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7 Reasons Smart People Do Stupid Things

If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re not.

Don’t be smarter than Socrates who said, “I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing.”

7 reasons smart people do stupid things:

  1. Success promotes stupidity. You don’t learn if the things you’re doing already work. It’s easier to learn from failure than success.
  2. Changing other people is easier than changing yourself. Every leader who thinks more about what others should do than what they should do stumbles toward self-justifying disappointment.
  3. New ideas destabilize established patterns. Instability and uncertainty terrify system builders.
  4. Unlearning is harder than learning.
  5. Self-confidence turns to arrogance when defending ideas is more important than pursuing the best ideas.
  6. Reacting is easier than focusing. Constant reacting makes leaders feel necessary and important, but it means they’ve lost sight of long-term goals.
  7. Knowing blocks learning. You need enough confidence to believe you know and enough humility to believe you could be wrong.

Even stupid people can do smart things.

7 Smart things any leader can do today:

  1. Ask, “What are we learning?” Go on a what-are-we-learning walkabout.
  2. Identify and clarify your role. What is your job, really?
  3. Try stuff. Run a pilot project and evaluate results.
  4. Identify and ignore distractions. Use time and energy to achieve mission critical goals.
  5. Hunger to learn after you succeed. The first step after complacency is stupidity. Intelligence is futile when being right is the goal.
  6. Do your most important work when you’re at your best. Shuffle papers in the afternoon if you perform best in the morning.
  7. Realize that learning something often invalidates something old. If you can’t unlearn, you can’t learn.

Tip: Practice humility. My Disappointing Adventure with Humility | Leadership Freak

Learning is easy for humility and impossible for arrogance.

Why do smart leaders do stupid things?

What’s something smart that any leader could do today?

Read: Why Humility Delivers More Results Than Arrogance

(PDF) Why leaders don’t learn from success (

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