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Wicked Smaht

© October 2009 Anthony Lawrence

For our non-New England readers: In the Boston area and even down into Rhode Island, a lot of us tend to pronounce our r's as h's (though a Rhode Islander might say "our r's as haitches", but that's a different story).

When I went into first grade, I was put in the Retarded Class. I'm sure that's not what it was officially called, but all of us who were in it knew that's what it was, and of course so did every other child and all the teachers. Everybody knew us. We were the misfits, the dummies, the slow learners, the problem kids. This was early 1950's, so in reality a lot of us were dyslexic or had alcoholic parents or other learning disadvantages and disabilities, but paying attention to any of that just didn't exist then.

The cause for my inclusion was near blindness. Without corrective lenses, my extremely astigmatic vision is 20/400 - which means that what people with 20/20 vision can see clearly at 400 feet away, I need moved 380 feet closer. It meant I couldn't see the chalkboard. That was enough to make me "dumb".

Yes, of course they gave us vision tests. In groups, they'd lead us through reading the lines on a chart. I'd hang back and easily memorize every line read and thereby passed those tests every time. I knew I couldn't see well, but I didn't want glasses because in the Retard Class society I lived in, glasses were a big Kick Me sign. I'd had a hard enough time establishing myself as someone to leave alone (because I'd hit back, hard) and I didn't want to jeopardize that.

Eventually, I got caught. I don't remember whether it was an eye test that I failed or if they caught me with an IQ test, but they caught me.

Oh, those IQ tests. I was always good at those. I'd be the first one done and sometimes teachers would look surprised as I handed in my tests so early. I've taken the ones you aren't supposed to finish, too: I always finished them. Yeah, I'm real good at IQ tests.

So they moved me and my new glasses into a Gifted and Talented class. That was something very new then; I and the other Chosen Ones were only the second such class ever in our very progressive town. There was resistance to even having such a class, but that's a different story also.

According to some, I was the "smartest one". I certainly didn't think so, but that was the rumor and it kept coming up throughout my star-crossed educational career. You might think that's wonderful, but really it isn't.

I was bored. I was angry. I hated school, disliked most of my teachers, and spent most of my time daydreaming and yearning to be "free". I never did much homework, never listened much in class, but of course I got by because I was "wicked smaht". It's easy to get B's and C's when you read a lot and are "wicked smaht".

Throughout my life, I've learned a lot about being "smart". One of the first things I learned is that you don't think like other people. I don't just mean that you come to different conclusions, but that you get there on a different path. The "others" can't follow your logic, and they think you are "strange" because of what you think and how you think it. That would be fine if you were always right, but of course you are not.

No matter how Wicked Smaht you are, you can be wrong. Horribly wrong, tragically wrong. Fortunately I learned that lesson early enough not to be a total dick about being so good at IQ tests. I knew that while that prodigious brain power might matter sometimes, most of the time it doesn't matter at all. Most real world problems are far too complicated for anyone, so while my arguments may seem more cogent, while I might have more "facts" to back them up, I am still likely to be wrong. Brains mostly don't matter.

Being smart doesn't necessarily make you successful, and you definitely don't need to be very smart to reach success. Being smart won't make you good friends, and won't help you fall in love. It won't make you lucky and can't protect you from disease and aging.

Sometimes people won't get your jokes, will miss your sarcasm. Things you say will fly right over their heads. That will always surprise you, no matter how many times it happens.

Being smart won't help you work with groups. Remember, you don't think like they do. You don't like the way they think, they don't like the way you think. You think they are dumb, and they think exactly the same about you. Guess what: they are every bit as right as you are - because for real world decisions, you don't necessarily have any advantage (even though you think you do).

Being Wicked Smaht is a lot less valuable than being nice. It's far less important than being honest and trustworthy, dependable and faithful to your friends. For everything that matters, being smart is unimportant.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have been happier with the Retards. I did end up happy, but that had nothing to do with being "smart". It had to do with controlling my own life and living it with a wonderful woman. Two great children also made me happy. Good friends, wicked smaht or not, made me happy. My sisters, my nephews, their kids - they make me happy. Smart? Who cares?

See Your high IQ will kill your startup also.

Another post I wrote on this subject: Gifted and Talented.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Mon Oct 19 17:27:09 2009: 7299   TonyLawrence

Funny story: in High School, I got "Detention" (kept after school) for telling a techer what I thought of his general intelligence and education.

Sitting next to me was someone I had known in that Retarded Class - our paths just had not crossed all those years. "What happened to you?", he asked, "I thought you moved!"

