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Your high IQ might kill your startup (2010) (jamiebegin.com)
212 points by SworDsy on July 5, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 128 comments

IMHO, to continually put "success" above everything else in your life and slave away towards that goal as the ultimate redemption in everything is a waste of your time and therefore your life.

It can be such as easy sell, especially to people with low self-esteem... if only you were rich, had a great body, had success with the opposite sex, etc., etc. And always underlying it, but never spoken of, is the vain and self centered attempt to compare yourself to others and come out on top.

When these goals are achieved, rarely does anyone publicly say that it wasn't worth it. It's like a bad marriage rotting from the inside. No one wants to admit to being a fool. So stuff like this propagate, it's a beautiful lie. Rather than think of how awesome your life will be if you just work a little harder and achieve success, you might as well be talking about how great heaven will be as long as you follow some arbitrary religious text.

It's like you think someone out there is keeping score, and it's all some type of game which you can win. We came from nature, and in nature, nobody keeps score. Animals live and die on the basis of stupid luck all the time. On your death bed you probably won't be looking over your life and decide whether it was worthwhile or not, and give yourself some report card on it. Instead you more likely won't even remember more than bits and pieces, and then eventually die and forget it all.

The hero in the story is an Israeli soldier who decided to risk his life over a few dollars in his pocket. To do what, prove he was macho? He was really stupid in my book. And we're supposed to, according to the author, look up to this man? Train all our lives as a knife fighter, so we, too, can take dumb risks and be lucky enough to not get killed doing so? What if it went the other way, and the soldier friend was hurt or killed? Would the author still be putting him on a pedestal as he does so?

I'm not saying don't try. Just make sure you are enjoying what you are doing, first and foremost. If you're not happy, either motivate yourself in a positive way, or let it go. It really isn't worth it.

I completely disagree, and I believe this is harmful advice.

If you are poor, no amount of book reading will convince you that you do not need money. What will convince you is not being poor. Only then will you feel like you are able to give others advice about how money is not important: and your advice will be as useless to them as similar advice was to you when you first heard it (and rightly so).

People with low self-esteem do not improve their condition by thinking themselves into happiness or forcing themselves to believe that everything is awesome. They improve it by actively working on those areas of their lives they feel bad about. If they are lucky and work hard enough - they might reach a stage where they realize how warped their thinking was, and many of the things they thought they wanted will no longer seem important. But you cannot "skip" this journey and go straight into the land of happiness simply because somebody who is already happy told you what the view is like from the other side. You have to get there yourself, even if part of your journey is based on a lie.

Being poor completely sucks. Watching your cat die from cancer that you can't afford to treat sucks.

The point of getting rich is so that your life doesn't suck. Not to compare yourself to others.

Getting rich is necessarily hard, otherwise everyone would be on the road to becoming rich. People are unlikely to get rich by doing work which satisfies. But if they make it, then at least life won't suck anymore.

>The point of getting rich is so that your life doesn't suck. >Getting rich is necessarily hard, otherwise everyone would be on the road to becoming rich.

The logic doesn't follow here: having enough wealth to have a non-sucky life must be difficult enough to remain out of the reach of the majority of humanity? Why?

Let's take this to an extreme: all the wealthy people decide to employ robots for all of their needs to prevent their lives from sucking. All the poor people die because they can't afford food. Now the total population of the earth has a non-sucky life (except for the people who feel terrible about how they are responsible for the deaths of the 99%).

Some wealthy people see this coming and decide to make robots that provide for everyone's needs, regardless of how poor they are. Obviously we don't have an infinite supply of matter on this planet, so the robots have only one catch: if the robot provides for you, you have to consent to taking part of a population control plan (lowering the birth rate). Not popular, but preferable to a holocaust of the poor.

Either way, there's no reason that having enough wealth to avoid a sucky life is necessarily something that is restricted to a subset of the population, unless the definition of a sucky life is based on comparing your wealth to the wealth of others.

I believe you've misunderstood parent's point.

He's not discussing a theoretical world with robots (???); he's discussing the one we live in, where wealth inequality is a fact. Given the clear benefits of wealth, it's obvious that getting rich is not easy otherwise we'd expect to see less inequality.

Before anybody tries to tell me that getting rich might not be important to most people, think very carefully about whether you're qualified to comment. If you aren't, or haven't been, below the poverity line that a vast proportion of the world's population live below, it's easy to underestimate what it's like. And yes even moderately successful people with strong incomes may have legitimate desires for greater wealth.

I spent 20% of my PRE-TAX income on healthcare last year and that's not going to change; I'm better off than being completely poor but that's not going to console me when I consider that I spend most of my week working to pay those bills with little time to enjoy life; i.e. I have a significantly higher baseline for income than most people to extract the same basic quality of life they have, and in my particular case I have to jump to a completely different level to earn that income - I have to build a business.

I don't understand the obsession some people here have with trying to tell others how to live their lives. Everybody has different circumstances and experiences; we have absolute freedom in deciding, based on those circumstances and experiences, what's important to us.

The poverty line is a funny thing. I grew up below it; I'm talking about one set of clothes, one meal a day if I'm lucky. Still, growing up in Scotland that's hardly comparable to the likes of kids starving in other parts of the world.

Despite some tragedy and external pressures, I was always happy, or at least able to focus on the fact that those external pressures would go away someday. Now that I'm a decent earner, I just have another set of problems.

If you need someone who is going to be required to handle money efficiently enough to get the most out of each dollar, one of the most worthwhile traits is actual years of experience getting the most out of each dollar.

>>comparing your wealth to the wealth of others.

It might be from an economic standpoint if we understand capital as the ability to command labor.

Being poor does suck. However, being rich does not prevent your life from sucking. All the money in the world won't prevent you or a loved one from passing due to an untreatable illness. All the money in the world won't buy you friends or genuine respect. It can't buy you love (though it can buy you sex).

Furthermore, you don't need to be rich to avoid the hardship of being poor, you just have to make a sufficient amount to afford quality housing, food, health insurance, and minor luxuries.

I was poor, and now I'm moderately well off. You are really underselling how much it sucks to be poor.

> All the money in the world won't prevent you or a loved one from passing due to an untreatable illness.

Death of a family member is much more likely to happen if you are poor. Too bad you can't afford that unreasonably expensive surgery.

> All the money in the world won't buy you friends or genuine respect.

This is such a first world concern. Boo hoo. Also, yes, money does buy friends. When my family went bankrupt most of our friends turned their backs on us. This is a common occurrence. Ask a homeless person what happened to their "friends" when push came to shove.

> It can't buy you love (though it can buy you sex).

Not being poor is more important than finding love. If you want love, have some kids, and love them.

