This article about dressing as smart as you are popped up on my Google Reader this morning. At first, I thought “hey, that’s a really good bit of advice for the world!” I believe quite a few people don’t reach their full potential because of the way they act or dress. There is a decorum, a standard, that even non-conformists need to meet (even if it’s in some weird, quirky way) to push ahead in the “real world.”
I posted it to my facebook page and continued to get the kids ready for school.
In the car while dropping them off I started having a different thought. This is great advice for people of average or below-average intelligence or potential.
It’s probably even good advice for people of above-average intelligence. However, once someone’s into the bona fide genius range… I think this is a very bad idea.
I’m going to give you a pop culture reference, then my history, then another pop culture reference. Maybe by then I’ll be able to do this topic justice.
Bones S01 E12 – The Superhero in the Alley is about a teenager who was found murdered while dressed up in an “identity” costume based on a comic book. The episode is about gleaning information from the stories the boy wrote.
Zack: No. They’re quite interesting, the graphic novels especially.
Bones: After you have cleaned the bones look for scoring on the occipital condyle and the inferior nuclein.
Zack: They are basically the retelling of the Greek myths with all superhero’s standing in for Hercules, half god, half human.
Bones: Okay be very careful here. X-rays shows fragmentation of the cervical vertebrae consistent with sharp force trauma.
Zack: Invulnerability, super strength, heightened senses, telekinesis….I’d love to have some of those powers.
Zack: I…I don’t really know. Is it not desired?
Bones: Why fantasize? You’re smart.
Zack: In some ways my intelligence is a handicap. For one thing I’m weird. For another I tend to make people feel stupid and they resent me for it.
Bones: I suspect it’s the same for super powers. The victim was stabbed here at the base of the spine. The spinal cord was severed. That’s what killed him.
Zack: I’ll clean the bones and try to match a weapon to the damage done.
Bones: Which will make you a real hero in the real world.
When I was born, my mother was a meteorologist in the Navy and my dad was a meteorologist for the Air Force. I’m from a mixed marriage of the “smart” branches of the military. Around the time I was 3 and my brother was born, my parents resigned and we moved up here to GA.
Talking about the military service and the things they had seen and learned was almost constant. I knew about clouds and weather systems as early as I can remember. My dad believed that there were no limits on what a child could learn, so he taught me my ABC’s by the time I was 2 and I could read at a 3rd grade level by the time I was 4.
Before school, I thought this was a totally normal thing. It didn’t take long for me to realize that being smart – and not just over-achieving smart – made me a social outcast. By the time I was in 1st grade, I was in the gifted programs learning problem solving skills and Greek and Latin. The program overlapped recess so I had very few friends and very few people I could relate to. Those I was on level with were almost placed into competition with me.
By the time I was in high school, it wasn’t only a competition, but all out war. In middle school I had learned how to hedge and deliberately started missing classes and doing things wrong. I got my first B in 6th grade on purpose. I never got lower than a B until I was in Calc III in college and got a C.
Re-reading this, it looks like bragging, but it’s not. It’s just context.
Junior year of high school, the military started dropping in to recruit and to try and get us to take the ASVAB. I wanted to. I tested well. It was another opportunity for me to shine brighter than the other stars at the school.
My parents flat out refused to let me take it.
Why? They didn’t want me to be on record as acing the test. They said if I did the military would never stop coming after me. I would never have my own life. I would be nothing more than a tool.
That stuck with me because I realized how true it was. That I needed to recognize my potential for MYSELF but I didn’t need that information to be part of the public record. It worked out ok professionally for me as well because the idea of a “computer guru” was main-stream. You know – the guy in the office who can get away with wearing capri pants and hasn’t shaved in 3 years but is still tolerated and exalted because of his abilities.
I never wanted to be in management or have the responsibility of other people. I wanted to solve problems. Finding answers that no one had thought of before gave me a deep satisfaction and that’s what I wanted to do. Dressing to my intelligence wasn’t only impossible, it would have made me an outcast. I didn’t want to be set apart. I wanted to be A part.
From House S03 E07 – Son of a Coma Guy. House is answering a question about why he became a doctor instead of going into research or some other field that didn’t have to do with people.
HOUSE: When I was fourteen, my father was stationed in Japan. I went rock-climbing with this kid from school. He fell, got injured and I had to bring him to the hospital. We came in through the wrong entrance, passed this guy in the hall. It was a janitor. Friend came down with an infection and doctors didn’t know what to do. So they brought in the janitor. He was a doctor and a buraku; one of Japan’s untouchables. His ancestors had been slaughterers, gravediggers. And this guy knew that he wasn’t accepted by the staff, didn’t even try, didn’t dress well, he didn’t pretend to be one of them. The people around that place, they didn’t think that he had anything they wanted, except when they needed him. Because he was right; which meant that nothing else mattered, they had to listen to him.
So what do I think of all of this? What is my opinion in a tl;dr paragraph?
Find out what you want in life and live to THAT standard. If you have to inflate your abilities, do it with every tool available. If you have to deflate or hide your abilities, do what makes you happy and then decide that the rest can go to hell by itself. Take ownership of your life and live it deliberately and mindfully.