Yeah. Sort of :-)

Mon Oct 19 19:54:05 2009: 7300   BrettLegree

Being wicked smaht hasn't helped me in my corporate world, either.

I get bored easily. Not only that, I can see flaws in the logic everywhere around me, that other people either can't see or don't care to see.

On top of that, I have morals... hence I don't climb the corporate ladder, because I see through the BS and have to keep my mouth shut about it.

I read a nice opinion piece a while back (wish I could find it, I was telling Friar about it one time) - it talked about "IQ" vs. "success in life".

Yeah, it was subjective of course. But I enjoyed it :)

The author basically said that if you're too smart, you'll often have a tough time in a big company - if you're mildly clever (say, IQ 105-110), you'll probably do well because you can figure out the ropes, but you are not quite bright enough to see through the BS.

The really smaht people, though, see through the smoke and mirrors, and if they have any morals at all, they end up being less successful than their mildly clever co-workers.

So that's what's wrong with me! I'm too smaht...

Hey, not saying it's right, but it makes me smile!

(For a "real world" example of this - my company has a "shoe procedure". Yup, a manager wrote a procedure on what kinds of shoes are acceptable to wear at work. A manager with a Grade 12 education... not looking down on this person, just saying... it isn't always the Einsteins that rise to the top. We also have a "decision making procedure". I'm waiting on the one that tells us how to use the toilet.)

Mon Oct 19 21:47:06 2009: 7303   Friar

I always got picked on a lot as a kid, being the smallest in the class (and one of the smartest). Perfect cannon fodder for bullies.

But later on, I learned to adapt. I became the class clown. Soon, the bullies were learning it was more fun to laugh WITH me than AT me.

Seems to have worked. It made high school and university much more interesting, and I'm still a class-clown, to this day.

Though it doesn't help where I presently work....You know all those retards you used to hang out with?

Well, they run the Factory, now.


Hey, don't forget the "Bear Awareness" training.

And the Pandemic Influenza Awareness Training (i.e. stay home if you're sick, cough into your elbow).

And don't forget that new Gate-way training...90 minutes to teach us to fill in a ONE PAGE electronic form with drop-down menus.

Mon Oct 19 22:30:30 2009: 7304   TonyLawrence

Many years ago, a friend was refused a job as a UPS driver - they said he was "too smart".

Mon Oct 19 22:55:12 2009: 7306   TonyLawrence

if they have any morals at all

Morals are not a good thing to have. I've had too many circumstances where I've had to do something that was NOT good for me personally, but I had to do it because it was morally right.

Of course if you are a member of one of those religions that lets you pray away any bad thing you do, having morals is no obstacle at all - a quick little prayer or visit to a priest and you are all set! How nice for them!

Mon Oct 19 23:00:42 2009: 7307   TonyLawrence

I want to add this: In my experience, those "slightly smart" people are apt to do better, but they can also be very difficult to deal with because they are smart enough to know they have an edge on the "normals" but not nearly smart enough to realize that (like me) they are still really a horse's ass.

Mon Oct 19 23:03:13 2009: 7308   TonyLawrence

So, Friar: was the Gate-way training hard?

Duck! :-)

Mon Oct 19 23:10:32 2009: 7309   TonyLawrence

Some say we "drop" our r's.

If so, they roll down and wind up in the South where they are used for drawls. Southerners who dislike Yankees should remember that: without us, you might have a hard time talking!

Mon Oct 19 23:18:15 2009: 7310   anonymous

"I've had too many circumstances where I've had to do something that was NOT good for me personally, but I had to do it because it was morally right."

I agree with you 100 percent, because I've been there, many many times. Dammit. And I'm not a member of one of those religions that lets me get away with a little penance, either.

Likewise on the "slightly smart" people doing better, because they have a slight edge but don't realize they're being asses.

Just ask Friar about some people like that - he knows a few at work.

Tue Oct 20 13:45:08 2009: 7312   MarcFarnumRendino

nicely done; i may quibble on a few points :) however you've got some great insight there.

i'm interested to see what sort of discussion ensues.

btw: you might be interested in (link) the particular part i'm reminded of is "there is a limit beyond which genuine communication between different levels of intelligence becomes impossible" - by understanding (or at least being aware of) potential problems, we can perhaps better surmount them.

Tue Oct 20 13:47:27 2009: 7313   TonyLawrence

There is little in life that is more fun than quibbling, so please do!

