Today I’m reviewing The Curse of the High IQ by Aaron Clarey.
The purpose of a book is to entertain and to get you to think. Disagreement with a book or with sections of a book does not mean the book was incorrect or worthless. It indicates that the writer has achieved his goal. Aaron Clarey has a talent for discovering wonderful topics and for pissing off his readership at the same time. But they keep coming back for more. He must be doing something right.
The premise of his latest book is that having a high IQ, while being an obvious advantage in life, also has its fair share of drawbacks. Combined with the fact that society is geared towards the average as this is where the majority of people reside, you have a situation where the intellectually gifted can experience major problems in life, specifically because they and society at large assume that they should be way out in front by benefit of their prodigious brain power.
I want to start right off the bat with the fact that I think the whole idea of measuring IQ is flawed. We’ve all heard of the idiot-savant who is a dribbling moron but an absolute genius in one specific area. I myself, while measuring very highly on IQ tests, am mechanically worthless. I couldn’t fix my motorbike if my life depended on it. The best mechanic I ever had was a total moron, but man he could fix a bike. What if IQ was measured in mechanical ability? I’d be pretty stuffed then.
But it’s not and I agree that it measures something. There is one thing the tests avoid completely though and that is life awareness or common sense. When I lectured in the oil & gas industry I would often have a room made up of everyone from roughnecks who worked on the drill floor to top executives. The dumbest nuts I had to crack, almost every single time, were fucking engineers. While they may have been brilliant in their specialty, they were incapable of absorbing other information, such as how to get out of a helicopter that is upside down underwater. Their biggest handicap was the fact that they considered themselves to be so smart. So when they didn’t immediately grasp the information they shut down. They lacked self-awareness.
The book is squarely written from Clarey’s perspective. He is a smart guy. I am a smart guy too, but some of the things he has written about don’t apply to me. But it is a personal work and smart people should be able to sort through his ideas and recognize which are applicable and which are not. The essence of his book is that really smart people are extremely rare statistical anomalies, and many of their problems are tied to the fact that they are potentially unaware of their uniqueness and unable to find other people of similar disposition.
Smart people have a problem with education as well in so much as it is structured towards the average which will bore the socks off the truly smart. This chapter was a revelation to me as I was a straight A student up to the age of fourteen when I plummeted to a C- average and graduated high school after doing no work whatsoever. Part of the reason behind that I now know is what Clarey writes about.
Through school, higher education, and then career, Clarey outlines the hurdles the intellectually gifted must face dealing with a system that is designed towards mediocrity. The section on relationships outlines a rule that I identified many years ago. I call it, ‘The rule of the one percenter’. It goes like this; 99% of people in the world will be generally happy and content with anyone in the other 99%. It’s why most teenagers at school could cycle from one relationship to the next as it didn’t really matter who the other person was. However, for the 1% who don’t function that way there are three challenges that I identified:
- Identify that you are in fact a one percenter.
- Find a person who you are attracted to who is also a one percenter.
- Convince them that you are in fact a one percenter as well.
Point number three is the hardest of them all. In essence this is what Clarey writes about. It is valuable advice for the unaware.
The section I disagree with the most is the one on psychology. Clarey makes the argument that people with high IQ will suffer greater substance abuse in an attempt to switch off their hyperactive brains which are in meltdown from boredom. He uses the comedian Bill Burr as an example of this. I disagree. As I wrote recently in trait number one, you can divide people into three areas in life; the scrupulous, the moderate, and the exaggerators. High IQ is not in my opinion a determinant of attempting to check out through substance abuse. There are plenty of stupid drunks and junkies. Rather, it is the exaggerators who are most susceptible to this behavior. If you are an exaggerator and you have a very high IQ, hoo-boy, I feel sorry for you. But then again, life is tragedy. In this case with Clarey, correlation does not imply causation.
The chapter on limiting greatness explains how people with a high IQ are held back by those around them. This chapter is fine in of itself but in reality most people exhibit this behavior to everyone around them. Let’s face it, a lot of people are shits. If they didn’t marginalize you for your intellectual greatness they’d do it because you have big ears. As for using these types of people as an excuse for you not achieving greatness, I disagree. If achieving greatness was possible simply because you were smart then there would be a whole lot of greatness out there. Everyone has their personal power to stand up and fight on. If you give up, ultimately it was because of you.
His final chapter on solutions is thus a nice touch to finish off as he states this very point. Don’t give up, persevere. His solutions are grounded in the individual taking action and for that I can only stand firmly by his side.
I think this is an important book. It has its flaws, but all works do. What it does do is prod you to think about these issues as to how they pertain to you. And if you didn’t know already it prods you to get up off your smart backside and get out there and achieve something. Something a lot of us would do well to consider.