The fraud of being smart

I’m not exactly a geek but I’m slightly unusual.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

For the length of my short life, I’ve sought to identify and find balance in everything I do but is there even such a thing? Does balance really exist or is it akin to seeking perfection — a futile attempt at becoming infallible?

I’ve often been validated by colleagues that I’m very good at teamwork, problem-solving, ideation and design. This is something I’ve allowed myself to embrace by telling myself that “I’m Smart”.

Overconfidence sucks

I know this sounds like an indulgence in vanity but it’s my own way of propping my confidence whenever a molehill turns into a mountain. When I’m faced with situations to which I have difficulty finding answers, the first thing I do is subconsciously sulk, asking myself “If I’m so good then why can’t I fix this on my own?” Then, I ask for help.

There’s a reason why collaboration beats a singular focus. There is always the danger of overestimating ones own abilities and underestimating your limitations. There’s also the constant issue of unconscious bias.

Not everyone is as introspective as they think and as much as I am a natural empath, an introspective person confronting the limitations of my own experiences and unconscious biases I have, admitting defeat is hard.

Something about me is a living contradiction and I don’t know where that comes from. I recently read somewhere that positive people also have a lot of negative thoughts but they just don’t dwell on those thoughts, they are able to act on the positives instead. They know how to compartmentalise.

Tyranny of the eyes

Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash

No one likes to be compared with others but we’re all guilty of this. Most of us wouldn’t admit this but there’s a reason why envy is one of the 7 deadly sins.

When we see more value in what someone else has, what a colleague is achieving, the skill and/or talent that exist in our mates, we are only devaluing our own sleeves. The more qualitative information I find in the work I do and throughout conversations each day, the more I realise that context is the most important factor yet it’s subconsciously not the first thing we consider. Our eyes lie to us.

Like 99.9% of humans, I also compare myself with others. Consciously, it’s clear that I do not envy but subconsciously…

I try not to want what someone else has. I understand that everything is attainable but for every outcome, there is a price, there is a context. Am I willing to make that choice? Am I able to pay the price?

I gauge myself by how far I’ve come from where I used to be. For me, life has to evolve, yesterday should be a shadow of today and today should show but a scant reflection of my past. Today should not be a mirror for yesterday.

The dead don’t dream

Two weeks ago, I took my first holiday in almost 4 years. I shut down my mind and my hands, it was initially a futile attempt at rest but eventually, I gave in. Letting myself enjoy time with my wife and kids was essential to reevaluating my priorities and competencies. I faced the truth of what I value the most and came to a clearer understanding of whom I am becoming.

I now know what I didn’t know but at the price of losing faith in the knowledge of what I already know. Examining myself and my journey from a childhood in Nigeria to fatherhood in Australia. I am still the same wild-eyed hopeful kid and yet I am a completely different man. It doesn’t really make any sense but it’s still true. I have changed and yet I am still the same.

The problem with being smart

I have succeeded at everything I’ve ever been committed to but I’ve also failed at everything I‘m clearly good at. I push on, I have persisted.

I’m not as good as I thought I was but I’m also not as bad as I could become. Refusing to dwell on what can hurt me. I have received praise, criticism, accolades and abuse. I have never been the most eye-catching designer in the room, I am usually not the smartest person at work and that’s okay, I’m still a very smart person but I’m not a polymath.

I’m smart and I love being around smart people. Proximity to wisdom of others, tends to improve yours.

However, the challenge with that is when you’re surrounded by smart people, the least smart tends to feel really dumb. Unfortunately, thats just life.

The dumbest smart person?

In my line of work, everyone is cerebral. We’re all smart. There are certainly no dummies — only varying levels of self-confidence and experience. I always expect to work with groups of other smart people and that’s okay.

Acknowledging the greatness of others does not diminish my own.



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Ola Tawose

Ola Tawose

UX/UI Designer. Constantly learning from the past and revising the limits of my unexplored ignorance. @herodownunder