Tue Oct 20 13:50:11 2009: 7314   MarcFarnumRendino

quibble? no; i'm resisting the urge to "remove all doubt". :)

sorry for the mangled URL; maybe this will be better:


Tue Oct 20 14:00:07 2009: 7315   TonyLawrence

Great link, Marc - thanks! I had already fixed it but it's good enough to have it twice :-)

Tue Oct 20 14:12:48 2009: 7316   RickBrandfass

I've never had the pleasure of being "wicked smaht" or (from my neck of the woods) "a geenus". Many of the really smart people with whom I have worked have contempt for those of us who are relatively average and are trying to accomplish something. Itís almost as if they are standing back watching Lettermanís Stupid Pet Tricks. The thing that stood out with me in these cases is the sheer lack of cooperation. I understand that I wonít get the jokes but I donít understand why a really smart person wonít explain to me in laymanís terms why he thinks a server is not ready to go on-line. Giving me a ďyou wonít understandĒ look is not a good response. Now, if he cannot explain it in laymanís terms, then heís just talented, not "wicked smaht". On the other hand, those people who take the time to bring me up to speed on things I should know, not only are a pleasure to work with but they also help relieve some of the pressure in the workplace. The one person I know who did that the best is now a University President in the Boston area.

Tue Oct 20 14:25:01 2009: 7317   RickBrandfass

Help me out here all you smaht people... aside from falling on a live grenade in a crowded foxhole or donating an eyeball to a blind person, how can you do something that is not morally right and have it be good for you? Iíve had some short-term setbacks because I ďdid the right thingĒ but nothing that I didnít recover from in the long haul.

Tue Oct 20 14:29:41 2009: 7318   TonyLawrence

I was interested to read about regression in that link. The last time I took an IQ test was 1980 - I was 32. It was part of a job interview and was one of those "Don't worry - you can't finish this" jobs. The examiner actually sneered at me when I turned it in before the time limit - I guess he thought I gave up.

A week or two later he called, frantically apologizing and wanting to hire me, but I had already taken another job so was not interested. Didn't really want to work somewhere that placed such value on IQ tests anyway.

But - since then I have never taken one. I did start one recently and quit after a few minutes - I just was not interested - or maybe I've regressed! I certainly feel pretty dumb often enough!

Tue Oct 20 14:35:02 2009: 7319   TonyLawrence

Rick, I agree: if you can't explain it in layman's terms, you don't really understand it.

And yes, we "recover". I'm talking about things like accidentally quoting a too high price, having the client accept it and then issuing a refund - small stuff. Or people paying twice (you'd be surprised how often that happens!) No grenades :-)

Tue Oct 20 14:38:20 2009: 7320   TonyLawrence

Also, I'd guess that those contemptuous folks aren't "wicked smaht" - just the "little bit smart" we talked about above. Those folks are more usually the nasty ones. Not always true, but usually.

Tue Oct 20 15:13:27 2009: 7321   TonyLawrence

I was also interested in this paragraph:

There appear to be three sorts of childhoods and three sorts of adult social adaptations made by the gifted. The first of these may be called the committed strategy. These individuals were born into upper middle class families, with gifted and well educated parents, and often with gifted siblings. They sometimes even had famous relatives.

That's me, right through to that last sentence. Then it all falls apart. The rest of my life is more like the "double life" strategy of the following paragraph.

Tue Oct 20 16:06:56 2009: 7322   stewie

Tony & Brett, EXCELLENT points! You're so right about how "normal" people just don't get it, & how difficult that makes our life. And it's funny how we often wonder if life wouldn't be easier to be Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin. But it's a sad observation that the bulk of America seems to be exactly these two characters. Ignorance, faith, greed, irresponsibility, & hate have become acceptable, if not desirable, in today's America. We're well on our way to becoming the world's largest idiocracy.

The Limbaugh's & Rove's had it easy: Persuade the masses of dumb, irrational people by exploiting a collective underlying hatred which will then build a following which fuels fortune & power which allows them to further spread their agenda on a wide scale. Eventually, the mass of average IQ people will simply join along out their base desire to fit in.

So with most Americans under their spell, we ARE in the retarded class after all.

Tue Oct 20 16:38:59 2009: 7323   TonyLawrence

And yet, what if Limbaugh is right? While people like us could end up in jail or worse in the type of society people like him envision (or pretend to envision - who knows how much is just to build ratings), can we say with certainty that the world in general would not be a better place if remade to conservative Republican philosophy?

We can't. It would be a horrible place for us, a horrible place for science, but for the great mass of people, no harm, no foul. Yes, as Stew said, we'd become (and may become anyway) an idiocracy, but that's not a problem for most people. Oh, medical advances would slow to a crawl, studies of evolution would disappear, but does it matter? Not to most people.

