Breaking free of the curse of the gifted

In what threatens to become a semi-regular series, I give you a plea for help that landed in my mailbox this morning, anonymized, and my response. Querent’s situation is not unique; what’s unusual is his ability to self-diagnose and his willingness to ask for help.

I have diagnosed myself with what you described (here) as ‘the curse of the gifted’. I am currently seeking advice as to how to correct this and would greatly appreciate it if you could help me.

When I was a boy, pretty much everybody would call me ‘genius’. I got top grades in school and yadda-yadda. I am now but a shadow of what people would think of me: I have really hit the point where my brains alone can’t take me any further. I have to work hard, but I don’t know how.

Problem is, I’m so far down this rabbit hole that I’m actually afraid of failure. I know I should be taking risks and doing my best, but I simply can’t. I didn’t leave my country to look for a better future in a bigger one because I was afraid to leave the safety of my parent’s house. I stick to my day job because here there are so many ways to hide from real work and real challenges. I don’t contribute to open source or even start my own pet projects because I know that at the first obstacle I’m gonna drop them.

I often find myself wishing that I still were the “genius” that I was before (which I think to be a clear symptom of the condition), thinking that If something doesn’t come smoothly to me than I shouldn’t even bother.

How to cure this? How to learn discipline? How to learn how to work hard?

Here is how I replied:

I remember being where you are now; I had a doldrums like this in my late teens and early twenties. So the first help I have for you is the reassurance that climbing out of the hole *is* possible. I did it.

I can recommend three strategies for climbing out. Don’t pick just one; pursue all three, because they support and complement each other.

First strategy: Do some hard work to acquire competence at things for which having a genius IQ doesn’t help a lot. Perhaps a physical skill like some form of athletics or dance; martial arts has at times served this function for me. Perhaps an artistic or mystical skill in which the difficulty lies in a shift of perception or attention rather than handling symbolic complexity; for me, being a musician is sometimes like this.

By seeking competence in an area where you have no huge cognitive advantage over other people and your self-image as a genius is not threatened if you fail, you will accomplish two things. First, you will evade your own tendency to quit if success does not come easily. Secondly (and much more importantly) you will have a place to *learn* how to work hard, a place to develop the self-discipline that you never had to before. The mental habits you develop will transfer back to IQ-loaded fields.

Second strategy: Reinvent yourself as a polymath. I never had to do this explicitly myself because (thanks to Robert Heinlein’s influence) I had this as a goal before I hit my doldrums. But if you are the more typical sort of young genius whose abilities have so far concentrated heavily in one field, broadening your base is valuable on many levels.

One level is competitive synergy. There are so many bright people working single fields that some of them are effectively certain to be brighter than you are and able to stay ahead of you now matter how hard you apply yourself. The number of thinkers who are capable of genuinely cross-disciplinary analysis is much lower; by positioning yourself to do that, you greatly increase your chances that you can stay ahead of not just the narrow specialists but the few other polymaths as well.

But if you are fighting the curse of the gifted, the psychology of this move is more important than the competitive positioning. If you are are gifted (say) at mathematics, but have stopped pushing yourself there because failing would damage your self-image as a genius of mathematical talent, it will help you a lot if you are able to reinvent yourself as a polymath genius who happens to do math. This sideways shift lowers the emotional cost of a failure or setback in math, or any other single field.

Of course, to make this work, you actually have to *believe* you are a polymath, and the only way to justify that belief against collapse is to actually be one. Fortunately, this is less difficult than is usually assumed.

Any linguist will tell you that the third language you acquire is generally easier than your second, the fourth is easier than your third, and so on. Learning each language develops common cognitive substructures that make the next one easier. Entire intellectual fields are like languages in this way; mastery in N fields makes mastery of field N+1 easier, pretty much regardless of what fields you’re talking about.

For your next area of mastery, pick something that interests you but is not too close to any of your already-developed areas of mastery; that will give you the best leverage for the next field after that. A math or programming genius, for example, might want to consider developing master-level skills at prose or poetic composition; for a genius based in natural language, on the other hand, swallowing some field in math or hard science would be best.

Third strategy: Develop your will and your courage and your self-image as a person who is *unconquerable*, unstoppable. Logic and brains will not get you out of the trap you find yourself in; if that were possible, you would probably be out already. What you need is intestinal fortitude, sheer guts and bloody-minded persistence.

Of all three this is the most difficult strategy to describe or give concrete advice about, but essential nevertheless. You need to learn to think of failure as a temporary condition, something from which you learn better tactics but which never touches the core of what you are.

The first stages of execution on these strategies will be very difficult. They will require you to work harder than you ever have – which is the point and nearly the definition of the problem, yes? But you will find that success feeds on itself and that small victories create the preconditions for greater ones.

When the path out of the trap seems discouraging, the thing to remember is this: you have the curse of the gifted *because you are gifted*. You are special. You have rare talents in you. Your challenge is to grow the rest of yourself so it matches those talents in scale and depth.

129 thoughts on “Breaking free of the curse of the gifted

  1. While you are thinking about the self-improvement range of topics, maybe you could also blog about this question:

    How does a person learn to cope with the brutal unfairness of life? Especially those problems that appear unsolvable?

    (I believe you had to consciously face this issue at a younger age than most.)

  2. I was often told that when I got to college I would finally have to start studying, as you mentioned in that article. However, when I actually got to college, I found that I didn’t need to study any more than in high school, and I coasted through most courses*. I’ve entertained a few hypotheses about this:

    a) I’m such a genius that even college is easy for me
    b) I’m not such a genius that school was completely effortless, so the minor level of effort I applied in high school scaled up pretty easily to college
    c) College is a lot easier than it used to be

    I strongly suspect that (c) is the major factor, tempered by (b).

    *With one exception: Intensive Ancient Greek, which broke my brain into little pieces. However, at the end I got to read Homer in Greek, so that made up for it.

  3. There’s another alternative approach (which can, of course, easily co-exist with esr’s suggested ones):

    First, change your goalposts. Your goal as a homo sapient is to:

    1) Propagate your genes – whether you consciously admit that to yourself or not, you’re just built that way

    2) Ideally, propagate some of your memes. Which, unless you’re a REAL uber-genius (as opposed to just gifted person who went easily through schooling tasks), or you’re very lucky, you probably will never achieve on a mass level. Which leads us back to #1 – you stand the greatest chance to propagate your memes to your biological descendants, nearly impossible as that task may seem to any parent of a teenager :)

    So – create a stable family. Raise children and provide them proper level of support.

    Once you’re in that territory, any of your academic successes or failures will seem fairly irrelevant by comparison.

    At which point, you CAN grow since you’ll no longer be hung up on the possibility of your talent-related failure due to goalpost change.

  4. Also, another approach: get humble.

    Just because everyone you know called you a genius, doesn’t mean you likely are. Seriously.

    You may be more gifted than average. Even by a large margin in some narrow fields.

    That still doesn’t qualify as a genius.

    Once you *really* internalize this knowledge, you will (spoken from personal experience), stop being worried about failure, or not measuring up. And, surprisingly, your real world rate of success will grow.

  5. JS Bangs: Sounds familiar, and I concur with you re: option c.

    I know from discussions with folks who earned degrees in the 50’s and 60’s that in days of yore, profs used to PUSH students and if you were a genius they simply pushed HARDER. Not so when I went to college (well, mostly) and so I think I cracked about 10 books during my entire undergraduate career (and most of those were simply readings for history and poli-sci).

    The only real challenge I had, and still have today, is an almost Alzheimers like memory. Damn near killed me in Trig, and it did kill me Chemistry. Took some fancy foot work to get the Dean to ignore that failed chem grade when I was about to graduate because I likely would he spent years trying to make it through Chem I.

  6. DVK>Also, another approach: get humble.

    >Just because everyone you know called you a genius, doesn’t mean you likely are. Seriously.

    Problem with this is, when you’re in a situation like I was, where you clearly are head-and-shoulders above everyone else, it’s hard to do this. I was a big fish in a little pond. If I’d have gone to a bigger school (UT Austin, or A&M perhaps) I’m sure I would have found other large fish (and likely some that were significantly larger than me).

    Not that I was the snobbish sort (that’s one reason I hate the Mensa types), but internally I knew where I ranked in skill level with my peers, and if I wasn’t at the top, I was within a couple of rungs of it since probably 9th grade. Looking back, I do find it interesting that many of those whom I competed with in high school jumped off the ladder long before reaching the top. They chose fields that were in a completely different direction than the one that they and I competed in. That seems strange to me, but I wonder if that’s not an application of the second strategy above, only they didn’t consciously continue to develop into the 3rd+ fields.

  7. >Just because everyone you know called you a genius, doesn’t mean you likely are

    This depends on your definition of “genius”. I think a kid who consistently gets tagged that way is actually almost certain to be two sigmas (standard deviations) above mean (that is IQ 132, 97.7th percentile, found in 1/44th of the population); that’s Mensa’s cutoff for “genius” and probably the weakest definition in comon use.

    Lewis Terman suggested “potential genius” begins at IQ 140, but he was using a different distribution than the now-standard Stanford-Binet. When I was a child, psychometricians pegged “genius” at IQ 145 on that scale (just shy of three sigmas above mean, 99.75th percentile, found in 1/400th of the population) and I believe that threshold is still in common use. If a kid is hearing “genius” from adults who are used to encountering gifted children, he probably makes that threshold too.

  8. I second DVK’s suggestion of parenting, though not for the meme-propagation reasons. The reality is that fatherhood is a great challenge: the core skill that it requires is the ability to communicate with a person who is less intelligent, less reasonable, and less able to express themselves than you. I think many polymaths would benefit from adding this ability to their toolbox.

    However, reading between the lines of the original email, I suspect that the querent doesn’t yet meet the requirements for studying this math. He may need to work on the social skills to acquire a partner, first. Don’t despise this effort, though: social skills are real skills, and the lonely genius does himself no favors by pooh-poohing them or thinking that he can do without thim.

  9. I purposely looked for things that were hard to conquer. A lot. I got a degree in molecular biology because I loved it and took the hardest classes I could find. Then, because p. chem slightly kicked my rear end, I went to graduate school in biophysics. :D (However, I dropped out after a year — failure? Maybe. I just decided it wasn’t worth the effort. It’s a lot of effort, and it didn’t look like I wanted to go where it was taking me.)