> Furthermore, you don't need to be rich to avoid the hardship of being poor, you just have to make a sufficient amount to afford quality housing, food, health insurance, and minor luxuries.

Please do not underestimate how hard it is for those who are actually poor to "make a sufficient amount."

This seems like a good enough time as any to point out that there are like six empty houses for every homeless person in America. Or, in techie terms, "you thought domain squatting was bad..."

You make some good points.Things you learn through hard life experience always have value. At least, I value them, because even if they don't have a lesson I can use, they are among the most interesting and true stories a person can tell you. Normally, life makes lousy stories, not least because we aren't able to tell the stories properly, because we're not fully paying attention. When you are living out your worst nightmare in reality, you are suddenly about twice as awake and twice as alive as you ordinarily are, and your awareness narrows and focuses on the here and now, and everything that happens is endowed with much greater importance than usual. Everything becomes serious, and you're probably going to have insights and make observations that beyond your usual capacity for such things, because all the BS is gone and you don't have to stop goofing around and get serious before you can clear your head, because you are serious.

These moments of clarity probably won't end up being worth enough to justify the misery of the ordeal that prompted them, and I'm not sure living through something terrible makes you stronger. It's probably more likely to do psychological damage that makes you weaker. But the experience itself is not something you can buy, and while the stories you gain are usually no compensation to you, they are the kinds of stories that can be of great value to other people.

"Death of a family member is much more likely to happen if you are poor. Too bad you can't afford that unreasonably expensive surgery."

This applies in the US, rather less so in many other countries. (UK resident here.)

Even with free healthcare there is a gap between lifespan for rich and poor people in the UK. Rich people tend to make better use of healthcare and know what questions to ask.

Here's some newspaper articles giving some confusingly different numbers.

Poor people die sooner, and also live longer with a disability (17 years) http://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/feb/10/equality-pove...

Ditto, 20 years http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10699077/Rich-will-...

Life expectancy gap for London is 25 years and growing http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/a-25-year-gap-be...

Life expectancy differences between rich and poor getting better http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/a-25-year-gap-be...

Fair point - as the other commenter says, just because you have free healthcare doesn't mean you have the confidence to use it, the knowledge to know what to ask, the access to exercise facilities or (and this is probably the cause of a lot of these statistics) the funds to afford a good, well-balanced diet.

Diet and Stress have little to do with healthcare and generally have a lot to do with when and how you die.

> It can't buy you love

Not to be a smartass here, but that's probably false. Money buys you social recognition, something that is an important part of your mate valuation. Rich folks will generally have a better time finding 'love' than the poor. The richer you are, the better your chances, more or less.

Money really is very important in the modern day. I wish it weren't this way -- I don't want to be doing selfish things, but sadly this just is the way it is.

Agreed. However, in a day and age where (in the Western world, anyway) women no longer need men overtly for financial support, social recognition as mating currency is just that--social recognition. It can be, and very often is, orthogonal to wealth. Witness all the young women in love with crappy DJs, self-styled pseudo-unemployed hipsters, no-name sidewalk band heroes, stoners, and a variety of Bohemians that a conservative dad would call losers or starving artists--er, artistes.

Financial and career success is definitely one way to up your mate value, though it has more resonance once women get out of their twenties. It's not the only way. When you're young, particularly, it may not even be the best way. Vide all the fairly intelligent guys with steady, well-paying jobs (very much so, by the standards of median American household income) that nobody pays attention to, really. The broke dudes that know how to put out their plumage and leverage some other, more conspicuous cultural archetype get much more play.

I'm not a washed-up, embittered MRA or PUA guy, btw. Just playing Devil's Advocate. :-)

There are far more women than well off men.

The real issue for most men is time. A 20 something working 60 hour weeks spends far less time 'playing the game' than a DJ etc. Also, relationships take time if your doing a start-up 'on the side' it's going to play hell with most relationships.

Unfortunately, despite not being rich, the poor don't have a monopoly on love. The way reality works is that, if you're able to make yourself rich, something obviously must be working out for you in your life. That thing that helped you get rich also tends to help you get love, and other things. If you're poor, your life plainly isn't working out too well, so you probably won't have success at love, either.

There's something called the Matthew Effect that isn't too well known, but it has a wikipedia page. Basically, things just get more unfair over time.

For the curious, this is the Matthew Effect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_effect

I think this effect is underrated and explains a lot, for instance all the statistical correlations between good things and other good things, and, on the flip side, bad things and other bad things. For instance, why being a smoker correlates with an increased risk of having a back injury (I heard that). Or how not having a college degree increases your risk of early death from all causes. I don't know if the Matthew Effect itself has an adequate explanation, but it ties together a lot of results that otherwise seem to suggest bizarre causal relationships between unrelated things. They're all spurious correlations and the predictable consequence of the Matthew Effect.

Even you put 'love' in quotes :). We all know that money can buy social recognition. What's usually meant by "money can't buy love" is that the 'love' buyable with money is not really what you're looking for.

Money <em>can't</em> by love, and if it could, it would not be the kind of love anyone wants. But money does provide greater opportunities for finding love; although it is saddle with the burden of also having to separate out the women who "love" instead of love.

It has always been like that. Women have never "fallen in love" with men who are not sufficiently socially successful. There is nothing new under the sun in that respect.

But then again, "socially successful" is a very relative thing. You will find that women "fall in love" with you all the time in third-world countries, even if you are only on unemployment benefits back home where women may snub you over that.

Furthermore, the appearance of success is probably much more important to women than any real success. The ability to pretend that they caught a fish who could have money, is often enough.

A guy who is (outwardly) self confident will get women (or guys for that matter) no matter what. Ugly, poor, anti-social, doesn't matter. Sure, if you want to have a large amount of one-night-stands with 'just 18s' in clubs expensive clothes and a fat wallet help next to that confidence, but we were talking about love here.

I've sometimes heard this put as "Money can't buy happiness...but it helps!"

Yes, but fighting your whole life to get rich at stuff that sucks is not worth it. Yes, it sucks to have your cat die, it sucks more to have you die wishing you did something more interesting than sit in board meetings and think about gathering mo money most of your waking life. There is a balance and that balance is not as hard as 'getting rich'; you don't need to 'get rich' to make your life not suck and get your cat treated, drive a nice car, have a pool you never use, a sauna which has cobwebs etc; that's all very doable without getting rich. And your life might not suck very early on that way instead of when you made it. I'm not sure how old you are but on HN there is a kind of altered reality where people get rich when they are young; this is not normal; most rich people got rich > 50. If you have had 'a sucky life' because of that till then you have been very much wasting your life.

