If I’m not the smartest person in the room then I’m probably in the wrong room. It’s all about ego.
I tested in the top half of the top one percent in intelligence for this country. I’ve had a long career in a very intellectually demanding field of software where I’ve worked with some extremely intelligent people, at which many were smarter than me. I am smart. Very smart. I’ve seen smart up close. And I can tell you that being smart in one thing doesn’t automatically mean you’re smart in any another. I often found that my otherwise brilliant friends were completely uneducated or mis-educated about politics and held nonsensical and completely disprovable beliefs, but still argued them for years without moderating their positions one bit. From personal experience it seems arrogance strongly corresponds with intelligence.
I’m sure there have been volumes written about the subject, but I suspect it comes from always being the smartest and fastest academically so the ego gets tied up in that. And humility is hard. I went through a painful ego-destroying ordeal in my mid-20’s. It was “humiliating.” But because I decided to sanely put my own long term interests of intellectually growing over the short term displeasure I came out way, way ahead on the deal. I had a much better idea of who I really was afterwards. I guess I “found” myself, to an extent (but that’s an ongoing journey). I only wish it had happened earlier in life. My friend compared it to what he went through in boot camp – they completely psychologically and physically tore people down to the foundation and built them back up.
Wisdom comes from honestly applying intelligence to analyze information. Ego distorts the perception of the information and warps the analysis to fit the ego. If you can’t see the world for what it is and you can’t admit uncomfortable facts then you’re always going to be confused or deluded. And since most of the information presented is filtered or is analysis or spin, or just plain incorrect, the process gets that much more difficult. That’s why it’s important to understand the agenda of the source of the information. If you can correct for any bias you’ll be closer to the objective truth. That’s why trust is important, why it’s hard to build and easy to lose. Trusted sources are extremely valuable, but should continually be verified as well.
Our society as a whole, and the media in particular, place too much emphasis on apparent intelligence and not nearly enough on wisdom and truth. History matters. Honesty matters. Facts matter. This is why learning common debating techniques matters – you’ll be better able to see the frauds and phonies a mile away. Straw man. Deflection. Ad hominem. Appeal to authority. Equivocation. Etc. Ideas stand or fall on their own, and when you can’t attack or defend the idea you attack or defend the person espousing the idea. What is said may be less important to how it is said. Understanding the difference between rhetoric and dialectic is important as well. Are you arguing the facts or appealing to emotion?
So, outside of work, statistically I’m almost always the smartest person in the room. I would much rather be in a room full of people wiser than myself. Given the typical arrogance of people at my IQ level I’m far more likely to learn something important if I am the smartest. It’s all about ego. Or lack of it.