You might be able to sweet talk your way to a few things, but the proof is always in the pudding and you’ll be found out if you’re legitimate or not sooner or later.
It’s always worth it to play the long game. Whenever you feel like you’re not getting the reward that’s equal for the effort you put in, it’s time to ask yourself the golden question.
You won’t always go 100% from the field in any sport, nor will you always get out of what you put in.
That’s precisely when our ego kicks in and we start to think about how we’re too “good” for something. It’s painful to hear but necessary to understand, but we’re not that smart. Otherwise, we would never have any problems.
This truth simply provides an opportunity for us to make changes, and that’s a smart way to think.
*Check out my last article on Why do we road rage?*