Most people would be very happy if their worst problem in life was thinking it could have been more mentally stimulating. People have regret on their deathbed because people don't want to die and wish they could have their cake and eat it too, not because they suddenly found wisdom.

Anecdotal but I had a lot of people dying around me stating they spent too much time chasing money and too little on living. And I know a lot of pensioners as well who say the same thing; now they are living the life they wanted but have little time left (they think; I always come up with statistics and say they have 20-30 years more but he, who listens to that?). Another salient detail; most guys say they shouldn't have had kids because it took away too much time and most women reget not having more. Anecdotal, still, two countries and around 100 people. Research papers were written with less :)

Exactly. It isn't that money isn't good or useful, but that it takes effort to earn it. Nobody should say no to free money but if it has to be earned, then there is an optimization problem at hand.

Indeed. A lot more people could be happy if they didn't believe in the lie that says you must be super rich to be happy. Lottery winners have already proven that a ton of money doesn't guarantee anything. Rich celebrities deal with depression.

Going from poverty to middle class is definitely an improvement, but there comes a point where more money doesn't help. Diminishing returns.

> Being poor completely sucks ... The point of getting rich is so that your life doesn't suck.

This is a false dichotomy. The path to getting rich involves being moderately successful and then being willing to risk entering poverty again. If your goal is to not be poor then your best odds are to try to be moderately successful and then reinforce that position rather than playing double or nothing forever.

>Getting rich is necessarily hard, otherwise everyone would be on the road to becoming rich. People are unlikely to get rich by doing work which satisfies. But if they make it, then at least life won't suck anymore.

The whole point of an economy is to make it easier and easier to become wealthier and wealthier.

The Israeli soldier may not have been taking as much of a risk as you think. I'm sure he was well trained in assessing the competence of an adversary.

I'm not sure about that. Having spent some time studying knife fighting, one thing becomes abundantly clear - no matter how expert you are, and how inexpert your opponent is, a knife fight is still extremely dangerous.

Statistics I've seen in the past, which would fit with my experience, suggest that a 3-in-4 chance is the best you'll ever do in a knife-on-knife conflict.

Knife-on-unarmed is even worse odds. I've never encountered a single martial artist - and I've encountered a lot - who would recommend fighting unarmed against a knife unless you have no other option. "Give the guy your wallet" is absolutely SOP in this situation, and by far the choice with the highest chance to get you out alive.

> Knife-on-unarmed is even worse odds

This can't be stressed enough. Please, don't ever try to fight against a knife. You've got much better chance of surviving an unarmed fight against a gun.

It may be a good illustration though - getting out alive from such a situation is probably even less likely than building a successful startup on your first try.

You are right, but the parent is spot on

This was a risky situation but much different than someone willingly coming at you with a knife, the fact that he could dodge him easily is proof of that.

The conclusion I drew from what was described was that the soldier knew exactly what to do and dispatched the situation the most efficient possible way. He sounded so much more skilled than the highwayman that the effort to disarm the man was worth less than what he had in his pocket.

He was probably kicking himself afterward for not being that skilled at something more lucrative. lol

Beyond that it sounds as if he were compassionately trying to get the guy to do the right thing.

To this I would add: do work that pleases you, not work that leads to something you think will please you.

I was first introduced to this from one of the Indic texts - perhaps one of the Vedas - where people are told to do work and not worry about it's reward.

This is a good way to protect yourself from the folly that the parent poster describes.

People (including in this thread) always tell us that you cannot do that; you need to make it first and then you can pick what you like. Of course this is bullshit, but it's persistent bullshit, obviously told by people who had that experience themselves and want other people to have that too so they can feel better about themselves.

>where people are told to do work and not worry about it's reward.

Not sure if it is in the vedas or not but it is in Gita. Any way yeah I think it is a good principle to follow in life. Happiness should come from the act of doing work which is in our control not from it's reward which we can not control.

> The hero in the story is an Israeli soldier who decided to risk his life over a few dollars in his pocket. To do what, prove he was macho?

I've seen that blog posted here before. I'm pretty sure that in the original, the follow up post mentioned offhandedly, "Sadly, Ofer was killed by a robber..." without any reflection on his self defense philosophy.

I completely disagree with what you have said.

I have meet a lot of wealthy/successful people and trust me, they are way more happy than the poorer people I have meet. They've achieved their dream and can continue doing so. They have traveled, they given back, they create things, they are loved and they're happy.

>On your death bed you probably won't be looking over your life and decide whether it was worthwhile or not, and give yourself some report card on it. Instead you more likely won't even remember more than bits and pieces, and then eventually die and forget it all. You're wrong about this one. The biggest regret for people on their death beds were having gone through life with goals unfulfilled. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five....

I've always found it funny how others like you label rich people as having a shit life. That they can't find true love and have to hire escorts etc.

Success is what makes you happy. That could be making a billion dollars or milking cows.

Most of people have huge dreams and goals they want to achieve, its just that most don't care and don't try.

>The hero in the story is an Israeli soldier who decided to risk his life over a few dollars in his pocket. To do what, prove he was macho? He was really stupid in my book. And we're supposed to, according to the author, look up to this man? Train all our lives as a knife fighter, so we, too, can take dumb risks and be lucky enough to not get killed doing so?

Well yes, of course. Your ambition is the engine of the elite's profits.

I imagine to those of us are lucky enough to reach adulthood without any big hardship in life such a lifestyle can be very appealing, but unfortunately I reckon it's not how it typically plays out.

This entire viewpoint is based on the false premise that we are born and grow up unaffected by any financial, physical or psychological stress, living in a nice cushioned bubble, free to live our lives and to shape our future as we please. Unfortunately it doesn't always work out like that.

For everybody else (people who have been through difficult times in their lives, e.g. poverty, having suffered great losses, bullied in school, bad family etc..) success, as in being wealthy, influencial and attractive, is pretty much the only way to deal with life. Let's not forget that.

You can strip away the vaguely implied definition of "success" and replace it with arbitrary goal-attainment, and the central point still holds. Most of us have goals, so this is useful. Anyway, the word "startup" is right there in the title, so what were you expecting?

I read the article more like: IF you want to be successful, here is this great advice. Like you point out, being "successful" is not everything, nor necessarily related to being happy. That doesn't make the point in the article any less valid though.

Couldn't have said it better myself.


No need for the extra comment, just upvote it.

Years ago I was traveling to Oakland for business. My flight was delayed so I hit the magazine store. Bought some gaming magazines, business magazines and one copy of Havard Business Review. There was an article in it that caught my eye, "Why do dumb people succeed more in business than smart people."