    Remember — everyone fails. Everyone does. The ones who are successful are the ones who try more and finally don’t fail.

    My first born has a lot of things that come easily to him and he hates repetition and trying to improve. So we sent him to karate. ;) I spent a lot of time beating my head against computer games or music — I taught myself a few easy instruments and specialized in clarinet. I took three foreign languages. I’d race people on tests to get it all right *and* be first. I played soccer for years on the boys’ team, because they were faster and stronger and I didn’t want to end up in the little girls’ pink team. I finally gave up when all the guys were a foot taller than me and I just wasn’t pulling my weight for the team.

    So yeah. He’s right. Do other things besides your specialty, and let your ego propel you to kicking its ass, too. Or fail. And try again. Or do something else. Get *angry* at the clarinet for not doing what you want and play it halfway through the night like you would on a hard level of a video game. I can’t go to sleep when there’s a bug in my code I can’t get around.

    But I totally get where the guy is coming from. It’s hard to fail. It’s hard to put yourself out there and be afraid everyone will discover you really aren’t that smart. See: the Impostor Syndrome. ;) http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/imposter.htm

    Currently I’m a stay at home mom, which really triggers a lot of issues. I’m wasting my life. I’m not giving back to the world. I’m not excelling at the things I’m supposed to be good at. I’m not getting fame and fortune and recognition. But you know what? Kids are awesome. And I’m going to homeschool them so they don’t go through school bored and unchallenged and feeling like impostors. I’m going to let them do what they want instead of “waiting until they grow up” to do something real. I’m not going to make them spend their entire 20s undoing years of indoctrination. They won’t have a box that they have to work to “think outside of”. That’s where they will always be.

    And they will fail. Everyone does. :)

  10. @JS Bangs : “…great challenge: the core skill that it requires is the ability to communicate with a person who is less intelligent, less reasonable, and less able to express themselves than you”…

    Thought you were talking about tech support here for a moment :)

  11. As Eric has mentioned, it’s an issue of will and determination. One practical possibility is simply to focus on your physical body more — lifting weights, playing sports, increasing testosterone naturally. That may have positive effects as far psychological characteristics.

    Speaking for myself, it’s pretty hard to think or psych my way into a different state without attending to the physical. But if the physical is regulated, mental and psychological benefits accrue.

  12. @esr: “If a kid is hearing “genius” from adults who are used to encountering gifted children, he probably makes that threshold too.”

    That’s the problem – many if not most of the oohing and ahhing adults are NOT qualified to judge genius or not.

    I’m not saying your anonymous correspondent falls under that umbrella, not knowing any details.

    But on the average, most gifted-above-average children are NOT compared to other gifted-above-average ones, unless they happen to plop right into a elite-level “for gifted” school (which are not that common – heck, there’s only 3 in the entire NYC, and there were 2-4 in entire Moscow IIRC); or they compete academically, in national math/science competitions.

    And once you land in one of these 2 situations, you are NOT likely to stay deluded into your own superiority (as dgreer put it, you WILL easily find fish significantly bigger than you).

    I’m afraid I am not terribly familiar with IQ tests (they were not very much used where I grew up and I’d likely majorly suck at them due to my poor linguistic abilities – translated into comparatively poor English which IQ tests I’ve glanced at seem to poorly compensate for).

  13. The guy suffers from severe depression.

    His symptoms are anxiety, guilt, pessimism, procrastination and low self-esteem. I was in the same hole four years ago and it took me nearly two years to dig myself out, mainly because I wasn’t aware of my condition.

    I used to drag myself to achieve the goals I didn’t set for myself in the first place, and after failing miserably I would feel guilt and shame. Now, look at him: he “knows” he should contribute to open source and he feels guilty because he doesn’t. One thing I learned is if you want something, truly want, you would do it. You wouldn’t need to drag yourself – you would run.

    The real problem is not ‘the curse of the gifted’, the real problem is ‘the curse of school system’.

    Why?

    Our schools, in the Balkans at least, sell you an idea that if you meet ‘the formal criteria of life’ you will find happiness and success. And what do I mean by that? Obey the law, pay your taxes, mow your lawn, be nice to your neighbor, dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, do your job, and you’re set for life. Be patient, the success and happiness are just around the corner.

    The trouble is that our well-meaning teachers are not exactly at the top of our societies. And they are rarely geniuses. and ,to tell you the truth, they (mostly) have no idea what they are talking about.

    We, as all animals do, strive to climb up. We strive for more, we strive for better, and the framework to work with that we got from our schools just doesn’t fit the real world.

    You will never get rich by following your teacher’s advice, you’ll never get laid either. Remember your teachers? How many of them are doing well financially and sexually? I know the money, and sex are not all that matters in this world, but compared to the most things they are crucial.

    @our desperate genius: Seek professional help. (Go for CBT, not psychoanalysis). When you get better focus on creating massive value for other people, do it for money and it will make you rich, do it for free and it will put you’ll end up among the likes of Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa.

    Don’t blame my teachers for my writing, they did their best in that regard – sloppy grammar and punctuation are solely my fault :)

  14. I just heard a (possibly apocryphal) story about NASA recruiting test pilots to become astronauts. The story talks about a two bit filter; test pilots who got into trouble or did not, and test pilots who recovered from trouble, or did not. Where ‘trouble’ is some kind of almost-crash or near miss. This led to three groups

    Group 1: Test pilots who got into trouble and did not recover were all dead, and didn’t apply.
    Group 2: Test pilots who got into trouble and recovered the plane
    Group 3: Test pilots who did not get into trouble

    Group 2 was considered more interesting than Group 3. Who knows if a member of Group 3 was really good or just lucky? Rocket pilots were guaranteed to get into trouble sooner or later. What was required were people who could keep their cool and recover from failure.

    This article http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/space/armstrong2.htm is full of near death experiences.

  15. So, I am NOT a genuis.I am called smart but I am not a genuis. (I believe my IQ to be 90)

    So, I wonder, how can I possibly compete in a market full of hackers far more brilliant than me.

  16. So – create a stable family. Raise children and provide them proper level of support.

    Not an option for some of us.

  17. “I’m afraid I am not terribly familiar with IQ tests (they were not very much used where I grew up and I’d likely majorly suck at them due to my poor linguistic abilities”

    Well, quite a few psychologists use Cattell Culture Fair tests (which are timed Matrix Reasoning/Abstract Non-Verbal Reasoning tests — they are quite funny – you breeze along until you hit the wall and stare at a matrix like a dummy.) But even the standard Wechsler Adult test has very little in the way of culturally “unfair” items — the Vocabulary and Information items on it are not particularly challenging unless you speak little English.

    I’ve found that the International High IQ Society online test is quite accurate (very close to my Culture Fair score), although it’s a mix of fluid and crystallized intelligence subtests. And it’s free too (although you have to pay to find out subtest scores.)

  18. dgreer said, “Not that I was the snobbish sort (that’s one reason I hate the Mensa types), . . .”
    People join Mensa for all kinds of reasons, many not related in any way to snobbery (one is that it’s a support group for parents of severely gifted children). Please consider that Mensa members who loudly proclaim their membership may be snobs, but they’re not especially common in Mensa; and you aren’t likely to know about the ones who aren’t snobs, because they don’t talk about their membership.

  19. I found your suggestions quite interesting as I followed the first one about 10 years ago without really knowing why I was doing it. I was the typical ‘gifted’ but non-genius that excelled in primary and secondary school because it was so easy. I excelled at the easier college courses but hit a wall in advanced math and quit. I never studied.

    Faced with a quandary about what to do with my life I became a pilot. A field of specialization where raw intelligence is actually of far less help than some imagine. Now that I have a somewhat stable income stream and a fair amount of free time I am working on becoming a polymath. My fields of expertise are computer programming and economics.

  20. >Faced with a quandary about what to do with my life I became a pilot. A field of specialization where raw intelligence is actually of far less help than some imagine.

    But helpful enough to give you a moderate advantage over other pilot-candidates, making that skill an excellent choice.

    Pilot plus programmer plus economist is pretty good polymath cred, I must say. If you have any ear at all you might consider some musical instrument as your next field. Or if you’re monolingual, fix that.

  21. kiba> So, I am NOT a genuis.I am called smart but I am not a genuis. (I believe my IQ to be 90)

    > So, I wonder, how can I possibly compete in a market full of hackers far more brilliant than me.

    Uh, then you’re not “smart” either, you below average, which is 100.

    I think perhaps you should try an IQ test (even one of the silly ones online) before you determine your “smartness” in terms of relative IQ. That said, the fact that you’re here speaks well to your likelihood of being somewhere north of 100 :^).

  22. Linda Seebach: Touche. All of the mensa members I’ve met (who acknowledged their membership) believed that they were superior to everyone around them and treated the membership as a pedigree.

    I’m happy to hear that they are atypical examples.

  23. Run do not walk to an M.D. and get a SPECT scan of your brain. You can try drug treatments to see which ones “work” but it is a lot faster to get the scan. I could write your letter, score top 3% in 6th grade, reading at a college level since 4th, scored high on ?ASFAB? around 17 years, came within 2pts. of maxing English portion of TX. ACT around 32, blah blah blah. My experiance over the past couple of years leads me to conclude that focus/resolve/will has a chemical componant. I recall that Eric is against drugs for ritual xor recreation but can’t remember attitude toward medical drug treatments. Please don’t reject this out of hand. I don’t blame you if you did though. More when I can pull out the laptop. Sincerly, Murph

  24. @Dragan:

    Yep. Classic depressive symptoms here.

    @our desperate genius: Seek professional help. (Go for CBT, not psychoanalysis).

    Freudian psychoanalysis isn’t used much in its original form anymore. Psychoanalytic theory is often used in consort with other techniques, including CBT-type techniques.

    Many writings on psychology make it sound like psychologists all fall into one camp or another. Either you’re Freudian or you’re behaviorist or you’re a cognitivist, or whatever. This isn’t the case at all in clinical psychology. Clinical psychologists tend to mix and match techniques from different schools in a more eclectic manner, tailoring what they do for each individual client. Cognitive Behavorial Therapy is actually an example of this, mixing ideas from behaviorial theory and cognitive theory.

  25. I started learning to play piano a couple of years ago, and a lot of what I enjoy about it is summarised here. I have a slightly musical ear, but no better than average motor skills. Getting what success I can in this field, aware that I’ll likely never be particularly good, has been surprisingly satisfying.

