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Why Smart People Do Stupid Things

Perhaps the answer is that people tend to look at successful and famous people as being smarter and “more intelligent” than the rest of us. Otherwise, why would they be more rich and famous as the rest of us?

Obviously, if someone is smart enough to become a President like Bill Clinton, or a celebrity like Bill Cosby, they must be much “smarter” than the rest of us to get where they were. So why did they end up doing stupid things we mere mortals wouldn’t think of doing in that situation?

The Greeks called it “hybris”; defining it as: “the intentional use of violence to humiliate or degrade.” The word and its definition changed over time to “hubris: an overweening presumption that leads a person to disregard the fixed limits on human action”.

So, by combining the two definitions we could define modern “hubris” as an “unconscious tendency to disregard the fixed limits on human action and unconsciously bring humiliation and degradation on themselves”.

Charles Spearman stated that there are different types of intelligence, but argued that they are all correlated—if people tend do well on some sections of an IQ test, they also tend to do less well in others areas. The scales are balanced.

That’s the “price“ gifted people often pay. Someone with a preponderance of talent and skill in one area will have a similar lack in some other area – to balance the  “scales”. We “average” people also have talents, but can balance them with the other elements of our lives.

Vincent van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec were gifted artists, but their exceptional talents created an imbalance, and they paid for it with. Not all, but enough to say: there is a virtue in being “just normal”!