I dont remember exactly the title but it was an 8 to 10 page article that went into detail comparing high IQ people to average or low IQ people and why people with lower average IQ did better in business. The article was filled with graphs and case studies and was very interesting.

But the last paragraph really summarized it best, "Smart people consistently over analyzed risk and talked themselves out of taking risks while someone with a lower IQ didnt even think about the risk and jumped in with both feet and took chances."

It gets back to the saying "No risk / No reward".

I remember that article to this day and always do a gut check when it comes to evaluating new risks. Sometimes I second voice my old European grandfather who was all about hard work in a different industry but his life lessons hold true.

Turning off the brain chatter and clearly evaluating a situation is critical but it s very hard because intelligent people, and humans in general, like to avoid risk and the temporary unpleasant pain that accompanies it.

I wonder if such studies are susceptible to bad stats of confirmation bias as many business studies are.

What I mean is whether they had proper controls to assess whether each average person is more likely to succeed than each "smart" person given the same scenario.

If they instead took a bunch of successful people, figured out that a lot of them weren't that "smart", then it could be the product of there being a lot more average than smart folk. In other words, "smart" doesn't guarantee business success such that all successful businesspeople are IQ gods, but we all knew that.

I took an important lesson from that article, completely unrelated to startups, when first reading it few years ago.

> The man with the knife did not know how to use that knife. If he had been as trained in knife fighting as I was in hand combat, he would have been able to destroy me. But he had a tool that he felt gave him an advantage (...)

You can have a false sense of confidence that because you possess a particular tool, you're safe, even though you have no idea how to use it. If the first time you discover how the tool works is in a dangerous situation, you'd likely be much better of if you didn't have that tool in the first place.

I applied this lesson many times in my life. For example, after a theoretical worplace safety course at my job I realized I have no clue how fire extinguishers actually work, so I bought one and fired it outside in an area where it wouldn't disturb anybody. And now I know how extinguishers behave and what to expect from them. Another time, a friend of mine was planning to buy pepper spray, because she was often returning late at night from university. I told her to buy two cans, because just having a spray will instill a false sense of confidence in her. We used up the second spray for "training", for her to see how it actually works, so that in case of real danger, she wouldn't have to worry about how to use the gas and how it actually works.

That reminds me of this slightly crazy guy I knew in college and roomed with senior year. He had been an RA, and "somehow," during some meeting, he managed to discharge part of a pepper spray canister, which led to the meeting having to be evacuated. I think it must have been accidental, precipitated -- obviously -- by playing with it at an utterly inappropriate time.

I don't take any life lesson from the article, which was vaguely glib and self-satisfied. Life is never fair; sometimes you have the knife and don't know how to use it; sometimes you work hard and lose the fight for not having a knife. What you want is to have both the knife, the right preparation, and the right opportunity to use it all at the same time. How do you go about setting all that up?

Success is predicated on serendipity. Chance favors the prepared mind. Be prepared. Make your own luck.

We can't control what happens to us, but we can try to make the best of what comes instead of falling to the worst.

Yes, no question. In fact, some amount of the sentiment you espoused is considered such airtight good advice that it has been built right into law. Universal education, for instance. No one seriously thinks everything taught in grade school is so essential that if you forget even one fact, guaranteed disaster follows. Clearly, the guiding principle is to teach a little of everything, under the theory that it's inherently good to be prepared, and even if you only retain 50% -- so what.

I think it might be literally impossible to totally reject what you said, in the sense that you could probably die if you were 100% against preparedness. So, yeah.

aka the tortoise and the hare (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tortoise_and_the_Hare), or, for a more topical treatment determination beats intelligence (http://www.paulgraham.com/determination.html, http://www.paulgraham.com/founders.html)

It's universal.

e.g. I'm not supersmart, but maybe halfway between supersmart and average - enough to have glimpses; to know what I'm missing; that my reach exceeds my grasp. I breezed though school, undergrad, honours, masters. The game was how little work I could do. But at PhD level I wanted to do world-class work, and so glimpsed ideas I couldn't effortlessly "just grasp". I kept trying to "just grasp" them in different ways...

Now, finally, I'm attempting to build up my skills, one higher-level at a time. It's ughhh because it makes me feel really stupid... but that's just because I am. At least, relative to the task. I'm making progress. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

The common wisdom is that less intelligent people hit this barrier earlier, and (if they want to) learn the skills to overcome it when younger. They are net better off.

I take issue with the assumption that you're not a success unless you're a VP at a consulting firm. In particularly the assertion that the other engineers in the story -- who for all we know may have preferred to remain in their roles -- have suffered some terrible fate that we need to be warned against.

It's funny because my dad's idea of success is owning a company and making a lot of money.

I have different goals. I'd rather earn 80 a year and work 9-to-5 than slave away at work.

I walked both paths already. From a distance I realize that I was never so happy than with a 9-to-5 and having time to live in the present. Minor chances of being successful in the future with a 9-to-8(+) seem a terrible deal. I wish I could forget ambition.

DEVIL: "20 years in jail and then I will give you X millions!"


Or own a company / work harder and save the additional cash, then retire at 40?

Yep and your kids are teenagers and you missed their entire childhood because you were at the office. No thanks brah.

Are teenagers such terrible people?

After the 350 diaper, the deep emotional rewards start to have diminishing marginal utility. Work/Life balance is possible.

Hey, since no one else is bringing up the "citation please" criticism of the post, I will. Sorry, but it's just a dumb thesis, asserted in utter confidence. The evidence to support it would be something along the lines of an inverse relationship between a measurable aspect of intelligence and a measurable aspect of startup or other life failure.

Intuitively, I highly doubt such a relationship exists.

Otherwise, the article is basically making the observation that being "successful" in business is generally hard.

But it's the internet, you can say whatever you want!

1. It would have been helpful to be more specific about what is meant by "intelligence". I get the sense that it is referring to knowledge and/or aptitude.

2. I think the message is, "Intelligence isn't enough. You also need perseverance to succeed." I don't know if the implication is if those two conditions are necessary, or that they're sufficient, but it sort of felt like it was saying that they're sufficient. The examples seem like they were making the point that, once you add perseverance on to the intelligence, you get success.

Anyway, success is obviously more complicated than "intelligence" + perseverance. I'm sure the author knows this, but the article seemed to oversimplify things, and didn't try to really break success into its components.

1. IQ

2. Think he meant necessary.

I like how some people do this IQ tests and brag how smart they are. The intelligence do not come from how you solve a test, or what degree you got. The intelligence is art of using a brain in a smart way in my opinion. Your tool is your brain. You can put it in to the rest, you can let it do the job, or you can actually test drive it and push it as hard as you can.

This reminds me a bit of a steve yegge quote.