    Dancing and CrossFit, neither of which I have any natural talent for, have been similar experiences. The persistence involved in missing a bigger weight for some lift again and again, then finally nailing it after a month, is something I haven’t really developed away from the gym or the piano. Hopefully it will transfer eventually.

  26. I found my IQ score to be 124. I got the result from iqtest.com.

    Totally not what I was expecting.

  27. One other thing, something I just realised about myself a couple of months ago. Maybe you can make it work for you too:

    I’m ferociously competitive – maybe you are too? If you can define a competition, and show me how the winners and losers will be determined, I will make a serious effort to win. I love games. I was recently introduced to poker, and despite being very new, I’m breaking even. Eventually I hope to turn a small profit (and have some fun!) from this.

    What I haven’t worked out yet is how to apply this to my career, or to areas where the winner is not obvious. Having worked in technology, I’m aware that it is not always obvious who makes the more useful contribution. I’m open to ideas as to what areas might be worth looking at; sales and entrepreneurship are the only two I can think of at the moment, and I don’t see myself in sales.

  28. @silvermine As a homeschoolig parent, I agree with your points. Aloso, Carol Dweck studies child development at Columbia and has found that when kids think of the brain as a mucles, they try harder and get better at things (no matter where they start); when kids think ability is innate and are praised for being “smart”, they tend not to challenge themselves out fof fear of losing face, and also spend time tearing tother kids down. So parents and schools may be partly to blame for the person’s funk.

    @dragan You may be right about the depression. Many “smart” geeky types spend a lot of time indoors and suffer from vitamin D deficiency resulting in joint pain, depression, autism in offspring, and a bunch of other things (see the Vitamin D Council for treatment guidelines, typically 5000 IU D3 daily, and periodic blood tests). See also Dr. Joel Fuhrman for a whole foods eating plan (mostly vegetables, fuits, and beans, with a little nuts, seeds, and whole grains) that can promote general wellness. See also Thomas Moore on “Dark Nights of the Soul” and Bruce Levine on “Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic”. “AARP / Blue Zones” is another intiative to create healthier communities that are less depressed. See also John Holt, Alfie Kohn, and John Taylor Gatto on problems with compulsory mainstream schooling (and things like grades and rewards, Alfie Kohn especially on those).

  29. >I found my IQ score to be 124. I got the result from iqtest.com. Totally not what I was expecting.

    But unsurprising given that you’re a programmer and you’re hanging out here. That’s a sigma and a half above mean, 93d percentile, met or exceeded by one in fifteen of the general population. It’s not genius level but definitely qualifies you as “smart”. :-)

  30. @kiba – “So, I wonder, how can I possibly compete in a market full of hackers far more brilliant than me.”

    Very easily.

    There’s an EXTREMELY large market exists for *competent* *diligent* developers.

    I would go as far as to say, that market VASTLY exceeds the market for brilliant ESR-level hackers. In large part because ESR would probably hack his own head off with his sword were he forced to be working on a back office or a corporate HR system maintenance for a period exceeding 1 hour (OK, in reality ESR might have enough psychological stability to tolerate such a circumstance for >1 hour, but he would quit the job VERY shortly. Right?).

    Seriously, a large chunk of people doing programming these days are either sloppy, lazy, have an IQ way below 90, or a combination of these. So if you are diligent and hard-working and know how to play by the rules and not be a cowboy just for teh sake of being a cowboy, you have a major competitive advantage for a pretty large swath of jobs.

  31. @Jeff Read – “Not an option for some of us.”

    Hmm… unless you’re of a non-traditional sexual orientation in Iran or Russia (In other words, I assume you’re in an average Western democracy), raising children with a partner is generally an OPTION. It may or may not be as simple as it gets, and in certain medical circumstances the children would not be biologically related to you (or non-biological – see all the wanky Hollywod celebs who adopt kids for example). But is *is* an option.

  32. If you can afford the lessons, take up riding. The horse is far too stupid to appreciate what a genius you are, and will end up teaching you a lot…you may enjoy it enough to stick with it.

    I’ll give you lesson #1 in advance. “Nobody is nearly as smart as they think they are.”

  33. >(OK, in reality ESR might have enough psychological stability to tolerate such a circumstance for >1 hour, but he would quit the job VERY shortly. Right?).

    Yes. But it’s never going to come up, because nobody would be stupid enough to try to wedge me into a job like that. It would be ludicrously wasteful, like swatting flies with a bazooka.

  34. >There’s an EXTREMELY large market exists for *competent* *diligent* developers.

    Oh, and DVK is correct, kiba. There are more jobs out there for which you are a good fit than there are for me. The commercial software production system has evolved to use programmers in the 110-125 range of IQ because potential employees above that IQ range are so rare. Also, programmers with truly genius-grade IQs are difficult to manage; even if they’re cooperative sorts, being smart enough to think rings around the person they’re reporting to creates all kinds of subtle problems.

  35. There’s also a negative recommendation (so to speak) that I would give the OP: If you’re struggling with the fact of giftedness, try to avoid anti-intellectual people/communities as much as possible.

    One of my areas of interest and activity is education reform. Odd as it may seem, the education sector is *filled* with out-and-proud anti-intellectuals. This is because for many people, education isn’t about learning, it’s about social status. People genuinely interested in learning are naturally drawn to people with more learning and want to feed off of them, whereas people interested in social status naturally want to tear down and denigrate people whom they consider to have higher social status (e.g., gifted people, or people who went to good schools).

    If you’re gifted and interested in learning, keep away from the anti-intellectual social-status-fixated people. They will try to grind you down every time.

    A highly recommended book: “Anti-Intellectualism” in American Life by Richard Hofstadter.

  36. >Oh, and DVK is correct, kiba. There are more jobs out there for which you are a good fit than there are for me. The commercial software production system has evolved to use programmers in the 110-125 range of IQ because potential employees above that IQ range are so rare. Also, programmers with truly genius-grade IQs are difficult to manage; even if they’re cooperative sorts, being smart enough to think rings around the person they’re reporting to creates all kinds of subtle problems.

    I prefer the idea of using the “non-lazy, diligent, and competent” advantage in starting a small, profitable, and scalable side-business in college. At the very least, it will bootstrap or subsidize other kind of side-business and hobbies. If I make 30,000 dollars in profit each year by the end of my college career, that’s FU money for me.

    I desire to run my own small dinky ship against the fleet created by genius hackers, though it is also likely that I’ll sail with them.

  37. i actually may have been premature but dang I resonate with your letter. I have spent the last 3 years under the care of the first Doctor I’ve met that was worth more than the powder it would cost to blow them to Hades. The job I have now has killer insurance, so I can afford monitored medical care. The only aspect I cared about when selecting this Dr. was recent graduation. I have damage in my occipital temporal lobes from head injuries as a kid. My Doc is extremely results oriented and listens to my experiences when I visit him. When I first saw him I was dealing with rapid weight loss, painful stomach issues, insomnia, depression, and Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. He draws some blood, palpitates here and there says come back in a week. Come back and pick up a prescription for Levsin to fix IBS by holding onto my food long enough to digest it (had galstones the size of walnuts when my gallbladder burst back in 2004), gives me some anti-depressants for the depression and insomnia (as an indicator to how long the insomnia has been there, when I had three nights in a row when tired and sleepiness arrived together I was freaked until I realized ‘Oh wait, this is how it is supposed to be at bedtime), and some CRAP ADD med that moved my conciousness from right there behind my eyes to up and to the left, which is weird to type but even weirder to experience. That med also made my sex life extremely frustrating as for the 21 days I was on it as I could stand at attention no problem, but no matter what we did I could fire. The ADD med, Adderal, was the real winner. I managed to stay on track and function normally for the first time in my adult life. Except for a detour w/ ?Vyavanse? the Adderal has resulted in the profoundest changes. And the interesting thing is the view from the inside while I tried to get my crap together enough to ensure that I didn’t miss a day without the Med. Through a combination of Regulatory Friction, Pharmacy Hoursand AADD. For the first 18 months I would have fail to get my scrip. This happened 3-4 so I got to see what life looked like as I came off and then got back on the med. I HATE being dependent on a drug to function. Yeah Yeah a medical problem just as diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension and so on. The only thing it has going for it is that I can function. If I continue to dig myself out and continue learning such esoteric skills as budgeting and time management I might even be able to go back to college and complete some classes. Take a martial art long enough to pass more than a couple rank exams. To write concisely (still not there=). So if you are depressed and frustrated because your life just does not work don’t give up hope. You have more resources today than you will ever have except for tomorrow. Hopefully I haven’t violated any Armed&Dangerous norms (if I have let me know and I will try to correct). Good luck. Sincerely, Murph.

  38. My last tested IQ score was 161. The world is not built for people like me. It’s built for people who are considerably dumber than I am. I still have to live in it.

    The mark of genius in a lot of fields is seeing something in a way that others do not. My experience is not that I’m smarter than everyone else around me, it’s that everyone else is operating with blinders on. My job is to help them remove their blinders, to show them a better way to do something, to let them free themselves from preconceptions, to remove obstacles that keep them from solving problems on their own.

    I give the following advice to people who are about to go into college.

    1) Take a year off between high school and college. Better yet, take two.

    2) During that span, find a way to earn an income with minimal time commitment. Earning an income does not mean ‘live with your parents as a bum’. It means having an apartment, paying rent and paying your own bills, probably with roommates. Get through your ‘party stupid’ and ‘screw anything that moves’ phases before you get onto campus.

    3) Spend the remainder of your time trying everything that you think you might enjoy. Eventually, you’ll find something that can turn into an avocation

    4) Figure out how to earn an income doing the thing you found in step 3.

    5) Go to college and get whatever credentials you need to do step 4. Short of Ivy League schools where you’re making political connections to join the American aristocracy, it does not matter where the hell you get your degree from; the degree largely serves as a litmus test. It says “I was willing to jump through arbitrary hoops while munching flaming dog turds to get a diploma.”

    6) While in school, keep that low time commitment job. Take any work study programs that look like they’ll be interesting and challenging. Minimize your debt load in college, unless you’re going into law or medicine, where it’s unavoidable. Your goal is to graduate debt free with work experience and credentials in a field you’re interested in.

    Beyond a certain threshold, more money doesn’t actually boost your quality of life. More free time and interesting work does. Find what drives you, find your passionate work, and figure out a way to make a living at it.

