How To Tell If Somebody Is Intelligent

In 2014, I took an official IQ test by Mensa in Heidelberg (Germany). I just had to know. Here’s a picture right before the test:

About a week later, I got my result: 131. Just above the requirement threshold to be eligible for a Mensa membership, which corresponds to the highest IQ category in most ranking systems.

That immediately gave way for a follow-up question: If I’m so god-damn smart, then why the fuck am I not rich and successful yet?

Three years later, I think part of the answer is this: Intelligence isn’t just about logic. It’s about emotions, too.

EQ matters just as much for IQ as IQ itself, maybe even more.

So the biggest thing taking an IQ test taught me is that IQ doesn’t mean much at all. I had to find a new measure of intelligence.

I had to switch schools in 7th grade. Luckily, there was another new guy, who had to repeat the year. We ended up sitting next to each other in English class.

We spent most of our time making funny King of Queens references, because the class was boring for both of us, albeit for different reasons – or so I thought.

(our favorite noise to make in 7th grade)

I didn’t have to pay attention because I was too smart for the class. I knew everything already and there was nothing to learn. At the time I believed he was just lazy.

The others called him stupid, but I had a hunch that this guy wasn’t stupid at all. If anything, he was smarter than others. But I didn’t understand why he was doing what he was doing.

Two years later, he failed the year again. Then again and had to switch schools.

One day, he just stood up, walked out of class, and never came back. To this day, he hasn’t even picked up his graduation certificate.

Today, he has more money than I can count. He’s made most of it by systematically analyzing and betting on the outcome of sports events and then investing the profits in smart ways.

That’s the kind of car he drives:

He’s bought a huge house for himself. And another one for his parents. Great guy. I talk to him every day.

When I got back that test result, that’s when I finally understood: Back in that English class, he wasn’t being lazy. He was too smart for the class also.

Unlike me though, he had the EQ to understand that high school wasn’t his playing field. Numbers and sports were. And he wouldn’t need to grasp the concept of simple past for that.

I now have a new rule of thumb for finding out whether someone’s intelligent:

The less I understand someone’s actions, the more reason I have to believe they are intelligent.

If you’re smart, it’s easy to map other people’s actions to the outcomes they hope to gain from them. X does Y because she wants Z. It’s obvious. Most people you can see right through.

But when someone’s intentions are completely lost on you, you might be missing the big picture the other person sees very clearly.

Intelligence isn’t about what’s in your head. It’s about how you use what’s in your head to analyze the world and the people who live in it. This is why EQ is so important and how it helps you navigate the world.

I’m really glad I took that test. It taught me a lot. And none of it had to do with the result.