In some parts of this country, I'd risk my life to admit being an ACLU atheist liberal. In that sense, we are already there.

Tue Oct 20 20:40:35 2009: 7324   TonyLawrence

Another small example of morality: I sell email support for $30.00. Send me $30.00, ask your question. Very simple.

You would not believe how often I get $30 and no question. I email the sender asking them what they need and get no response. I often get this several times per month. What is it? Accidental? Just plain stupid? I don't know, because I never get a response.

So of course I wait a few days and then refund their money. Annoying for me, but what can I do? I mentioned that to someone today who told me that a person he knew once was getting subscription checks for from the Federal Government for a service he sold- but with no indication of where to send the subscription access code! That guy cashed the checks and kept the money - outrageous in my mind. I couldn't do that, even if I were desparate.

Wed Oct 21 13:40:18 2009: 7326   BigDumbDinosaur

My name says it all: I'm not wicked smaht. In fact, I'm not even wicked. <Grin>

Wed Oct 21 18:01:51 2009: 7329   TonyLawrence

I think we can make persuasive arguments on both counts, Steggy.

Sat Oct 31 11:34:31 2009: 7398   TonyLawrence


This post talks about Google's restrictive hiring and how it may be hurting Google.

Sat Feb 6 16:09:37 2010: 8038   TonyLawrence


I was thinking about the horrific ignorance and general "stupidity" of the Tea Party movement and that reminded me of this.

I sometimes really wish I could be like them: racist, homophobic, seeing simple solutions to everything. It must be wonderful to be so certain of everything, to think that some heavenly reward awaits you, to feel comfort in the crowd..

I really envy them. And as I said above, we really can't say that it might not be a better world overall if they had their way. A horrible world for me, yes, but overall? Who knows.

Fri Mar 5 15:12:50 2010: 8180   TonyLawrence


Interesting discussion in a similar vein going on over at (link)

The comments are even more interesting than the post.

Fri Apr 9 08:34:06 2010: 8386   anonymous


Thanks for the post. I feel like I can relate, but don't want to offer suggestive anecdotes that try to wrap themselves in your insight or otherwise ride on your coat-tails...but...I will say that I took a darker route with my life, marginalizing myself just to spite my local authority figures. My brilliant father left our family and was replaced by an evil step-father. Wolfram's "New Kind of Science" concept of simple patterns playing out to great complexity over time? Now there's a helpful analogy.

Just in case any young person stumbles upon this with a similar problem, here's what I learned by my mid thirties. It's better to play along and trust yourself to understand why later. Why? Because wisdom and intelligence are two very different things.

Fri Apr 9 11:11:10 2010: 8390   TonyLawrence


I think I'd say it *might* be better. Living a lie has its own share of difficulty.

Fri Apr 9 11:55:52 2010: 8392   Friar


I was also pretty smart in school. Not necessarily "gifted", but often the smartest one in the class. I consistently got 90's without trying that hard.

But I was also the smallest...which made me the perfect target for bullies.

It was around Grade 8, when I realized I could be the class clown. The bullies were too busy laughing WITH me, than AT me, and the abuse stopped.

It's was a good survival instinct to learn. Which I still use to this day.

Fri Apr 9 13:50:23 2010: 8393   BigDumbDinosaur


But I was also the smallest...which made me the perfect target for bullies.

That wasn't my problem back then. In fact, in eighth grade, I was the biggest kid. I wasn't any taller than the others but was a lot bigger around the shoulders and chest, and weighed about 170. No one messed with me, except the educational system, which wasn't (still isn't) geared to handling students with just a tiny bit more smahts. <Grin>

Sat Apr 10 09:07:07 2010: 8394   anonymous


I think I'd say it *might* be better. Living a lie has its own share of difficulty.

Agreed. It has to be up to the individual. Your post helps solve the problem I'm considering because it frames the gifted experience from the perspective of a mature person. I guess I wanted to add a bit of a drop-shadow to your already clear thinking.

Obviously, I chose the double life strategy. I have a stable techie job with great benefits and flex time, which allows me to pursue all the different things I feel passionate about. Outside the office, if I feel like being a dilettante about something, or putting in sustained effort, it and the context are up to me. Inside the office I work hard enough to get all my work done, and after that I tend to stop and think about something else immediately. I like to put myself in the position to get lucky, hoping that the stars will align someday; sadly I'm also finding that a great idea is one of the least important ingredients to this formula.

It's germane to add that deciding if I want to be a dad (or even married) is proving to be quite a difficult challenge and dabbling is not an option. I envy people for whom the choice is obvious, and as you observed, intelligence is not an advantage.


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