    And don’t be afraid to fail a few times.

  39. Personal anecdote time.

    I’m absurdly bright (IQ 161) My brother is merely highly intelligent and gifted (IQ 130 or so)

    My brother has iron will and determination in spades. In far greater depths than I do. He graduated from law school at the age of 23 with a 4.0 GPA, and 70K in debts.

    By the end of his first year working in a law firm, he’d paid off his debts on a 90K a year salary, bought a house in San Diego from his bonuses…and broke up with his long term girlfriend, gave her the house, and moved to Seattle.

    When his Geo Metro got totaled in Seattle by someone plowing into it in the law firm’s parking lot, his joke was that the Mercedes bumper that had been left behind in the back seat probably tripled its value…

    It’s been my experience, and my brother’s, that determination and will matter more than brains in nearly every human endeavor that isn’t research science or medicine.

  40. @Ken Burnside.

    > 1) Take a year off between high school and college. Better yet, take two.
    Can’t take your advice on doing 2 years between high school and college since I will get kicked out of the house.

    > 2) During that span, find a way to earn an income with minimal time commitment. Earning an income does not mean ‘live with your parents as a bum’. It means having an apartment, paying rent and paying your own bills, probably with roommates. Get through your ‘party stupid’ and ’screw anything that moves’ phases before you get onto campus.

    I’ll simply have to do freelance programming faster with greater efficiency. I already bootstrapped much of my saving on freelance game programming and ads income from a wiki site I made during my high school years. They’re largely gone due to college expenses.

    > 3) Spend the remainder of your time trying everything that you think you might enjoy. Eventually, you’ll find something that can turn into an avocation

    I’ll definitely try that even though I already have many interest.

    > 4) Figure out how to earn an income doing the thing you found in step 3.

    I do have a business idea about combining elements of MMORPGs with a task list for the purpose of self improvement. I planned to charge 5 dollars a month for the service while at the same time making my web application open source. It just that that my minimum viable product is languishing right now due to rails knowledge gap that need my persistence in asking the right question as well simple patience waiting for programmers to help me with the problem I am having.

    > 5) Go to college and get whatever credentials you need to do step 4. Short of Ivy League schools where you’re making political connections to join the American aristocracy, it does not matter where the hell you get your degree from; the degree largely serves as a litmus test. It says “I was willing to jump through arbitrary hoops while munching flaming dog turds to get a diploma.”

    I am majoring in computer science.

    > 6) While in school, keep that low time commitment job. Take any work study programs that look like they’ll be interesting and challenging. Minimize your debt load in college, unless you’re going into law or medicine, where it’s unavoidable. Your goal is to graduate debt free with work experience and credentials in a field you’re interested in.

    Good advice, though I am already doing that with freelancing.

    > 7) Beyond a certain threshold, more money doesn’t actually boost your quality of life. More free time and interesting work does. Find what drives you, find your passionate work, and figure out a way to make a living at it. And don’t be afraid to fail a few times.

    Agreed. That why I define 30,000 dollars as fuck you money.

  41. >It’s been my experience, and my brother’s, that determination and will matter more than brains in nearly every human endeavor that isn’t research science or medicine.

    That’s a bit too narrow. While determination and will do matter in design engineering, you’d better be a sigma or two off the mean in IQ and creativity before you go in or that determination is just going to jam you into a role you don’t fit.

  42. My guess, having taken all the online tests: if you scored a 124 on the iqtest.com test, you probably have at least a 115-117 SD15 IQ. I’m fairly confident it isn’t 90. ;)

    That’s what Gottfredson classifies as in the “Out Ahead” range. Certainly sufficient for what you want to accomplish.

  43. >How does a person learn to cope with the brutal unfairness of life? Especially those problems that appear unsolvable?

    Redefine the problem or die. What you can’t go through, you must get around.

  44. kiba> I found my IQ score to be 124. I got the result from iqtest.com.

    > Totally not what I was expecting.

    But I expected nothing less :^).

  45. Morgan Graywolf> Those tests are woefully inadequate and terribly inaccurate.

    True, but mostly on the extremes. If he’s +/- 10 does it really matter? My own experience is that if you take 3, they’ll all fall within 10 points of each other. The biggest hiccup is ones that hit on “general knowledge” of things that aren’t so general (e.g. questions about Pride and Prejudice).

  46. >True, but mostly on the extremes

    Er, if my experience is representative iqtest.com is completely broken. I took that one after kiba mentioned it. It got my IQ wrong by…well, mine is in the range where measurement becomes difficult because none of the instruments are very good, and the only psychometrician I currently know personally says she thinks the estimate I got from http://www.iqcomparisonsite.com/ is low by almost two sigmas. So depending on whether you believe that site’s estimation methods or her, iqtest.com was low by 30 to 50(!) points.

  47. Minimum “fuck you money” is a million. At 5% (typical return to capital), that’s $50K/year. Completely tolerable for a single person; a little low for a couple; a LOT low for a family.

  48. As an alternative to a musical instrument, consider art. Painting or sculpting (i particularly like stone carving) are classic examples. For many years I tried to convince myself I was a musician, but my heart was never in it. When I first took hammer and chisel to stone, it just clicked in a way music never had.

    If yo do choose art, choose something that does not involve a computer. Computer based art is as fine an art form as any, but the mental processes are very close to programming. You want to get you hands and body involved. Feel how your arm arcs as you paint a stroke, how the clay molds under your fingers, how the hammer and chisel and stone react to each blow. There is a tactile and kinesthetic aspect to art (and music) that simply does not exist on the computer (yet anyway, in time better interfaces will certainly be developed).

  49. It’s having the confidence to go get that ‘experience’ job which puts me off. I’m educated highly, I know where I want to be, qualifications aside, the few companies who are taking on right now demand experience – weirdly, it’s any kind of experience, low paid jobs, menial tasks, they want someone who’s worked over somebody who’s probably far more educated and capable than neccessary to do that task…

    Do I lower myself to do the menial tasks to get my foot in the door?

    I tried volunteering and although I got along well with people, I was constantly bored with the mundane conversations (family, friends, celebrity gossip) I found it difficult to make any real connections to throughourly enjoy what I was doing. The low-paid ‘experience’ job would be the same way, seeing ‘real life’ but not neccessarily enjoying it.

    If I’m not enjoying it, would I really be making the most out of it?

    Sometimes I feel lost and at odds with the world. I aim high in my own ways right now, but those ways are not the rise-up-the career ladder, settle a family traditional way. I want to succeed but I’ve seen so many take that low-paid job and become slaves to the wage, never rising. It’s a terribly scary thought.

  50. >Thank you for your interest in the test at IQTest.com.
    >Your general IQ score is: 131

    I’m devastated. The last time I took the test I got 142. OMG, how am I gonna live in this cruel, unfair world?

    Seriously, the result of an IQ test is not an indicator of success in life. If you were an engine, your IQ would be your HP rating. Using that engine is a different matter entirely. You can have it rotting in your garage, or you can use it to win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

    The surest path to happiness is to forget yourself and focus on others. Don’t sit in your room and moan about how nobody understands you, because you’re so bright and all. Use your gift to create something of value for other people. Engage the world.

    Not to go religious on you, but consider this perspective:

    >”For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required.” — Luke 12:48

  51. I don’t know whether it’s a cultural thing, but I actually don’t want to be over-stretched trying to achieve my goals. Which is why I’ve decided to set realistic (and possibly lesser) goals in my life. I know that this sounds trite, but I actually used to get upset that my friends achieved a lot more, but people kept calling me “intelligent” and “creative” and “talented”. I also know that I am all of the above, but I don’t want to be so over-stretched or work so hard that the other things in life are buried in success.

    For happiness, I find that success is only one component. I am not being philosophical here. You need to enjoy the good things in life – chasing career related goals at the exclusion of everything else in the prime of your life seems a wasteful exercise. What possibly can you enjoy in life after you are 55-60 years old that you could not in 25-30 when you were physically and mentally stronger and more confident?

    Determine whether the formula which converts your potential into achievement comes at too high a cost and change your achievement goals accordingly.

  52. Well I took the test and IQTest.com and guess what! I found that I was intelligent enough not to want to pay for accessing the results :-p

  53. Well, put down my previous post to my hasty reading of the submit screen. It does provide the IQ value for free (though not detailed results)

    I scored 126. I am not sure what to make of it though.

  54. @dgreer:

    True, but mostly on the extremes. If he’s +/- 10 does it really matter?

    I’ve taken that one three times at various times and the tests have about a 20 point spread. I was tested about 20 years ago by an actual psycometrician at 130, but I have no idea if my IQ has changed any since then. Perhaps the Internet has rotted my brain. ;)

    The problem with online tests is that 1) they don’t have anything close to enough questions, 2) unlike real IQ tests, they tend not to be timed and 3) they are not observed. Some have said that online IQ tests can never be accurate, but I think an accurate online IQ test could probably be devised; there is just little motivation to do so.

  55. It’s a gift. And a curse. Sorry, couldn’t resist :)

    I don’t think that I’ve ever been a genius, but I’ve got a pretty good IQ test as a kid and people always expected miracles from me. In the first half of my life, I declined everything I had to put any effort into, because I thought that merely being talented was enough. Because of that attitude, I wasn’t particularly good at anything.

    One day, I realized that an IQ test is nothing but a waste of time and that I have to work hard if I want to become good at anything. I can second what Eric said: Martial arts did help at that.

  56. > Minimum “fuck you money” is a million. At 5% (typical return to capital), that’s $50K/year. Completely tolerable for a single person; a little low for a couple; a LOT low for a family.

    If my passive income business provide me 30,000 dollars a year and requires minimum maintenance, than it is to me, essentially fuck you money. It may not be your fuck you money, but it is mine. However, building passive income streams is no cakewalk, or at least as far as I know. You have to learn a variety of skills, such as statistics and marketing. You’ll also spent a lot of time chasing after repetitive tasks until it is automated. It isn’t passive when your business require you to do manual labor.

  57. A math or programming genius, for example, might want to consider developing master-level skills at prose or poetic composition

    I think this is suboptimal advice. In those fields, because quality is so subjective, it’s too easy to fall into a Dunning-Kruger trap and avoid the hard work by convincing yourself that you’ve already mastered it. I think a better recommendation is to become a history buff. That requires a large volume of up-front work of exactly the sort that those with the curse of the gifted have never disciplined themselves into doing.