"Having a good memory is a serious impediment to understanding. It lets you cheat your way through life."

This also reminds me quite a bit of the famous conversation between Eric S. Raymond and Linus Torvalds about "the curse of the gifted."

"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

His reminds me of the horse in _Animal Farm_. His mantra was "I will work harder" , and he worked himself to death in support of the crafty manipulative pigs.

The more I think about this and reread it, the more smug and self-serving it sounds, and the more difficult it becomes to believe that this manages to pass for a gem of wisdom and sage advice. It is nothing but a negative stereotype of people with high IQs as being essentially lazy and entitled. What motive is there to stereotype people with high intelligence? It sounds like sour grapes. Couldn't it be true, though? The history of similar stereotypes isn't good; lazy and entitled is one of the all-time most popular stereotypes of any despised out-group, and I suspect it hasn't been the go-to slander because it has a superior likelihood of turning out to be true and defensible. Here's a one-word rebuttal: doctors. We adopt stereotyped beliefs simply because of how they make us feel. Ordinarily, intelligent people would seem to make a poor target, because it's a group that, by definition, is distinguished by superiority, having as its sole determinant a very high IQ. It's not so easy to identify who around you might be in this group, and to attack it, you would seem to have to admit being less intelligent. The built-in requirement to demean your own intelligence along the way could almost just poison any possible benefit of stereotyping. But -- I'm not familiar with the name Max Klein, and it's such a combination of common names that it's almost ideal for being impervious to Google. From context and clues, though, I gather that this person must have achieved some amount of fame due to some startup-related achievement. I speculated in another comment that if anything could confer a license to feel superior to practically anyone, it would be having a successful startup. Who wouldn't want one, and by virtue of having it, in a way you are smarter than PhDs and Nobel Prize winners. The source largely makes no difference, though. You can judge a piece of writing completely on its own merits. This particular piece of writing falls apart under closer examination.

You are over analyzing this. The author isn't deriding those with intelligence, he simply said it can sometimes provide a false sense of assurance. He also implied that in a start up, hard work matters more than raw intelligence, but intelligence can provide some advantage.

I'm not sure if I'm reading too much in, or if most people miss what it actually said and mentally insert platitudes. Even if it hedges all of its statements at some point and ends on a perfectly nonoffensive note, it still seems like a mediocre essay, because then it has absolutely nothing to say and uses a lot of words to say nothing.

"Your IQ will kill your Startup" sounds like bold language to me. At the very least, there are overtones of anti-intellectualism. I don't see why HN is receptive to that.

I definitely agree with you that the title is over the top (a little click-baity). I think the tone of the actual essay is more reasonable.

While it may a somewhat mediocre piece, I didn't see anything to indicate anti-intellectualism. However un-original, the main idea is important and worth being reminded of (at least, I enjoyed the reminder). I think the last two paragraphs sum it up well.

I guess you have to read between the lines just a tad to see it the way I do. In fact, you have to do it rather literally, because some of the irritating message that I read into it I'm basing on the fact that certain things were left out that I think virtually any other author would have included. There are at least two ways to read something like this: 1. You could look exclusively at the words that are written and attempt to take them entirely at face value. I say attempt, because I'm not sure there necessarily always is a face value: sometimes the writer just can't figure out what he actually wants to say, and when you read the piece, it's nothing but a disconnected jumble of sentences. Some sentences seem to be going somewhere, but different sentences are in conflict with each other about where to go, and the piece ends up going nowhere. So what's the face value? I think most people are charitable and will insert their own message when there isn't really one there, and they actually seem to do it unconsciously without being aware that they made up their own message. I think that's what most people do with something like this. 2. You could, instead, read it as if you were standing directly behind the person as they were writing the essay, looking over their shoulder, trying to figure out what's going on in their head. For better or for worse, I'm inclined to go to #2. At least, I will go there at times when what I'm reading seems incoherent, and I find myself more interested in the person writing than with the message they want me to hear.

I could go on and dissect the whole essay, paragraph by paragraph, reporting what the motivation seems to be there, and I wouldn't necessarily mind. But HN comment threads have a way of trailing off, and sometimes you end up talking to yourself... so I try to cut my comments off ahead of that.

One of the things a good University program does is take someone to past the limits of their natural intelligence. Running into the wall is one of the rites of passage of figuring out how to work. For me it was electromagnetic field theory, that crap kicked my butt! But getting through the class on additional study and work was pretty important for me.

And, years later, slowly but surely, you've managed to rack up a breathtaking point-score in your HN karma account. That electromagnetic field theory work must have instilled you with tremendous karma. :)

I don't think the knife analogy is a great one. High IQ is more like having a ladder, in a world of cliffs. Someone can train themselves to jump higher than a ladder which is relatively short, but a ladder of two or three standard deviations is no longer in that range. If you have a tall ladder, try to focus your efforts higher.

I guess that works, but then the point of the article is that someone who doesn't have a ladder but trains to climb the cliff face will eventually beat someone who only knows how to use their ladder.

The point had to do with knives, not ladders. If you have a knife and you're well-trained in knife skills, and your adversaries are all armed only with ladders, you are easily going to win that fight. I think that's the point he was trying to make.

The point was to emphasize how ladders are clearly superior to knives, or even sticks. As has been demonstrated in literature[1].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrRFzwPE0d4&t=3m13s

Jackie Chan is the obvious and only exception to the rule. He could kick anyone's ass with a ladder.

The bit about clever people who have always found it easy to achieve rings true when you are working with training teachers.

They have problems with the teaching sometimes. These problems are not easy, scalar or well defined. There are no 'textbook' solutions. Some cope with the messy reality well and some don't.

Good article and reminder of how it is. To learn from our failures and hardships is where we grow the most.

IQ is only few percent of the total intelligence. But most people seem to see it as 99% so often.

It also comes down to so many other factors such as the environment we are brought up in, which affects our intelligence. Intelligence is not some blueprint we have from birth I learned. But very much our mental outlook on life as we progress. Those who feel intelligent due to high IQ makes me wonder how intelligent they truly are.


The title of this post

> Your high IQ will kill your startup

is too strong to be correct: The claim of "will kill" is claiming too much; 'might kill' is closer to being correct.

In more detail, the OP essentially assumes that an intelligent person will try to 'coast' or 'relax' and depend just on their intelligence instead of working hard, learning more that is important, and doing the actual work needed for success. This assumption need not be correct in all cases, and my experience indicates that it is significantly wrong.

