Monday, May 3, 2010

Beware of Intellectuals

My good friend Ian Morris has a knack for definitions. He once opined "An intellectual is someone educated beyond their capacity to reason." I spent the better part of an hour laughing. It's the perfect definition.

Maybe you've met these people? They can be very charming, interesting, smart and witty. But they are also so educated you wonder if these people have any basis in reality anymore.

I remember one fine lady who was absolutely brilliant, but it didn't stop her from being a complete fruitcake. She could ramble off miles of statistics, case studies and reports. She's read every book, white paper and analysis and can happily show you how the sky is actually green. Or how the incredibly complexity of the US government is beneficial.

These people are born academics. Please don't think that I hate intellectuals. I am a big fan of the ivory tower of education and I firmly believe it serves an important purpose. However, the world of the mind is a very different place, with different rules.

I live in the really, real world where the sky is blue and complexity sucks. I work and make money in a world that works very differently. I've worked with intellectuals and I will happily tell you they are as dangerous as a toddler with a knife.

Because they are brilliant and erudite, they can convince you of almost anything. They can craft intelligent arguments supported by evidence justifying just about anything they want to. Don't fall for it.

The biggest problem shared by the majority of intellectuals that I've met is a dearth of common sense. For all their brilliance, they don't understand how the real world works. Their arguments may be genius, but their underlying understanding is flawed.

That never leads to good results. Always listen to common sense.

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Update:

I just found this great quote that applies perfectly:
"A learned man is an idler who kills time with study. Beware of his false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance."
~ George Bernard Shaw
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