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What exactly does it mean to be smart? Does it mean simply having a high IQ? Significant talents? An above-average amount of creativity?
Maybe it’s none of those things. Maybe it’s all of those things. We don’t really know, since what we think of when we say someone is smart isn’t a specific, measurable trait: it’s more of a combination of all of the above, plus other characteristics that we may not even be aware of.
But regardless of how smartness is achieved, there are some general trends and patterns to how smart people behave—some are observable just by looking at and being around smart people, and others require actual research to find.
In this post, we’ll take a look at six different things that smart people generally do, with an emphasis on traits that benefit entrepreneurs. If you already do these things, keep it up Einstein. If you don’t, I have a hunch that you’ll probably want to start implementing the six lessons below once you’re through reading this post :).
1. Smart People Learn From OTHERs’ Mistakes, Not Just Their Own
Learn from the mistakes of others. You don’t have time to make them all yourself. – Anonymous
This quote is one that I remember reading in a book quite a few years ago. I’ve looked it up since, and unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if anybody knows who it can be attributed to, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable.
The gist of this idea is that smart people often don’t make the same mistakes that others have already. They read up on their industry, learn from the stories of other successful (and even, sometimes more importantly, unsuccessful people) and find out what they should not do in order to succeed in whatever industry they are in.
However, that’s not to say that smart people don’t also learn from their own mistakes. That adage is still very much true. Smart people just take it a step further to include pitfalls that other people have already fallen into.
2. Smart People Reward Themselves
Yes, it’s a good idea to reinvest the profits you make back into your business. But it’s also a good idea to spend a portion of that money on yourself.
Smart people recognize the need to reward themselves.
After all, nobody really starts a business to make money. Instead, people start businesses to achieve something, like happiness or financial security: money is only one of the tools to help them reach their goal. It is not the goal itself.
So once you start making money from your business, make sure you’re using at least a small portion of it to invest in yourself and your own happiness.
That investment could be in the form of a new piece of clothing, a charity donation, a weekend trip, or even a gift for someone else like a family member, if that’s what makes you happy. Point being: spend some money on something you want to spend it on.
Note: Please don’t take this to mean that I’m recommending up-and-coming entrepreneurs break the bank on a designer suit. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, I’m advising that you use only a very small chunk of profits (an amount that will not affect cash flow significantly) for this type of self-reward.
3. Smart People Evaluate Their Options
Rushing into something, especially where your business is concerned, is never a good idea. The choices you take and the decisions you make are what define the trajectory and shape of your entrepreneurial career: so never put yourself in a position to choose the wrong path of action by rushing a choice.
That’s why when faced with a decision, smart people evaluate each option at hand before deciding on any one.
Let’s say, for instance, that you’re trying to find a supplier for a subscription-box business. Try each of the suppliers you’ve shortlisted and assess various traits for each: their professionalism, speed of service, consistency, quality control, etc. Then, and only then, decide on the right supplier.
Another common example would be hiring a new employee. Interview each of the candidates beforehand—you might even consider giving the 2-3 of the best ones a paid trial run—and don’t sign one on until you’re sure he or she will help you achieve your business goals
The basic idea is to dodge making bad choices by always trying out various options before deciding on a path of action.
Obviously, one can never 100% avoid bad choices, but someone who does spend more time and effort considering each option will be able to significantly minimize the number of bad choices he or she makes along the way.
4. Smart People Go to Bed Later
This study was actually one of the more interesting pieces I’ve read recently. Research by one evolutionary biologist (pdf) suggested that a higher childhood IQ correlated with later sleeping times.
The analysis found that children (chosen from across North America, taking into account various socioeconomic backgrounds) were more likely to sleep later if they had a higher IQ.
For instance, the kids with an IQ of less than 75 went to bed at around 11:41 PM on weekdays and 12:35 AM on weekends. Kids with an IQ of greater than 125 went to bed at around 12:29 on weekdays and 1:44 AM on weekends.
The wakeup times were also later for the higher IQ kids, who got up at 7:52 AM and 11:07 AM on weekends, respectively, while the lower IQ kids got up at 7:20 AM and 10:09 AM. These trends continued into early adulthood. The study hypothesized that people with higher intelligence would be more likely to buck the trend set by our evolutionary predisposition to go to bed when the sun goes down.
Note: As we discussed in the introduction, IQ isn’t the end-all and be-all of being smart, nor does this mean that you have to stay up late to have high intelligence, or vice versa. This is, after all, just one study and hypothesis. But it certainly does offer some interesting analysis of why certain people burn the midnight oil.
5. Smart People Always Go the Distance
When you signed up to be an entrepreneur, you should have already known that it would most likely be a long, tough journey, and that you’d definitely see the darkness before the dawn.
Smart people realize that too: They know that success doesn’t happen overnight, so they work constantly until it does happen. In other words, they never give up.
I know that sounds cliché, but that’s only because it’s so true. If you’re not planning to stick out the lean times, then you almost definitely won’t be around to enjoy the prosperous ones.
6. Smart People Challenge Norms
If, in the early 1800s, you had told someone that in two centuries humans would be flying in the sky in gigantic metal tubes, you’d probably be cast out of society as a nutcase.
But here we are, 200 years later, flying around in the sky in gigantic metal tubes. Who knew?
Smart people don’t simply accept something because it’s “common knowledge” or because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Instead, smart people challenge norms and fight the naysayers.
Because of this, people will inevitably believe that some smart people are crazy, just like the people of Dayton thought Orville and Wilbur Wright were insane for trying to fly.
But if the Wright brothers or any number of people working to achieve what once seemed impossible had listened to their critics, maybe humanity wouldn’t have the ability to fly around in giant metal tubes in 2015.
Do you have any more ideas of the things that smart, successful people do that most others don’t? If so, please do share in the comments below!