Why? The OP mentions early school where intelligent people do well easily. Well, then, commonly they also get motivated to continue on in school. By the time they get to some junior/senior level courses in their major, to courses in graduate school, to the published peer-reviewed papers as background for their research, and to their Ph.D, research, they necessarily will have plenty of opportunities to encounter material where they have to work their little fingers, toes, and tails off. E.g., in computer science, if really intelligent, then jump all the way to tenured full professor in one stroke, just settle the question P versus NP. So far apparently no one has been intelligent enough to solve that problem.

I've seen plenty of really intelligent people work their fingers, toes, and tails off in graduate school. Net, there are plenty of challenges in graduate school strong enough for the most intelligent people to have to work their fingers, toes, and tails off with levels of hard work that would compare with hard work from anyone from a galley slave, a dirt farmer, etc.

Often, including in parts of school, intelligence alone is not enough, and plenty of intelligent people are smart enough to see this point. And, in cases of work challenges, since their pride from their intelligence is being tested, usually in a sense that is at least semi-public and, thus, visible to others from whom the person wants respect, they are motivated to do the real work needed for success.

While the OP is claiming too much, it is possible for intelligent people to fail and for various reasons quite different from what the OP explained.

> The claim of "will kill" is claiming too much; 'might kill' is closer to being correct

You're right, and we applied your edit. That was a bit of linkbait that snuck through. So is "your" in the title, for that matter, but we'll leave that.

Not everyone has a "I just moved to a foreign country and have to make a living somehow" moment.

Any specific advice for a person who found school easy and now has problems challenging themselves further in live?

Move to a foreign country without much cash for a summer or so. Hopefully your employer is accommodating; if not, find a good story or line-up a new job. It's an incredibly liberating experience. Puts a lot into perspective.

This is true, but precisely because it is true, at the top of every game everybody is reasonably hard working. And among these hard-working people other factors start to decide again, and a very important factor is talent.

So if you compare yourself to the guy who watches TV all day, of course hard work is the main thing. But if you compare yourself to fellow enterpreneurs, Phd studentst, hackers with great github repositories, or guys who work long hours at their workplace to advance, who maybe does not watch TV at all, talent matters.

At some point, you hit a region where access to capital and powerful friends is the difference, not talent. For example, Larry Page and Zuck had wealthy investors and access to enployees who were more talented than themselves but accepted a lower share in the conpanies they built.

I can't help but have heard this story before, perhaps by an HN user in another thread in the past. Didn't the Ofer fellow end up dieing in a robbery further down the line?

I have a nice counter example to this. I've travelled extensively in South and Central America. I met a guy who had been robbed twice in Rio, one week apart, by the same guy, at the same time in the evening, in the same place.

I also had the feeling though that some people are just magnets for trouble.

Personally, I always travelled with two wallets. One real one stashed in belt and the other with 10 USD in it. People will walk away 99℅ of the time with the $10.

Choosing to fight a man with a knife who is trying to rob you is stupid and dangerous, regardless of your training. I'm not sure what this says about the thesis.

I think it suggests that a big part of success is luck. He was lucky that man didn't really know how to use the knife or intend to kill him with it.

Anyway forget the mugging analogy because it is a stretch and distracts from useful information.

First, people aren't so much smarter than others than they think. People who persevere are more likely to be "lucky", since they keep trying until they are "lucky".

Another huge aspect of this is self-identity. If you think you are supposed to be a consulting VP, then you can be. Most people don't think that.

Another huge aspect of success is advantage. This can be in the form of a social network or just having a slightly well-off uncle to give a loan at an important time. Or it can just be physical health.

When it comes down to it, circumstances play a larger role than I think most people in our current structure want to believe. This is not a machine that rewards merit.

There is also a strange focus on the individual in this mindset.

But I go back to the belief that innate intelligence differences between humans are generally not nearly as great as we think they are. I also think that often circumstantial difficulties can be overcome, if there is enough perseverance. So I think one of the most important factors may be identity. In other words, who do you think you are?

If someone is mugging you with a knife, guaranteed he never took the time or the expense to learn how to properly use his weapon. Or he wouldn't have any need to mug someone.

If anything, I think the article serves to boast on the author's intelligence. And we all know what it means when a man talks about his penis size..

Plenty of people are not 'intelligent' and have no motivation.

Dinner with 'vice president at one of the top 5 consulting companies in the world'.

That sounds like something out of:

"Intelligent?!?! Read TOP 10 things that you are doing wrong right now!"

With odds at one in 176 million the only people who succeed in winning the lottery are those stupid enough to try.

To sound intentionally arrogant and possibly ignorant, this whole write-up is captain-obvious material.

It may be obvious but not worthless to write about.

Yes I thought everybody knew by now that intelligence is pretty much insignificant when you're up against somebody with years of experience at something.

There was even a very popular pop psych book about it that everyone has read (Outliers).

Your high IQ might get you good grades in elementary but gaining skill (which is what you're all talking about) is done through practice.

This article is more about perseverance and hard work then it is about intelligence.

What high IQ?

Reminds me of the military.

Good article.

The point the article makes is well understood and valid: even if you have the potential, if you don't work hard to use it, you won't develop the skills and discipline for success. All right.

But we don't need to cast failures and flaws as the result of "high intelligence". Just a few days ago we had an article about the "curse of smart people". It feels like a bunch of people patting themselves on the back and telling themselves "oh, we're so intelligent, this is why we failed".

If intelligent people are so prone to failure, what is the purpose of measuring intelligence? Being stupid is bad, being average is bad, now being smart is also bad! Congratulations.

Part of the problem is the ease at which we proclaim ourselves "very intelligent". Being good at school is not a sure sign of high intelligence - school is an artificial environment that values short-term memorizing of facts, over critical analysis and independent decision-making. You won't go far in life with that, but maybe you'll do well in quiz TV shows. Solving "missing piece" puzzles also isn't a sign of high intelligence. All those are just a small part of it.

Can't we agree "intelligent" is the skill of setting good goals, achieving them, and making good decisions in light of limited facts, limited time, and some stress, because that's what life is, and move on to strive (and possibly measure) for that.

Can't we agree? with redefining what intelligent means on the basis of your reasonably well written discussion post? NO, we can't agree on that at all.

Your post is thoughtful and well meaning, but intelligence means... well I'm not an expert at defining it (I know my limitations, learn from me), but the people who are experts at it have devised tests for measuring it, and it's extremely well documented, and measurable, and if you have it you score high on IQ tests, and if you don't you don't.

I have it. It's been measured. And I know it when I see it in other people, and always have, even before it was measured. If we sat down to play a new board game that neither of us had seen before, I'd most likely learn it quicker and start kicking your ass sooner.

