Rub shoulders with leading experts and industry disruptors at TNW Conference →

The heart of tech

This article was published on March 7, 2015


    Being dumb is smarter than being smart

    Being dumb is smarter than being smart
    Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
    Story by

    Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

    CEO and co-founder, TNW

    Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

    When I wanted to get my driver’s license and was preparing for my practice test, I met with the examiner and asked him a bunch of questions. At one point in our conversation, he laughed and said, “The problem with smart people is they perform so much worse than dumb people.”

    Turns out that being smart doesn’t help in a lot of situations. In the example of the practice test, the smarter you are, the higher your chances of failing on the first try.

    Why is that? Two factors contribute to this. One, you tend to be overconfident and don’t invest enough time in it. A smart person will think, “I’m smart and even dumb people manage to clear this hurdle, so I’ll just wing it,” and then you fail.

    Secondly, you think too much. Even when you get a simple question with a simple answer, you overthink it: “Is there a catch? Could there be an exception? What exactly do they mean with this one word? What is the actual definition?”

    Do you want an orange?

    That’s a simple question, right? If you don’t think about it, you might simply consider a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. A smart person might think, “Why are you asking me that? Is it a ripe or rotten orange? What do I have to do in return? Is this a reference to The Godfather movies? Am I going to die? Have I lived a complete and fulfilling life? Do I even know the person asking me this?”

    If you are an entrepreneur, it’s important to be able to make decisions. And sometimes, you might have to dial down your smartness to get through the day. Take the damn orange! Ask a stupid question! Have it explained to you like you are a six-year-old! Don’t overthink it too much and get on with the day.

    You might be smart, but while you’re busy thinking about things, that less intelligent, stubborn and persistent entrepreneur might just pass you by. Walt Disney famously said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing,” but maybe he meant ‘thinking’ instead of talking.

    Or maybe I’m overthinking things.