Intelligence and Goals

There seems to be a common assumption that if you are intelligent, you’ll make an enormous amount of money. If you don’t make huge wads of cash, you’re lazy or not really that smart. The corollary to this assumption is that all rich people must be scary smart. You can see this when Philip Greenspun says “If people this young can start successful companies old people must really be stupid and lazy.” You can see this whenever Joel Spolsky writes about the software business (For example, he says that real men only do shrink wrap software and software companies (the shrink-wrap kind, of course) should only hire soloist programmers.) This is not to say that intelligence is not a factor in success. But it is by no means the only factor, nor is it the most important factor. In fact, I believe motivation is by far a more important factor in economic success than intelligence. The term “Emotional Quotient” or EQ has gained traction in recent years to cover a basket of traits that includes motivation as well as other things like self-awareness and social skill. Studies show that this group of traits are more important than intelligence when it comes to economic success. Now, to be fair to Joel, the “best programmers” that he wants to hire probably have these traits. And the “choir members” that Eric Sink want probably have those traits. I suspect that essayists like this irk me because I consider myself reasonably intelligent, but I’m not a zillionaire. It’s true that software developer’s need a higher than average intelligence (which is why guy like Philip Greenspun and Joel Spolsky emphasize these traits). I suppose the other reason I’m peeved is that the implication that making buckets of money is the only worthwhile goal.

3 thoughts on “Intelligence and Goals”

    1. Re: Paul Graham is worse

      Of course, Philip Greenspun was responding to him in that quote at the top.

      I can understand where these guys are coming from and they’re all motivated, intelligent people who write well.

      But its too easy to brush with broad strokes. I wonder if they’ve all discovered they get a better response when they use such broad strokes. Philip Greenspun especially seems to like poking at hornets nests.

    2. Re: Paul Graham is worse

      Of course, Philip Greenspun was responding to him in that quote at the top.

      I can understand where these guys are coming from and they’re all motivated, intelligent people who write well.

      But its too easy to brush with broad strokes. I wonder if they’ve all discovered they get a better response when they use such broad strokes. Philip Greenspun especially seems to like poking at hornets nests.

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