Does that guarantee success in my life? no. Does it give me some potential? yes. For some of reasons that you give. You wrote a good post. Just don't try to redefine the word intelligence just so it can be a compliment paid to a different set of people. And while we are at it, can we stop saying that people are beautiful on the inside? "Beauty is only skin deep" is an expression because that's what the word means.

Yes, I'm aware that it is in the nature of language that words evolve and humans like extending the meanings of words and making analogies and metaphors, and that it can have perfectly understandable meaning to say that people with "emotional intelligence are beautiful on the inside", but that doesn't redefine the words nor rename the concepts.


> Just don't try to redefine the word intelligence just so it can be a compliment paid to a different set of people.

I believe the word "intelligence" should pay a compliment to those people who life pays compliment to, in terms of their ability to find solutions to real world problems, and carry out their execution. If we can't do that (and I'm not saying we can), then measuring some idea of "intelligence" and assigning a flat score to it is counterproductive.

How quickly one picks up on board games... I don't know. Maybe it matters. Maybe it means something. What if those who pick up on board games slower are building a much deeper model in their mind and can reach deeper insights than their opponents? Would speed then be a misleading indicator?

Take me, I pick up on new things slower than many might. But over time I get a much better idea about it and become frustrated with the superficial way my peers see it. Am I stupid, am I smart? Who knows. Sometimes gaining too much insight is actually harming performance for real world problems. Sometimes it helps. I'm neither ashamed nor proud by this arrangement. I just have my dials set this way.

Is life like a big logical puzzle? Shouldn't we judge people by their life performance if it is? Should we not judge people by simple puzzle games if it isn't?

Lots of questions, and if you dig deeper, you'll find the experts don't know much better than us after all.

The way we measure intelligence is much like we measure candidate performance during job interviews. It's full of "experts" with recommendations, and yet the questions and challenges have little to do with the actual job, or the job performance of the candidate when hired.

We can judge people on life performance, nobody has any problem with that.

Why do you want the word for successful life performace to be intelligence?

or to put it another way, the article you are responding to is making that point that high IQ people aren't always successful for some reasons. How is the point the author is making enhanced by changing the definitions? if intelligence means that your company will be successful, how will the OP write his article to make his point, because his point would still apply. Are you proposing another word?

> Being good at school is not a sure sign of high intelligence - school is an artificial environment that values short-term memorizing of facts, over critical analysis and independent decision-making.

This is a common but mislead read of the situation. "Intelligence" (per IQ) as typically defined is abstraction/calculation ability. This is very useful in highly rational environments where being correct matters, such as academic ones.

OTOH, in "life", it's _far_ more important to succeed in social environments where being analytically correct is largely irrelevant and thus those abilities have limited direct value. For example, it doesn't necessarily "make sense" on the surface to simply support a direct manager regardless their arguments' quality; yet that may be the socially optimal course of action. IOW, it should come as no surprise there's limited correlation when using an orthogonal metric. Some have even introduce separate metrics ("EQ") to account for such discrepancies.

The societal problem here is that we often expect those well-training and successful mostly in the former environment to thrive in the latter. Whether the issues is in preparing them for the wrong place or society doesn't live up to what we believe how students will live is another discussion.

> Can't we agree "intelligent" is the skill of setting good goals, achieving them, and making good decisions in light of limited facts, limited time...

The reality is that traditionally intelligent people are good at these things, esp when their talents are specifically applied. For example, they can be good at figuring out their shortcomings at overemphasizing risk when it's explained.

However it's unrealistic to assume those prepped all their life only for one enviro will adapt autodidactically.

Also, I don't think just redefining words like what success/intelligence means is an adequate resolution.

I concur. Great post.

About the "curse of smart people", which also applies to those who are better at sports, or something else, one cannot forget the Rocky 3 effect - sometimes, external circumstances will allow you took relax and stop progressing in your skills (and thus, not much effort) while still being successful. When a big problem/challenge arises, it will "hurt" more to leave the comfort zone, and then it depends on oneself...

At first (before I RTFA) I was going to come here to disagree vehemently. There are severe founder-quality issues right now and a lot of that has to do with low-IQ people who failed out of banking or management consulting getting funded, while actually smart people with less social polish get fuck-all. 140+ IQ doesn't mean much, but I'd fund a 140+ over a well-connected douchebag any day of the year. The problem is that so many not-smart people (Spiegel, Duplan) are getting funded and it's generating such a slew of crap companies that the rising generation (Millennials) may have lost the knowledge necessary to build good ones.

Then I RTFA and found that I agree, wholeheartedly. The metaphor he gives is of an overconfident assailant who has a knife, but is untrained and is beaten by a bare-handed opponent.

Correctly, we assess our enemies in office politics as being stupider. That VP/NTWTFK (Non-Technical Who-The-Fuck-Knows) doesn't know what a monad is. He probably couldn't write a for-loop to save his own dick. Those bikeshedding "big picture guys" who "do product" aren't intellectually sophisticated people. All that said, they continue to beat the piss out of us in the game of office politics. They do nothing but, somehow, get paid twice as much and get to make a lot of decisions that we ought to be making. As a group, we have to stop fucking moping, figure out why, and change it.

Too many software engineers are so self-congratulatory about their intellectual ability, and too easily swayed by bullshit perks, to realize that they're actually getting robbed blind by jerks in The Business who aren't nearly as smart (they don't have the knife) but who've been training at social machination and in dominating other people for as long as we've been studying computers.

We have to stop thinking it's "dirty" or undignified or unprofessional to "get political" and figure out a way to get our due. We have to stop putting our heads in the sand and saying "I just want to code". We are a hard-working group (even the smart ones work really hard) but we need to accept that some of that hard work is going to have to involve learning CS 666 (software politics), as ugly as the skill may be, and playing to win, to fucking demolish our enemies instead of having them defeat us.

The logic in this comment doesn't really work for me. I like to code, and am thankful that my company enables me to do it most of the time instead of dealing with a bunch of non-coding issues. I really don't want to learn office politics, "play to win" (win at what? I already won), "demolish my enemies" (what makes them my enemies? If they weren't around I'd have to do more of that non-coding crap work) etc.

Quoth Tao of Programming, koan 7.1:

A novice asked the Master: "In the East, there is a great tree-structure that men call 'Corporate Headquarters'. It is bloated out of shape with vice presidents and accountants. It issues a multitude of memos, each saying 'Go Hence!' or 'Go Hither!' and nobody knows what is meant. Every year new names are put onto the branches, but all to no avail. How can such an unnatural entity exist?"

The Master replied: "You perceive this immense structure and are disturbed that it has no rational purpose. Can you not take amusement from its endless gyrations? Do you not enjoy the untroubled ease of programming beneath its sheltering branches? Why are you bothered by its uselessness?"