  58. I am reminded of a high school teacher (Mr. Fobear) who, in attempting to get me off my lazy ass, uttered this phrase that has stayed with me until this day: “Bill, there are more geniuses in the gutter than there are on Wall Street”.

  59. Eric, your three strategies are all right on. I’d like to add something to what you told the young fellow. It is implicit in what you did say, and so I’m not proposing it as Strategy 4. Here it is: find someone smarter or at least more accomplished than you and learn all you can from him/her. This accomplishes three purposes. First, it puts your own smarts into perspective. A little humility goes a long way in this business. This is not meant to be a ball-breaker; your self respect doesn’t take a hit, it just gets better adjusted. The next thing it does is give you some accountability, to someone you can respect. You are learning from this guy/gal, and s/he will correct you when you screw up, and that can be a great motivator. Third, since you are learning, and usually at an accelerated rate because of the attention, it puts the adventure back into the whole proposition.

  60. “Er, if my experience is representative iqtest.com is completely broken. I took that one after kiba mentioned it. It got my IQ wrong by…well, mine is in the range where measurement becomes difficult because none of the instruments are very good”

    With IQs above 140 or so, those tests supposedly ARE broken, but below that they’re not too bad.

    This is why the International High IQ Society offers GIGI (http://www.gigiassessment.com/learn-more-gigi-pro-certified.php) in additional to its regular test.

    Eric, the IQComparison site conversions are inaccurate in my experience.

    This is a better chart: http://www.sq.4mg.com/IQ-SATchart.htm (obviously until you hit the ceiling.)

    The first translates my old 1400 SAT into 144 (which just ain’t so), the second into 137 (still too high but not by much.)

    Since IQComparison tops out at around 152 for SATs, I assume she thinks yours is at least in the high 160s? Wow.

  61. >Since IQComparison tops out at around 152 for SATs, I assume she thinks yours is at least in the high 160s? Wow.

    That guess is correct. Note that this is not my evaluation, and in fact until this comment thread I would have bet she was being overgenerous. However, Ken Burnside’s report that he tested at 161 puts a different complexion on the matter. Where our interests intersect we seem to be at near parity in cognitive ability, but I have some mastery areas (music, prose composition) that he doesn’t. This makes my friendly psychometrician’s estimate more credible and raises my own (rather lower one) a bit.

    Pressed, I’d say it’s near certain that I’m somewhere in the 145-175 range, but I just don’t happen ever to have been tested with an instrument that’s properly calibrated for that range. So all I have is a basket of estimates scattered all over three sigmas, derived from various statistical proxies or from my friend the psychometrician or from comparisons with recent historical figures who had been carefully evaluated. I have my own guess based on these, and nobody knows it but me.

  62. If yo do choose art, choose something that does not involve a computer. Computer based art is as fine an art form as any, but the mental processes are very close to programming. You want to get you hands and body involved. Feel how your arm arcs as you paint a stroke, how the clay molds under your fingers, how the hammer and chisel and stone react to each blow. There is a tactile and kinesthetic aspect to art (and music) that simply does not exist on the computer (yet anyway, in time better interfaces will certainly be developed).

    Spoken like someone who’s never drawn, painted, or sketched using a Wacom. It’s not quite like using actual charcoal, graphite, ink, or paint on paper/canvas, but there is a kinaesthetic feel you develop for controlling what your paint program does using strokes and pressure on the stylus, particularly with programs like MyPaint (open source!). I use a tablet PC, which means my viewing surface is the same as my work surface — an added advantage.

  63. Hmm… unless you’re of a non-traditional sexual orientation in Iran or Russia (In other words, I assume you’re in an average Western democracy), raising children with a partner is generally an OPTION.

    I know enough about myself to fully understand and appreciate that I haven’t the psychological makeup to sustain a long-term relationship with another adult, or to raise a child.

    Like I said — not an option.

  64. Corroborating – Eric and I are a good match on a lot of areas where our interests intersect, and the calibration of tools at our end of the spectrum is iffy at best. We’re also far enough out to the right end of the curve that cognitive structural differences cause one or the other of us to go “Huh? What?” *beat* “Oh, NEAT!” followed by “How did you come up with *that?*”

    Both of us are people who are likelier to ‘see a shortcut’ when solving a problem in our areas of domain expertise.

    Eric once said that I was faster at reasoning out the second and third order implications of Coase Theorem from first kernels than anyone he’d ever heard of.

  65. Goodness Gracious. This sounds bitterly familiar.

    Gifted is a blessing. A curse is a blessing neglected. Reverse the curse.

    & don’t worry, you’re not alone.

  66. I took that iqtest.com thing just after lunch (I’m usually sleepy) and got 150. (Maybe tomato and mozzarella make brain food?) It reminds me of the actual IQ test I took when I was 7. My sister took it, too. When I asked my dad later how I did, he only gave me a range: “140-160″. I’ll never know whether he said that because the testgiver was able to produce only an estimate, or because he wanted me to not put that much stock in it, but still get a little kick.

    Just anecdotes, of course. Then again, my coworker (Steve; ESR knows him) and I have some pretty amusingly geeky work-related conversations.

  67. Oh, and to Bill McAlister: a big reason why that’s true is that there’s soooooo much more gutter space…

  68. Spoken like someone who’s never drawn, painted, or sketched using a Wacom.

    I have. I’m not much of a sketch artist, but my father blows away most people with his ability to sketch up about anything he can dream up in mere minutes right in front of people. He’s transitioned to 2D and 3D graphics on computers quite well, but even after convincing him to dump a big load of money on a Wacom tablet, he never ended up using it. He claims it never felt right, and doesn’t give him enough control. I’ve felt similarly.

  69. @Pail Brinkley – jokes aside, Bill McAlister’s teacher’s thing about more geniuses in the gutter might actually be true for an entirely valid 2 sets of reasons:

    1. Geniuses often have major psychological problems, both congenital and acquired in correlation/causation with their IQ. The acquired ones stem from a variety of reasons (esr’s anonymous corresponded is a good illustration of one set of reasons, the latter-mentioned issues with functioning in society is another reason, the rest are too numerous to fit into the margins of this post).

    2. Geniuses are often somewhere on the spectrum of autism disorders, with associated symptoms ranging from mild a-socialness (Hi all! I’ll now go back to my corner!) to major interpersonal communication/interpersonal relation malfunctions. That places a significant likelihood on flaming out life-wise, no matter your IQ. In part, it also can majorly increase the magnitude of the psychological problems from the last bullet point.

  70. > Seriously, the result of an IQ test is not an indicator of success in life.

    I’d go so far as to claim that a big component of IQ is personality rather than some natural deductive ability. It’s already been proven that young children with the ability to deny gratification (like eating candy right away vs waiting and getting two candies) later grow up to have higher SAT scores and be generally successful in life.

    I think the ability to emotionally assume that “there is an answer to every problem and I have a chance to find it” is a huge component to intelligence. Most people don’t do that. As soon as a problem looks tricky, they fold. Another component of intelligence may be the ability to suspend frustration while iterating down multiple possible solution paths to a problem when most of the attempts are expected to fail.

    I can’t disprove the counterargument that those people fold because they know from experience that they lack ability, but I don’t buy it, at least not completely. As Edison was quoted: “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” (hard work).

    IQ can hurt your success in life as much as it helps it, especially if you’re the sort of bright with weak social skills.

    Not sure what to make of my informal IQ scores…
    iqtest.com: Your general IQ score is: 147
    Gigi Sprint: Your score: 122

    The 122 is especially strange to me because I think I got at least 17 out of 20 correct (I didn’t guess until the last three where time was running out). But I’ve always hated the pattern tests even when I was a young kid. *I* sometimes see lots of patterns, or no interesting patterns at all. Trying to guess what arbitrary pattern the test designer saw is the hard part.

  71. Paul Brinkley and DVK. I didn’t knowthen if it were true or not. I still don’t know. However, contemplation of the statement started me on the path of turning it around. I was forced to see that mere intelligence is not a necessary and sufficient condition for success. I learned that I could make up for intelligence in areas where I was without natural talent by the judicious use of hard work and brute force studying.

    And ESR was right, my successes fed on each other. In High School, my GPA was 1.8 (and falling) when I dropped out. In college, my GPA was 3.7 while working two jobs and raising my family.

  72. > Redefine the problem or die. What you can’t go through, you must get around.

    I never thought of it quite that way, thanks. (It went more like “I’m dying! I’m dying! Everybody’s dying! Bunnies are dying! Ahhhhh! Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!”)

  73. @esr, I just finished reading the email to Linus that inspired Querent to write you in the first place. You spoke to Linus in a very blunt and straightforward manner. I don’t think you were disrespectful but you didn’t pull any punches either.

    I’m probably out of line asking but I’m terribly curious as to how he dealt with it. I ask because how a man responds to something like this says a lot about his character.

  74. >I’m probably out of line asking but I’m terribly curious as to how he dealt with it.

    Well..Linus didn’t reply, but his behavior changed significantly over the next five years. Most notably, he did start using version control, and developed a more systematic response to processing patches that letting them pile up in his inbox. I like to think my hard nudge had something to do with that.

  75. “That guess is correct. Note that this is not my evaluation, and in fact until this comment thread I would have bet she was being overgenerous.”

    There’s another factor they use:

    172-188: “…while still of primary school age only around one-in-a-thousand professors can look them in the eye intellectually. They tend to read competently before they are 3 years old.”

    156-171: “…most exceed the average postgraduate in academic competence – even professors – while still in primary school, and probably knew more than their teachers from about the 6th grade onwards.”

    140-155: “…some in this group exceed the average university student in academic competence while still in primary school.”

    So what were you like in primary school?

  76. “They tend to read competently before they are 3 years old.”

    When I was 2, people didn’t believe my parents that I was reading already, so Dad would have them pull a random package off the shelf at the grocery store he managed, and tell me to read the ingredient label. About the time I’d say “monosodium glutamate” or “mono- and di-glycerides”, people would believe.

    I didn’t think it a bit remarkable, because my parents taught us to read using this thing called “phonics”. When I saw an unfamiliar word, they’d say “sound it out”. More often than not, even when the bizarre collection of rules to English pronunciation allowed many alternatives, I’d get the right one on the first try.

