Why Do Intelligent People Fail?

From: Why do intelligent people fail? (Sternberg, 1986) As you will see from this array many of these overlap into social and emotional intelligence, or have to do with the failure to find balance between Sternberg’s components of his Successful Intelligence – analytical, creative, and practical components.

1. Lack of Motivation: A talent is irrelevant if a person is not motivated to use it.  Motivation may be external (for example, social approval) or internal (satisfaction from a job well done).  External sources tend to be transient, while internal sources tend to produce more consistent performance.

2. Lack of Impulse Control: Habitual impulsiveness gets in the way of optimal performance. Some people do not bring their full intellectual resources to bear on a problem, but go with the first solution that pops into their heads.

3. Lack of perseverance and too much perseveration: Some people give up to easily, while others are unable to stop even when the quest will be fruitless.

4. Using the wrong abilities: People may not be using the right abilities for the tasks in which they are engaged.

5. Inability to translate thought into action: Some people seem buried in thought.  They have good ideas but rarely seem able to do anything about them.

6. Lack of product orientation: some people seem more concerned about the process rather than the result of the activity.

7. Inability to complete tasks:  For some people nothing ever draws to a close.  Perhaps it’s a fear of what they would do next or fear of becoming hopelessly enmeshed in detail.

8. Failure to initiate: Still others are unwilling or unable to initiate a project.  It may be indecision or fear of commitment.

9. Fear of Failure:  People may not reach their intellectual performance because they avoid the really important challenges in life.

10. Procrastination.  Some people are unable to act without pressure.  They may also look for little things to do in order to put off the big ones.

11.  Misattribution of blame.  Some people always blame themselves for even the slightest mishap.  Some always blame others.

12.  Excessive self-pity: Some people spend more time feeling sorry for themselves than expending the effort necessary to overcome the problem.

13. Excessive dependency: Some people expect others to do for them what they ought to be doing for themselves.

14. Wallowing in personal difficulties:  Some people let their personal difficulties interfere grossly with their work. During the course of life, one can expect some real joys and some real sorrows.  Maintaining a proper perspective is difficult.

15.  Distractibility and lack of concentration: Even some intelligent people have very short attention spans.

16.  Spreading oneself too thin or too thick:  Undertaking too many activities may result in none being completed on time.  Undertaking too few can also result in missed opportunities and reduced levels of accomplishment.

17.  Inability to delay gratification: Some people reward themselves and are rewarded by others for finishing small tasks, while avoiding bigger tasks that would earn them larger rewards.

18.  Inability to see the forest through the trees: some people become obsessed with details and are either unwilling or unable to see or deal with the larger picture in the projects they undertake.

19. Lack of balance between critical/analytic thinking and creative/synthetic thinking:  It is important for people to learn what kind of thinking is expected of them in each situation.

20.  Too little or too much self-confidence:  Lack of self- confidence can gnaw away at a person’s ability to get things done and may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Conversely, individuals with too much self-confidence may not know when to admit they are wrong or in need of self-improvement.


Retrieved from http://thesecondprinciple.com/optimal-learning/sternbergs-views-intelligence/

2 thoughts on “Why Do Intelligent People Fail?

  1. Having assumed the usual criteria for defining success, I think it’s those criteria which exclude the intelligent from achieving it. For example:
    Demonstrating admiration for the boss/teacher etc.
    Completing homework/extra weekend work neatly and handing it up on time uncomplainingly.
    Adhering rigidly to the rules because they are rules.
    Participating in “echo chamber” communication (e.g. the “growth mindset” fad).
    Accepting conformity as leadership.
    Needing to collaborate to solve difficult problems.
    Moral martyrdom “I work 25 hours a day because I’m so professional and care about the needs of my….”
    and of course emotional intelligence or sycophancy as it once was called.

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