I like to code, and am thankful that my company enables me to do it most of the time instead of dealing with a bunch of non-coding issues.

I understand this, but I think that you'll eventually get bored if you can't get a sense of progress out of your work. This requires that you pick your tools and problems. If you're lucky enough to work in an open-allocation environment, and if that persists for 40 years, then that's great and you'll never be bored or frustrated.

However, most programmers want their work to be progressive: bigger challenges, more interesting problems, high-impact opportunities. This'll inevitably put you on the battlefield with status quo rent-seekers who hate you just for improving things. Even if you're not a threat to them in anyway, they'll hit you preemptively, just to prove that they can.

I really don't want to learn office politics

I understand. Who does? How many college kids say, "I want to get out there and be a private-sector politician"? Probably very few.

It's a shitty game. It shouldn't exist. But it does, and the only way we can hold it back is if good people are willing to join the fight, and able to win it.

what makes them my enemies? If they weren't around I'd have to do more of that non-coding crap work

It's not "programmer good, business bad". There are good businesspeople and bad, turncoat programmers. What makes the bad guys bad is not what they do, but the mentality. The bad guys are the ones who see us as overpaid cost centers and peasantry. Decent people managers and entrepreneurs are worth their weight in gold, but very rare: maybe 10% of the tribe.

A good manager knows that his job is to be a "sheep dog". His role is to protect the people doing the work, from assaults on all sides, so they can do the work. Whether it's an executive trying to squeeze employees or a low-level employee being a toxic jerk (i.e. making sexist remarks, insulting others' work) a good manager fights that. A bad manager thinks that his reports exist to serve him and that it doesn't go both ways.

The most obnoxious boss I ever had was a fellow programmer, and the problem wasn't that he was a turncoat. He was just obnoxious. I think you could take the problem you're describing and generalize it to any manager-managee relationship, and it reduces to simple bad management. Some managers will be attentive and make positive contributions, others will be inattentive and destructive. The latter style is self-defeating, and that's going to be hard to get away with forever.

The key element is motivation. Good managers are about getting the job done.

Bad managers are all about abusing the people under them to make themselves feel more important.

These are not compatible goals.

One of the tragedies of MBA culture is that it teaches businesses to screw over employees, customers, and often shareholders too.

There's no sense of making a contribution - it's all about being the criminal with the knife, taking on people who can't defend themselves or don't even understand they're being mugged.

Good managers are about getting the job done.

Bad managers are all about abusing the people under them to make themselves feel more important.

I agree but it's not that simple. Most bad managers (the garden variety bad ones, not the psychopaths) aren't trying to abuse the people under them, but are trying to make themselves look good at any cost.

They often look like they're making "hard choices" (i.e. choices against the interests of others in the organization, including their reports) in the interest of "getting the job done" but they're actually externalizing costs or pushing problems into the future.

I would say that good managers try to direct action toward the shared interests of the employees and the organization. Good management tries to prevent those kinds of conflicts, long before they've become obvious, because when the organization and employee play against each other, it starts getting bad for everyone. As you correctly mentioned, MBA culture is all about squeezing pennies out of every transaction, which endangers any hope of good will in the business.

I agree that most managers, even if they are bad, would not abuse people under them just because it feels gratifying. That kind of behavior would be a really strong indicator of a serious mental problem. Most of the time the abuse pattern would be more about neglect or a failure of empathy. The abuse might be in plain sight and look calculated to inflict pain, but the manager would either be oblivious or practicing denial. Their attention would be on some other priority, like pleasing their own superior.

I don't know this person, but did you ever think that his obnoxiousness is the result of a broken culture of anti-intellecutalism, recklessness, and machismo that emerges naturally in a world where programmers are business subordinates, as opposed to one in which we are autonomous professionals who are sponsored rather than traditionally employed or managed?

It's not like obnoxious bosses have a tribal affiliation to "managers" versus programmers. Sure, there are some who consciously think that way, but I don't think it's the norm. The insufferable management consultant fuckheads who comprise MBA Culture don't have any conscious allegiance to "MBA Culture". They have an entitled way of thinking, for sure, but and some executives do think tribally, but I don't think that a mentality of conscious allegiance among and to "business people" is the norm.

The boss I'm talking about is a special case and one-of-a-kind as far as I know. He also happens to be foreign-born and from a country that I don't know much about. But he admitted once that his friends had nick-named him Eeyore on account of his not-so-sunny disposition, so I think being obnoxious was/is a cross he has to bear alone.

I'm too far removed from corporate culture right now to really feel what you're saying. But Zed Shaw seemed to have similar gripes and he is very funny. I'm sure you know of him, but if not, look him up.

I wonder if my comment was downvoted because I made him sound as if he was cursed with some condition outside of his control and that's all. I feel sorry for people who have self-defeating patterns of behavior that cause them problems -- even if I, myself, could not stand to be around them, because I don't believe anyone would willingly choose to have problems. This boss may well have even been in that category. Who knows. But in point of fact, his behavior was frankly abusive, vindictive, and bullying toward me, and he would throw demonstrative fits of temper and behave in ways that I've never thought possible to get away with in a workplace, all the while being very personal and spewing pure hate. When this type of person is your boss, it only makes it so much harder to deal with.

That's an astute misreading of the article, but here's my take: the writer clearly must have been successful in his startup, otherwise he wouldn't feel qualified to speak on what counts for success in starting companies. Once you're successful, you have the best of all worlds: you can act as if you had no intellectual advantage, and had to get where you are solely through pluck and hard work. Then you can look down your nose at both groups: the intellectual guys with lousy jobs and the dim-witted stuffed shirts. No one will doubt that you are not both smarter than the geeks and better at decision-making than the decision guys, because the fact remains, you beat the odds and created a successful startup, and you're still rich. So, I think that's the lesson. You can be really smart, or really hard working, but odds are that you don't have your own company and you're not rich, so either way you don't know shit.

I'm s glad to see an article like this on HN, as opposed to articles that attribute success to massive amounts of luck.

As far as I've experienced, both are required.

My dad has a version of this story. He was born in a village in Bangladesh and while he's not a VP at a "top 5" consulting company, he raised us upper middle class in an expensive DC suburb. He notes he was smart, but never the smartest person; hard working, but not the hardest working person; in addition to both, he was also very lucky.

There's an additional dimension too. Ambition and extroversion I guess. The smartest, hardest working people I know from undergrad are engineering PhD's toiling away on the tenure track. Failure according to the author.

As someone with a high IQ, I can't help but agree with this in its entirety. For those who thought this was too long, I can summarize it as thus: "Don't overthink things, and refine your brain power. An unrefined brain is a useless tool, no matter how smart you are."

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