    But most people don’t learn to read until they get to elementary school, because it isn’t expected of them. I benefitted from having six older siblings, and if I wanted to converse with them, I had to up my game to do it.

  77. >So what were you like in primary school?

    Hmmm. That’s a really interesting way of asking the question. Consequentially. I like it.

    That “knew more than their teachers from about the 6th grade onwards” sure sounds like me in any subject I cared about; actually, when I was about 12 one of my science teachers drafted me to assist when she figured out I knew more inverterbrate biology than she did. And I can’t remember when my grammar wasn’t so close to perfect that the only places anyone could argue with it were places the normative authorities disgreed about among themselves.

    I did not read competently before three. I believe that I started reading a little early, but not exceptionally so. I do know that I had a really fast takeoff in that skill – acquired essentially adult competence by about age 7 and could already at that time read at a speed that startled my teachers. That’s not enough to put me in the high group, though.

    I think I was in your middle group. That’d make sense if, as we have both recently suspected, my adult IQ is somewhere not far from Ken Burnside’s 161. And I guess I can change my figures for plausible lower and upper bounds from 145-175 to 156-171. Thanks for helping me narrow that interval some.

  78. I have a question I’d like to throw out to all the high IQ types that frequent this blog.

    For most of you, I imagine your IQ manifests itself in certain ways, like computer programming. But do you have any blind spots?

    For me, it is mechanical things. I am just not very good at building or fixing things.

    So for example: if your car needed to have the transmission fixed, could you do it?

    I couldn’t; I know better than to even try. Take it to the shop.

    So how about it: can you fix a car like you program a UNIX box?

  79. @Kiba

    I tested for a 148 IQ in grade school. Have a graduate degree blah, blah, blah. Not really important. Being good at something, competent, trustworthy, and persistent are far more predictive of success. The only reason I even know about the IQ score is I was doing badly in school and my parents had me tested to see what was “wrong” with me. I found the papers looking for something else in a drawer. That score and $5 will sometimes buy me a latte. Strangely enough, your chances of being “rich” are greater if you have only slightly above average intelligence.

    @OP

    Look at the scale of the universe…..and tell me that your being a “Genius” matters. The higher your IQ, the less ability you have to relate to the majority of the population. It does get lonely sometimes. I often imagine that the higher the score the more it begins to mirror mental retardation, except you are cursed with understanding your fate. The closer to the mean, the more you will relate to all the “stuff” that causes me to want to live as a hermit. Find something you really like to do and do it simply for its own sake. For your enjoyment only. If the rest of the world doesn’t notice does it really matter?

    @Darrencardinal

    I am in the 99th percentile when it comes to things mechanical, electrical, trouble shooting, building things. My math is just OK, mostly because I have a bad memory. If I had a photographic memory I would scare me, but I wouldn’t trade that for conceptual reasoning. I was a fair guitarist, learned to play by ear, carpel tunnel killed that. I’m certainly no Einstein. My biggest blind spot has got to be a stubborn expectation of rational behavior in others. Because of this, I have very little ability to understand political issues. Or to use them to my advantage or even employ them defensively. I find it hard to even communicate with others on that level. I am not sure I really want to, since most of it seems to me to be nothing more than flowery language designed to obscure the libido dominande. Oh…and my spelling sucks. (Thanks be unto the spellchecker!!)

  80. >So how about it: can you fix a car like you program a UNIX box?

    No, I can’t. But here’s a more positive statement that may convey the kind of information you seem to be after about the consequences of a high enough IQ: I have a degree of mechanical aptitude that would enable me to fix cars quite effectively if I assembled a bit more of a contingent knowledge base about them. (And I’m not guessing about this; unlike my general IQ, this particular aptitude actually has been tested by a neuropsychologist who knew what he was doing.)

    Most skills are combinations of some sort of neurological talent with a specific knowledge base. People with IQs within about three standard deviations of mean are limited in attempting to acquire skills like car repair in two ways: they may lack knowledge, or they may lack a required neurological talent (in this case, the ability to handle 3D geometry and kinematics in their heads). People with IQs above about three standard deviations from mean, on the other hand, are seldom talent-limited (or, at least, if they have a limit, it’s so high that people of more normal intelligence can’t see it).

    Perhaps the best response to your question, then, is that sufficiently bright people seldom have blind spots. But they can suffer from crippling ignorance the same as the rest of us.

  81. TMR says:
    >>> My biggest blind spot has got to be a stubborn expectation of rational behavior in others.

    Boy do I understand that. Expecting rational (and honest) behavior from others, and not getting it, can be a rage inducing experience.

    You live and learn, and most of all learn to expect less from your fellow man. At some point you realize that certain people can only be defeated, not reasoned with.

  82. When I was four I tested at 154. I got the lowest score in the family. ;) So I had no chance of ever thinking I was the smartest thing in the world.

  83. There are also cognitive differences.

    I am somewhat more spatial than Eric is. “When all you have is an intuitive ability to understand spatial relationships, all your problems look like vector displays.” This isn’t a knock on Eric – Eric is probably in the one in a thousand range at that sort of thinking; I’m probably in the one in a million range, and my brain uses it for all KINDS of things where it’s probably not the best tool to use, but is the one I’m most adept at using.

    Case in point: when I do martial arts, my brain overlays vector arrows radiating out from my opponent’s joints that move in relation to where his muscles are tense or relaxed. I don’t have time to consciously read them…but they give me a small amount of warning on where a shot will come in from, and they make it MUCH easier to read where someone’s body will go. This helps out in more ways than I can describe to someone who can’t see it.

    In ‘grab random data and map it’, I appear to be a touch faster than Eric (I seem to reason out second and third order implications of rules and other data faster than he does).

    In terms of ‘analyze patterns’, Eric is a noticeably faster than I am (in any kind of pattern matching game with Eric, everyone else is fighting for second place, and being withing a loud shout of Eric’s score.) I suspect Eric’s grammar-via-osmosis is him using his pattern-matching wiring. While I don’t have the domain knowledge to follow his code, my suspicion is that a good look at Eric’s code will show that same pattern-matching methodology.

    (My pattern matching skills are mediocre, and I’ve never managed to get enough of a grip on a programming language to get fluid in one, unless doing horrifying things with Excel counts.)

    Eric is a much better natural musician than I am. I can still surprise him; watching his expression as he listened to My Clown’s On Fire was priceless. (Cathy’s response to that was “Oh good lord, please turn that down…”)

    Both of us can be (and have been) bitten in the ass by ignorance in a field. Both of us also welcome people who point out mistakes we’ve made.

  84. There is a natural tendency for people of similar IQs to self segregate or stratify in their social interactions.

    If you go to a random bar in certain neighborhoods in DC, you’ll spend time with the movers, shakers and hidden deal makers who kinda sorta twiddle the nobs on our attempt at representative government. And you would be hard pressed to find an IQ of under 145 at any table.

    In terms of predicting behavior in others, and watching political processes in action:

    1) Assume people will take the best 30 day deal they can perceive. You’ll be right about 80% of the time. When in doubt, bet on self interest and a lack of appreciation of long term consequences. Just try to identify what that particular self wants.

    2) The monkey brain reward-and-risk evaluation centers are skewed towards risk taking, but only when the monkey in question feels comfortable with their current situation.

    Therefore, the vast majority of ad campaigns are focused on making someone feel uncomfortable about a situation to get them to act against something, or they’re focused on maximizing the perceived upside of a decision.

    Couple points 1 and 2, and you can understand the buttons being pushed in any political campaign. You’ll also understand the limits and boundaries of honesty among most people.

  85. >In terms of ‘analyze patterns’, Eric is a noticeably faster than I am (in any kind of pattern matching game with Eric, everyone else is fighting for second place, and being withing a loud shout of Eric’s score.)

    I think Ken is talking about what AI theorists call “compressive learning” – reducing a pattern to a generative rule with lower Kolmgorov complexity. I am indeed exceptionally good at this, and it’s a talent I lean on the way Ken leans on his freaky spatial/kinematic perception. (Which he is not exaggerating – I test in the top 0.1% of that aptitude and he’s so much more fluidly capable than me that it’s just silly.)

    A friend of mine who studied neuropsychology for a while once proposed an interesting theory about why. He thinks my brain gave up early on improving the motor control in my left leg, and that significant portions of what would otherwise be motor-control circuitry in my right parietal lobe has been coopted for other tasks including processing of spatial kinematics, pattern recognition, and compressive learning.

  86. @ Ken

    Yes, one thing often overlooked in all the “my brain is bigger than your brain” BS is the unique aspects of an individual intelligence. I am not particularly brilliant at any one thing. Perhaps spatial/mechanical relations being the one realm I can lay claim to as my own, but other than that there are many, many far more adept individuals at almost anything you can imagine. For whatever reason, human processing algorithms seem to be extremely variable. This is probably due to the emergent nature of how the brain organizes itself. I have often wished I could unlearn many of the methodologies I already have and try some new software, just to see how much it changed my way of thinking.

    I have a friend who plays guitar, but he just can’t seem to impart any feeling to the music. It is “sterile”. Perfectly executed, without emotion….why is that?

    The other failure I’ve seen repeatedly in otherwise brilliant people is to realize two very important things.

    1.) somebody with an 80 IQ who has done the same thing for a long time will most likely know more about it than you.
    2.) 80 IQ+good data>> 160+bad data

  87. >I have a friend who plays guitar, but he just can’t seem to impart any feeling to the music. It is “sterile”. Perfectly executed, without emotion….why is that?

    Excessively regular timing will produce that effect. If you analyze musical performance at a high enough temporal resolution you find that expressive musicians are slightly off-timing (and off-pitching) in subtle patterns of tension and release. The original work in this area was done to figure out how to give drum machines a more natural, human sound.

  88. Has anyone else noticed that the timestamps on comments seems to be off?

    It seems to be one hour off the actual time the comments are posted. I am assuming this is eastern standard time.

    Perhaps the server is using central time, I don’t know. But I thought Eric lived in the eastern zone.

  89. >Excessively regular timing will produce that effect. If you analyze musical performance at a high enough temporal resolution you find that expressive musicians are slightly off-timing (and off-pitching) in subtle patterns of tension and release. The original work in this area was done to figure out how to give drum machines a more natural, human sound.

    Yes, but why the inability to impart those time/pitch variance “emotions”. He’s great otherwise, but no matter how he tries he can’t seem to defeat his internal clock. That was more the point I was trying to make. Then there is the issue of when do the variances become excessive, and how does one process this information. What is it about one brain that creates perfect mathematically correct timing, while another effortlessly adds “feeling”….and drum machines….blech!

    perhaps my sound processor is just defective and finds the perfection annoying like a painting with too much symmetry.

    but I digress.

  90. >Perhaps the server is using central time, I don’t know. But I thought Eric lived in the eastern zone.

    I am on Eastern time, as is the blog’s webserver in South Carolina. Could this be a Daylight Savings Time effect? I can never remember when we’re on that or what the direction of the change is.

    UPDATE: Problem solved. For some reason my blog engine defaulted to UTC-5 rather than EST/DST. I’ve fixed this.

  91. Well, I’ve actually gone away from computers/tech because I don’t want to get into the “IT field” so to speak. I am a hobbyist and I also have a strong sense of independence. I’d rather spend my small leisure time coding cool little scripts in Python than work fixed hours in a corporate office working at the computer constantly.

    Therefore I’m now graduating in Law to get away from the computer. It seems to be one field where you are a relatively independent professional while still offering differing career growth paths.

    Is this a characteristic of geeks? That we need more independence than the average tech-oriented individual who doesn’t mind spending his life as a relatively powerless employee in a corporate set up? It’s not a sense of entitlement or arrogance, I think, but more to do with our mental make-up.

  92. @esr – are you aware of any sort of research mapping the correlation between pattern recognition abilities and overall IQ? I was intuitively guessing there’s a very strong correlation, until I figured out that, at least for me, a VERY good pattern recognition ability, maps to an IQ that seems to be around 130-135 (at least based on online tests mentioned in this thread). So that hypothesis was busted somewhat.

  93. > significant portions of what would otherwise be motor-control circuitry in my right parietal lobe has been coopted

    Reminds me of a character from Larry Niven’s The Magic Goes Away:

    Clubfoot – The Warlock’s apprentice. A Native American named after a deformity of his foot that he could have cured long ago but it would have cost him half his power.

  94. >silvermine-I think raising a couple of intelligent kids and not subjecting them to the mindless indoctrination machine we call education is one of the highest contributions you could make to this world. Thank you!

    >hari-Is this a characteristic of geeks? That we need more independence than the average tech-oriented individual who doesn’t mind spending his life as a relatively powerless employee in a corporate set up? It’s not a sense of entitlement or arrogance, I think, but more to do with our mental make-up.

    I can only speak for myself of course. I’ve been doing free lance work for the last 10 years. I’m actually contemplating a return to the corporate world to meet some short term goals. In the end for me it’s all about independence. The ability to be able to work on what interests me and to own my time as much as possible. To do this you have to get out of the corporate structure. So much of that world is empty wasted time. As a consultant, the wasted time/productive time ratio is much better, and I typically have more time to work on my own interests. I’m guessing it is the same for most creative people. Whether that is arrogance, a personality disorder or some other pathology…..

    A while back there was a discussion about the FU fund…. It can be significantly less than 1 million depending on your requirements. Unfortunately, the necessary lack of division of labor means you spend more time attending to keeping yourself fed and warm….but you can think about whatever you like while doing these things. So rather than the FU fund I would suggest aiming for the FU lifestyle. If you do you will be more likely to amass the FU fund anyway.

  95. > Boy do I understand that. Expecting rational (and honest) behavior from others, and not getting it, can be a rage inducing experience.

    Why the rage? People are so far from rational that it’s hard to imagine a rational reason for expecting rational behavior from them.

    People are mostly rationalizing and satisficing. The latter is actually far more reasonable than the “people should be rational” folks believe.

    FWIW – I’ve found that the “expect rational” folks tend to actually just use “rational” forms but their actual arguments/positions are not all that rational. “What’s the best car?” often smokes them out.

    > You live and learn, and most of all learn to expect less from your fellow man. At some point you realize that certain people can only be defeated, not reasoned with.

    There’s a third option – persuasion.

  96. TMR Says:
    > As a consultant, the wasted time/productive time ratio is much better

    What are good ways to find consulting jobs? I need to stay out of the corporate work camps.

  97. TechTech – see my first post.

    Find what YOU want to do, then figure out a way to make a living at it. You have one life, one span of hours. Why waste it making yourself miserable for a paycheck, rather than spending it on doing what you enjoy doing.

    Find a low time commitment gig to keep you in rice and beans, then bootstrap yourself into doing what you enjoy doing. Then figure out a way to make a living at it.

    Now, this may be the equivalent of Cory Doctorow Advice on selling books. Eric and I have done this with our lives, and it may be that you have to be like he or I (and we’re fairly similar in ways other than just measured IQ scores) to make it work.

    However, the sample size is small enough that more experimentation is required.

    “We’re all living on borrowed time. The trick is finding work of sufficient interest to pay off the debt.” – John M. Ford.

  98. >What are good ways to find consulting jobs? I need to stay out of the corporate work camps.

    It depends on what you do. I had to figure that one out myself…took a couple years to figure out how to market my skills. I’m going to give you the outline version of what works for me. Try to apply it to what you do.

    For the first couple years I relied on old business contacts and word of mouth. I still do to a great extent. I spent a lot of time marketing my skills to the wrong people. People who I thought would be allies, but turns out they see me as competition…I’m not really, but they all think they can do my job, so why pay somebody else for it right? Make sure your potential allies don’t view you as a cost to be cut and added to their bottom line.

    Then I figured out that the real people I needed to market to were those that needed me to secure deals of their own. Now I’m the rain maker. You get a few of these types feeding you leads. Reputation is everything, and you must work to maintain business relationships. This sometimes means taking a hit personally to protect your pipeline.

    It’s not easy, and I didn’t just sit down and analyze the problem. It’s a try and see type thing. Unfortunately right now, most of my market is frightened to death and not doing any new projects. Another thing….corporations are a pain, but you will learn to appreciate them as clients. They pay….eventually. They also tend to have a far more realistic idea of what it costs to get things done.

    FWIW

  99. >FWIW – I’ve found that the “expect rational” folks tend to actually just use “rational” forms but their actual arguments/positions are not all that rational. “What’s the best car?” often smokes them out.

    I had to learn this too. Many times what appears irrational from my perspective is perfectly rational from the individuals perspective. It’s a weakness of western thought that there is one correct answer. People of a logical and scientific bent tend to have this blind spot.

    I have adapted a more eastern view of these things. I don’t get angry at people anymore than I get upset at an animal acting out of instinct. They do what they do …and I do what I do. If they try to harm me…I act to protect myself. Otherwise live and let live.

    The best car=paid for

  100. Ken Burnside Says:
    > Find what YOU want to do, then figure out a way to make a living at it.

    Already there; I’m on your step 4. Its taking longer than I’d hoped, and I have kids to feed. Can I ask, is Ad Astra your primary source of income?

    TMR Says:
    > It depends on what you do. I had to figure that one out myself…

    Can I ask, what do you do? From your description it sounds like the ability to network is most of the consulting equation. I only figured out networking less than a year ago. I suppose I’ll start going to software users’ groups and start offering to work for minimum wage until I bootstrap a network of contacts. (Or maybe I’ll offer to work for $200/hr to make a splash).

    ———-

    My real talent is swooping in and saving the day. I can ask a few questions, take home the manual for the thing I’ve never heard of, come back the next day and point to the sentence in the manual that’s the cause of the problem. (I’ve literally done that before).

    I’m also a pretty good software designer and maintainer, but I only love doing that long-term at home — not in a corporate environment.

    The trouble is, how do you market “hire me for $1000/hr twice a year at those times when you are tired of being stuck”.

  101. >Can I ask, what do you do?

    sure…I design things and get them produced. My edge is being a technical type who has enough of an artistic sense to make something that doesn’t look like crap. I’m weird that way. I’m dead in the middle on the left right brain test. I was far to the right before my engineering educational adventure.

    I do a lot of free form plastic part design. I’m a “high level” programmer in that respect. I have also done enough actual coding in the past to understand why cad software has some of the problems it does. This helps in the work around dept. I’m also a little better than most at structuring the file so it works right. I’m not even remotely what you would call a software hacker. I’m more of a hardware hack. I play around with robotics and automation too. I build prototypes.

    When I left the corporate scene, I had managed to make myself indispensable on a project and they were willing to work with me. I still work for that company from time to time. From there it became a networking exercise. You also have to learn how to price things in an acceptable manner. Some people can only see the hourly rate, others want a flat price. You have to be flexible.

    Having kids or large financial obligations complicates things.

    Companies have not become as tolerant of free lance telecommuting as I thought they would have by now. Most of my clients are fairly small firms and the owners can see the advantages. The mid to large firms are still held captive by the mid level managers on a power trip.

    The real problem is providing health care and having a steady enough income to stay afloat. I’m only able to do what I do because my wife has a steady job that provides health care. My income is feast or famine. If I wanted to change that, I would have to hire a couple of guys, and spend all my time scrounging work for them.

    The other alternative is to find a good pimp. There are agencies that specialize in contract work at least in my realm. The problem is a lot of the work is on site, so you have to do a lot of TDY. It can be pretty lucrative if you are good, but they take a hefty cut.

    I personally would rather buy into an existing business that needed my expertise than try to go it alone. Grow the business and sell it…then take a few years off to look for a new adventure.

    If you really want off the treadmill, its unlikely to happen with wages.

  102. Ad Astra is the bulk of my income; the rest comes from freelance writing, freelance editing, Excel consulting, marketing consulting, and doing technical transcription work. I could probably cut out the freelancing, but I like having the security of multiple income streams in case one or more of them runs dry for a stretch.

  103. My IQ score is 150, and I place exactly as much weight on IQ scores as I place on phrenology. I’ve met far too many incompetent Mensans to do otherwise.

  104. > I place exactly as much weight on IQ scores as I place on phrenology.

    The shape of one’s skull should influence whether you shave your head.

  105. who says the guy needs to work hard? he sounds more in need of some fun with some smart friends.

