For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”  1 Corinthians 1:19 

 The world is full of smart people.  I admire them – they do things so easily. They never seemed to break a sweat getting a good grade or accomplishing amazing things. I think about Mozart, for example, who learned the basics of piano at age 3 and wrote his first minuet at age 5.

But raw intellect is not a guarantee of success. Thomas Sowell, in his book Discrimination and Disparities, cites a study of 1,470 people with IQ’s over 140, or the top 1 percent. Only some of them had successful careers; the rest had modest achievements and 20 percent were labeled disappointments.

Of the disappointment group, what may have been missing, according to Sowell, was “simply someone to point an individual in the right direction.”

Our educational system has an almost binary system for determining intelligence:  reading and math.  In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardener changed the scene when he developed 9 categoriesof indicators of when a person is “smart”:

  • Linguistic (“word smart”)
  • Logical mathematical (“number/reasoning smart”)
  • Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  • Musical intelligence (“sound smart”)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (“self-smart”)
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)
  • Existential (“life or street smart”)

Gardener’s work has been largely ignored over the past 40 years. The SAT’s (a college entrance exam)  tests only two subjects: verbal and math.  No other area of intellect is tested.

In fact, the other 7 forms of “smarts” are often dismissed as just being “soft-skills”, yet they play a role in our culture and history. For example, you may not have the mathematical intelligence to figure out how fast the universe is expanding, but if you are “people smart”, you can find the right person who can do it.

If you’ve encountered a gifted musician, you realize that their talent is not a skill that can be learned.

The same goes for artists – we have two in my family who are incredibly talented. Yet I can’t draw a good stick-man and couldn’t achieve any level of artistic excellence no matter how long I studies or was taught.

I’ve addressed this topic a couple of different ways in my posts on Soft SkillsHumanics and Passion This is about exploring what a young person can and should aspire to in life.  One of these, though, has a downside due to the invasion of the digital world – language intelligence.

For the next generation, it is important to realize that not everyone is wired to study Black Holes in a graduate astrophysics course at Harvard.  I actually have a friend who did that.  She later dropped out of the PhD program at Harvard and became a ski instructor in Sun Valley, Idaho.

That point was brought home to me by Alfred Coates, a distinguished law professor at UNC – Chapel Hill who gave the commencement speech at my graduation.

Albert distinguished himself in academia, but he also had a homespun nature. His commencement story was about a nearby farmer who had solved a problem in an ingenious way.

When Albert complimented the farmer on his solution, the farmer replied:  “Well, Albert, those of us who don’t have good book sense sometimes just have to use our heads!”  Well said. Sometimes academics gets in the way of common sense. Just saying…

It comes down to the age-old question:  “What do I want to be when I grow up?”  I still ask that question at age LXXV.  As Sowell noted, one element that was lacking for high IQ people to succeed was having someone point them in the right direction.

My tongue in cheek analogy is that a 6-foot 6-inch 350-pound man who has a passion to be a gymnast might want to reconsider some other sport. His size makes him a poor candidate no matter how hard he tries.

The challenge is to help a mentee realize his potential by guiding them in assessing where they have strengths and in what fields they should consider for careers.  It can change their life.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can be that one person that is lacking in a mentee’s life to help him get pointed in the right direction for success in life.

FURTHER READING 9 Categories of Intelligence

Discrimination and Disparitiesby Thomas Sowell (2018)

WORSHIP:  Listen to Glorious Dayby Casting Crowns.

MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to

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