It takes no skill to hustle

My wife is always telling me that I’m smart. It makes me feel kind of, well, weird. I’m not sure why. I’ve accomplished too much academically to dismiss it altogether, but it’s hard to completely accept such praise. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what the heck it even means. To be smart, that is. I mean we all say it, referring to those around us as smart or bright. And I know there are tests that are supposed to effectively measure intelligence. But how many of us have actually taken one? And if we have, what exactly has it done to help us? Schools, of course, are notorious for using standardized testing to rank its pupils. But we’ve all heard about the biases inherent in some of these assessments. Furthermore, with more and more ways to prepare and study for these and similar tests, what does a good score on them really mean? That you are able to take a test and do well? That you have the means to afford private classes and tutors? Or that your parents forced you to spend your summer afternoons systematically going through math, grammar, and reading exercises from volumes and volumes of instructional books instead of playing football or riding bikes with your buddies? Whatever it means, I’m not convinced it means you are smart. You may in fact be smart–again, whatever that means–but getting a good score on a test, or getting accepted to an Ivy League School (yeah, I said it) doesn’t mean you are smart. I’d venture to say, even, that the two –being smart and academic achievement— are not nearly as correlated as we’d like to believe, again if we could even define what being smart means.

Well, when she tells me that, my answer to my wife is usually the same. It, of course, has its foundation in sports. And not only does it humbly dispute any inkling that I’m somehow this innately smart person–trust me; I know enough really smart people to think that– but it is also a firm rebuttal to every person (I love ya, but you know who you are) who has referred to my physique— the result of twenty years of hard, dedicated work— as “mostly genetic.” Like my strength and fitness, whatever I have that makes me appear to be smart, is not something with which I was necessarily born. Read more of this post