I’m smart. It’s hard to say that without sounding like a braggart, but it’s true. And it bothers me sometimes in a way you might not expect.
I publish a note like this in October for two reasons. 1. To encourage you to consider taking the Mensa Admissions Test in October when it is 1/2 price. 2. To hold myself accountable for reaching my potential. (See below)
If you have any sense that you might be smarter than the average bear, I recommend you take a swing at the Mensa Admissions Test. But read this note first to understand exactly why I think its important for you to know your own IQ level.
For those of you that are competitive brainiacs, I’ll just get this out of the way. I don’t know my exact IQ number. The raw test score results I received gave me a percentile rank (more details below) not an intelligence quotient number that we are all more familiar with. So I only know a low IQ number that I at least ranked at. For what its worth (read more about that below too) my IQ is 135 or higher.
When I chose to take the Mensa admissions test, I didn’t tell anyone. Understandably, if I wasn’t accepted, I didn’t want to have to announce that to a lot of people. It’s like pregnancy. Assuming you want to get pregnant, you don’t go around telling everyone you *might* be pregnant before you have test results – in case you’re not.
But when I was accepted and then joined Mensa, I didn’t tell very many people. It’s not the kind of thing one can easily brag about without looking like a jerk. “Hey everybody! I’m really smart! Isn’t that great?!?” It’s not like pregnancy. Almost everyone is genuinely happy for you when you want to be pregnant and your test results show you are.
But I did tell a few people. I told the people that I knew would be genuinely happy for me. And I only told people to whom I could also explain that, armed with this new-found information, I don’t feel vindictive either. I feel no need to say “Haha world! Take that!” Thankfully.
To qualify for Mensa, you have to score in the top 2% of the general population on an accepted standardized intelligence test, also called the 98th percentile. You can qualify with pre-existing scores from certain tests, or you can take the Mensa Admissions Test and Mensa Wonderlic Test. (Some of you may recognize Wonderlic from the NFL draft or corporate business.)
But when I found out I scored in the 99th percentile, I told even fewer people. (In 2010, Mensa changed their policy on releasing specific scores to test takers. They used to only tell you yes/no if you made it in or not.) And that got me thinking more about why I wasn’t telling people something that I should obviously be proud of and celebrate about myself. I’ve come to realize there’s a stigma and level of judgment attached to being smart. A stigma I chose to avoid by keeping that information closely guarded. Until a few years ago when I started posting about it. Obviously, posting anything means it is no longer closely guarded. Now it’s out there, announced, for the world to know about me. Yep. I’m smart. Really smart. Scary, I know.
And now we run into the controversial topic of what intelligence actually is. What does it mean to be smart? Don’t misunderstand me that my IQ score indicates any level of superiority in anything other than the precise areas that the Mensa test assesses. Mensa’s website doesn’t publish any written description of the specific areas that the Mensa Admissions Test assesses. But accepted theories of intelligence indicate that a high IQ score demonstrates an ability in verbal comprehension, reasoning, perceptual speed, numerical ability, word fluency, associative memory, and spatial visualization. And that means I’m good at what? Recognizing patterns. Putting puzzles together. And writing blog posts…
And just as importantly, there are things that a high IQ score does NOT indicate. High IQ does NOT indicate knowledge or any level of education. I do not have more knowledge than anyone else, except in the areas I have learned more in. My doctor does not need to be smarter than me in order for me to trust her ability as a doctor. She has studied and learned a lot more in medicine than I have. I’m not innately better at knowledge trivia games than others. I am often not As Smart As A Fifth Grader. I really kind of stink at Scrabble.
A high IQ does not indicate skill. I am not more skilled at anything, except in the areas I have developed more skill in. A high IQ does not indicate motivation. It doesn’t measure focus. It doesn’t demonstrate my level of personal discipline. As a matter of fact, IQ alone only measures potential. It doesn’t measure any indication of achievement in the real world. High IQ, without motivation, focus, or discipline, will only leave you sitting on a rock feeling smart for yourself.
Knowledge and skill are a true measurement of success in the world. And those are developed with motivation, focus, and discipline. So, now that I’ve explained that there’s a stigma attached to being smart AND that it doesn’t measure any real achievement, WHY would I want to announce this, subject myself to all that judgment, and suggest that you do the same thing?? Because it does measure potential. It measures the ability to understand AS LONG AS the motivation and focus and discipline are added to it. I wish I had known this about myself earlier in my life. I wish I had known about my innate ability to understand something when I struggled to gain knowledge and develop skills. I wouldn’t have been able to give up on myself and say “I just can’t understand this.” I couldn’t have believed it was beyond my level of comprehension. As much as I HATE to admit it, my teachers were right when they commented on my report cards “Jennifer is not working to her full potential.” But I don’t hate it because I wasn’t working hard, I hate it because I believed my full potential was a lot lower than it actually is.
And now that I know what my potential is, the only reasons I can’t learn something, gain a specific knowledge, or develop a specific skill are because of a lack of motivation, focus, or discipline. That has made a big difference in my approach to learning something new. Now when I struggle to understand (and I still do – often), and I want to give up and say “that’s my limit of understanding,” I know I have to try a different approach to understand or try other learning techniques to get it into my thick skull.
And now that YOU know what my potential is, you know those are my only legitimate reasons too. AH, THERE’S THE RUB. Now I’ve gone and announced to the world that I can be held accountable for something I set my mind to do. That it really is within my reach if I add enough focus and discipline. That’s a pretty big burden to admit openly to the world. When I didn’t tell people about my IQ, I wasn’t only scared about the judgment and stigma, I didn’t tell people because until now, I could get away with not focusing as much and not motivating myself in order to accomplish things.
So again, if you suspect that you might also be smarter than the average bear, I recommend finding out for sure. Consider taking the Mensa Admissions Test. It will make you accountable to yourself about your own ability. And if you dare, tell a few other people that are willing to hold you accountable too.