  106. Now the real question is, how do we start channeling the spirit of Pan and start sleeping with legions of women?

  107. >Now the real question is, how do we start channeling the spirit of Pan and start sleeping with legions of women?

    step 1.) purchase rogain and apply liberally to your lower extremities.

    step 2.) purchase wine skin and large supply of 2 buck chuck

    step 3.) practice lucid dreaming……

  108. I have an interesting variant of the “curse”. Since the age of 4-5 I swallowed large amounts of information and have some sort of a pattern matching skill good enough to get 95% at Mensa’s Raven Test (i.e. just 1 right answer short of getting a membership), and with that I can emulate most common external symptoms of being smart i.e. quick problem-solving, fast learning and suchlike, but I have a dirty secret: I do not actually think. In the sense of the classical, if A follows from B and C contradicts D then etc. etc. etc. kind of logical thinking. I just don’t do that because it wasn’t necessary, neither at school, nor at work, nor even at the Raven Tests – pattern matching worked well enough. It is a really weird feeling. On one hand I often feel like a cheater because I was raised by a strongly rationalistic father who considers rational, logical thinking the most important factor in the value of a person and because I don’t do that, I often feel like a fake-intellectual, a fake-thinker. On the other hand just look at f.e. machine translation: the logical ways didn’t work and the pattern-matching engine of Google Translate does work so perhaps pattern matching is not necessarily an inferior skill to thinking. Chess masters pattern match a lot too.

    But of course there are situations in life where pattern matching doesn’t work because simply it is about something completely new and there are no patterns to match it against, and in those cases things get difficult.

    Anyway, what I wanted to say is that if you happen to know some folks who are smart 95% of the time and yet are capable of being totally thick in 5% of the time, not being able to understand something that’s really not that hard, then they are probably, just like me, aren’t thinkers but pattern-matchers and in those 5% of the cases your strategy of the getting the point accross is to instantly stop trying to explain the theory or logic of a thing and just find a practical example of it and try to liken it to something else this person already knows and he will catch up real fast, and then you can explain the logic or the theory when he already matched the general drift of the pattern.

  109. > Now the real question is, how do we start channeling the spirit of Pan and start sleeping with legions of women?

    No channeling is required – you ask them to sleep with you.

    Many women like sex with men. Some of them may like you and if you ask them, they’ll tell you. Some of the women who don’t want to sleep with you (regardless of reason – yes, including lesbians) will help you find other women will sleep with you if you don’t piss them off. (Hmm – I suspect that some will set you up for misery if you piss them off.) Some women will both sleep with you and help you find other women who will sleep with you.

    Some of your personal habits affect which women will sleep with you. (Yes, different women care about different things.) Decide whether those habits are more important to you than those women and don’t whine about the consequences of your decision.

  110. >I have a dirty secret: I do not actually think.

    Sorry, I don’t believe this. Your speech presentation would be impossible if you didn’t follow logic chains.

    Either there’s something about your representation of what “thinking” is that is incorrect, or your understanding of your own mental processes is limited and important parts of them are functional while not being introspectively visible to you. My bet is on some of both.

  111. >Some women will both sleep with you and help you find other women who will sleep with you.

    While this is true, it’s unusual. Don’t expect it.

  112. >>Some women will both sleep with you and help you find other women who will sleep with you.

    > While this is true, it’s unusual. Don’t expect it.

    Yes, “a few” would have been better word choice. And I should have mentioned the other possibilities, also with “a few”.

    However, the key point is “ask”, aka “if you don’t ask, you won’t receive” followed by “your choices have consequences – don’t whine if they’re unacceptable to you”.

    You’re not a jedi, so jedi mind tricks won’t get you laid. As far as rejection goes, yes, some/many women will turn you down. However, if you’re actually better than the guys who you look down on, your odds will be better than theirs, but only if you’re in the game. Those guys are.

  113. I enjoy a good time as much as the next guy.

    However, call me an old fashioned romantic, but……legions……seriously?

    If the mental connection and the chemistry aren’t there it’s just mutual masturbation with potentially unpleasant consequences.

    why bother?

    YMMV

  114. TMR> why bother?

    Uh, biological imperative?

    Not that I’d know much about that :^). I was just a little ahead of the Nerds are Hot thing.

  115. >Uh, biological imperative?

    See, I would have said “Because your crotch feels so good afterwards.” That’s how biological imperatives express themselves.

  116. TMR Says:
    > I’m dead in the middle on the left right brain test.

    Curious, I took a left/right brain test myself, and scored:

    Left Brain Dominance: (16)
    Right Brain Dominance: (16)

    I wonder if this explains why I see both sides of every argument.

  117. >Left Brain Dominance: (16) Right Brain Dominance: (16)

    Also my exact score. This didn’t surprise me; I’ve known I was ambibraineous since the late 1980s.

  118. Uh oh, I think that site is broken. Suspicious of the two exact same scores, I went back and entered random answers several times. Every resulting score was 16/16.

  119. >left/right brain thing

    I was a guinea pig when I was an undergrad. There was a guy doing his PHD on what makes engineers tick. We got the whole battery of tests as incoming freshmen. Then we got them again as seniors. I was an outlier. Most engineers are far left brain types. I was far right brain and then when I retested it had shifted to the middle. It wasn’t an online test.

    >Biological Imperative

    Yeah…I know…….I’ve got that too. My personality type probably plays a role here. I’m INTJ bordering on E. I don’t let people in that close so easily. There has to be more there than just the biological imperative for me.

  120. >I’m INTJ bordering on E. I don’t let people in that close so easily. There has to be more there than just the biological imperative for me.

    Interesting. I’d bet extroverts do in fact have more casual sex. And that would be a testable hypothesis for anyone with the resources to run a study.

  121. It’s important to separate what’s wrong with the world from what you need to do.

    What you need to do: maximize your capability. I agree with points #1 and #3 above, but my general assessment is: aggressively pursue the activities in the intersection of “stuff I can enjoy doing” and “stuff I can be good or great at.”

    Also, recognize that what’s wrong with the world isn’t unfairness — it’s that you’re living in a dying civilization that’s slowly slipping into third world levels of incompetence, selfishness, disorganization, corruption and illiteracy.

  122. Brett Stevens: Wow, you’re a cheery fellow ;^).

    And I’d suggest that almost everything that is “stuff I can be good or great at” intersects with “stuff I can enjoy doing.” I’ve never met anybody who was really good at something that didn’t at least initially enjoy the hell out of it (burn out being an after effect of “too much of a good thing” or something similar).

  123. I’ve taken informal IQ tests a couple of times and am usually 142-146ish. I’m sure a more formal test would provide more accurate results (maybe higher, probably lower) but, after taking a couple, I’ve lost the interest it would require for me to sit through another IQ test.

    I feel pretty stupid sometimes and self-confidence can be a problem for me. However, I also realize that I’m probably going to score better and get it quicker than anyone else in the room (sometimes not, and when I don’t get it – I really don’t get it). I realize that those statements contradict each other a bit but, I suspect most readers of this blog will get it.

    When I’ve been in those situations where I feel like a dunce, it usually comes down to the problem/subject/etc is put forward in a framework that I’m not expecting or not oriented to. Once I re-map things a bit everything is good.

    I tend to see myself as a jack of all trades. I’ve excelled at management, technical roles, customer presentations, software test, project management, and more. I debugged code for about 2 years (I learned java on the job after messing around with Perl and a proprietary language for a year or so) and was close to the top of the group in my bug resolution numbers (time to resolution and number of bugs). However, I lose interest fairly quickly and, because I change jobs when I lose interest, my career is perpetually mid-level.

    I’m not an expert in anything, but I can do anything and probably do it as well as, or significantly better than, average. I’ve started and stopped college for years until now, I just take courses that interest me and I don’t really care about a degree (I’m the HS grad that has Phd’s, MBAs, etc as peers and all of them assume I’m the same unless I tell them I’m not. That’s always an awkward conversation: “Yeah, I got my Phd/MBA/Bachelors at XYZ. Where’d you go to school? What’s your degree?” Sometimes I tell them I got my GED a few years back just to mess with them.

    I’m coming up on my threshold for my current field of employment and I can see the writing on the wall. Eventually, I’ll change careers just to do something different and get interested again. I could stay where I’m at and advance with very little effort but the tedium and stress of dealing with a technology/field that no longer interests me is starting to wear me thin.

    One day, I may find the career that will hold my interest and that will be nice I think.

    Re-reading this comment, it all seems very self-absorbed and silly. I should probably have just remained in lurk mode but there’s no one I really can say these things too in person so, I suppose posting this semi-anonymously on the comments section of a blog I thoroughly enjoy is o.k. Or, it’s just whining. Either way. . .

    Kelly

  124. Don’t have a lot of time so have not read all the comments. Question, can you Journal? If you can keep a daily log of your actions, emotions, and ideas, then I can recommend Peter Mcwilliams Life 101 series http://www.mcwilliams.com/books/life1/lf1_1a.htm. These plus ESR’s CatB essays and Buckminster Fuller’s Critical Path, R A Wilson The New Inquisition, The Illuminati Papers, Prometheus Rising, and maybe Hoffsteader Metamagical Themas (sic) and Godel Escher Bach should give you most of the tools needed to gain some control of your life. If you find you are sad alot, esp without reason then talk to your Dr. If you can’t journal you can’t keep an experimental record, so get checked for Attention Deficit Disorder (SPECT Scan). Never give up. The only time better to be alive, at least in terms of potential wonder, is tomorrow. Good luck M=)

    p.s. I have the feeling I’m missing some resources to recommend, if so I’ll be back later the next time I match thinking about your issue with a few minutes of free time and an open comp. m=)

  125. Go have fun,
    I’m a pretty smart guy probably average, not as smart as most of the brains on this blog.I moved to Aspen Co. in the late 70’s and had fun,learned to ski, white water raft/kayak,mountian climb/trek, early eighties moved to Maui and became a world class windsurfer,mountian biker,yacht racer etc. Now I am a world class dad husband friend son brother. I own a small catering business. I can now hang with kanaka’s that aren’t as “smart”,knowledgeable, or well read as I am because I understand that “brains” aren’t all that or, else we wouldn’t be collapsing as we are.Every month there are stories about some “successful brain” that was killed by falling off a cliff while taking a picture,going into big surf,lost while hiking,swallowed by shore break-rip current etc. Question is can you feed yourself? after hurricane Iniki the smart, rich successful were in the FEMA tents crying, na kanaka maoli were in their neighborhoods with h20 from coconuts blue tarps, generators etc. One big camping trip (3-8 months no utilities!). How is your relationship with your fellow humans and aina (land). These are the important things in life, this is what is meant by the term “get real” A hui hou malama pono

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