Not That Smart

It’s hard to admit, but there’s a good chance you know that feeling: You hang out with a friend, a co-worker or you listen to a celebrity and you think to yourself: “Wow .. that person is kinda dumb!”

It may sound like I’m an arrogant psycho, but I think it’s quite natural that we compare ourselves to our peers. Maybe it’s more of a male thing because we try to figure out where we stand in the social hierarchy. And I’m sure a big part of that behavior is learned during all of our school years where we’re constantly being measured against others in this way.

It’s not a great feeling if you feel like you’re falling behind.
But it’s dangerous to think you’re superior, too. Because you might be wrong.
I watched a video where strangers ranked their intelligence, and it showed how dangerous prejudice and overconfidence can be.

When I was around 20, my confidence in how smart I am was higher than now, 10 years later.
Maybe this was youthful arrogance. Or the fact that getting good grades at school wasn’t super hard for me, and I saw others struggling.

But now I know: I didn’t know shit back then (and I still don’t, really). My beliefs and ideas were all over the place. I had some niche knowledge about music theory or history that most others didn’t have, I spoke three languages fluently and would memorize reasonably well what I had read in books – but none of that made me genuinely smart.

Looking back, I’m glad I at least never felt the need to brag or put others down because they didn’t know something. I’ve always been self-critical enough to not get cocky or overly self-confident (probably too self-critical).

Here’s the point I want to make: I believe we have the tendency to overestimate how smart and wise we are, or conversely underestimate others.

Why do we think we’re smart, then?

Is it because it’s easier to spot cognitive biases in others? Probably (it’s easy to see inconsistencies in their arguments, confirmation bias, strawman arguments etc.).

Another reason might be this: We tend to place more value on knowledge in certain areas (else we wouldn’t be knowledgeable in this field), and we might lose respect if someone doesn’t know anything about it.
For example, I’m generally up to date when it comes to politics and the economy, and I can catch myself thinking less of someone who tells me they don’t read any news because it’s boring to them.
But just because someone doesn’t care about world politics and the stock market doesn’t make them any less intelligent – they probably have several other areas they know much more about than myself.

Also, what I noticed is some people overvalue theoretical knowledge vs. practical knowledge. An academic with a lot of theoretical knowledge might know a ton of historical facts or trivia about European architecture. But nowadays I honestly value people more who can fix a sink or build a shelf themselves. I’ve grown to dislike people who memorize a plethora of facts in one niche area and try to stir every conversation to that area. These people seem to care most about being perceived as intelligent, it comes off as pretty narcissistic. There’s no actual conversation, they don’t listen to you – they just wait for their moment to speak and will start rattling off numbers and facts they memorized (Neil DeGrasse Tyson comes to mind, who sometimes will just wait for his turn to give you “mind-blowing space facts”. Sure, he’s an entertainer, but it makes me cringe).

I feel that truly smart, wise and accomplished people don’t need that, they don’t need to “blow your mind” in a conversation. They don’t usually have many strong opinions like “this is good and this is bad”. They’ll be careful with their words and say “I don’t know” a lot.

I think it’s a good rule of thumb to remember: I’m not that smart!
Compared to everything I could know, I only know so, so, so little.

Underestimating Celebrities

For some reason, the said “this person is dumb” effect seems to be especially prevalent with famous people in entertainment, for instance comedians or influencers. When reading comments below YouTube videos, I’m appalled at how readily people shit on whoever is talking and make fun of how “dumb and ignorant” they are.

Here are some examples that come to mind:

  • Joe Rogan (there’s a whole subreddit mostly shitting on him, and regular articles on how idiotic he is apparently. And sure, I think some of what he says isn’t that smart – But how can you always be accurate if you talk for hundreds and hundreds of hours? It’s his job to be entertaining, not 100% right. Plus, he’s super eclectic, very well read, a good interviewer, he knows everything about martial arts)
  • Brendan Schaub (another podcaster/comedian. People hate him so much in all comment sections – I don’t love his comedy either, but try doing what he does after a UFC career (and probably brain damage). His work ethic is inspiring and he knows a ton about sports and entertainment, plus he has solid comedic intuition and a good heart, I believe).
  • Kim Kardashian (People saying she’s just famous because of her sex tape don’t get it. Sure, her mother and family kind of built her up … But I believe people underestimate her intelligence and marketing prowess).
  • Jake and Logan Paul (They’re good at making people hate them, but they’re not dumb at all when you hear them talk for a bit – they figured out the entertainment game and play it well).

I could name many more, but here’s the reality: Most of these people, even the TikTok Influencers, are way smarter than you think. It’s really hard to be a successful influencer and content creator. You need to understand human psychology quite well to anticipate what people will click on.
Some play dumb and naive, too. It’s the brand they built and it works for them.
Here’s my guess: You gotta be top 20% in intelligence to be a successful entertainer. Plus have a crazy work ethic. Plus be lucky, sure.

Is this true for athletes and actors as well? Not always, sure. But even in sports, I feel the top ones like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Tom Brady are super smart on top of their athletic abilities.

Let’s be real: A lot of it is jealousy when shitting on celebrities, and we don’t feel bad prodding them because we think they’re already having it too good.

By the way: If you want to hear more (personal) thoughts on this topic as well as extra segments and ASMR recommendations, you can check out my Patreon-only ASMR Bedtime Show. 

💜 What I’ve Enjoyed

I listened to music basically non-stop this week, mostly Indie Rock and Funk, and discovered two new amazing Artists/Bands:

  • Men I Trust is an Indie Rock Band from Montreal – I love their somewhat melancholic retro songs such as this one
  • Mndsgn (apprently it’s pronounced “mind design”) released a supper trippy jazzy album called Rare Pleasure – loved it!

😴 What might help you find calm

Intentional ASMR Picks:

  • This was probably the most popular ASMR video last week and it’s quite unique: ASMR Rich’s Gun Sounds (it’s not for everyone, though). He made another one today with ammo sounds
  • I enjoyed this nice trigger compilation with Jojo and some strange massage devices
  • Didn’t know this channel yet, but I liked it: Creative chaotic haircut with household items by Miss Manganese

Unintentional ASMR Picks: