If you’re the type of person who worries there’s always somebody in the room smarter than you, you needn’t be.
Not because you’re about to jump 40 IQ points by reading this, but because research is showing that innate intelligence (or at least the kind measured by IQ tests), is a relatively poor gauge of an individual’s tendency to succeed in life.
One such study, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania on 140 primary school pupils, found self-discipline to be a far more reliable indicator of academic potential than IQ test scores. It may come as no great surprise that applying yourself can bring rewards in an academic setting, but what about real life? After all, history is littered with college drop-outs like Mark Zuckerberg who made it on to the Fortune 100.
A follow-up study monitoring 1,000 children over a 30-year period found that the most successful members of the sample were those who demonstrated control over their emotions as well as an ability to work towards long-term goals. IQ and technical ability, though important, were overshadowed by ‘softer’ skills such as confidence, the ability to overcome setbacks and calmness under pressure.
The university’s findings are backed up by those of the Carnegie Institute of Technology, who discovered that 85% of success is linked to something called cognitive control, which essentially means an individual’s capacity to communicate, negotiate and lead others.
Social awareness, self-awareness and interpersonal competence, which are all aspects of emotional intelligence, were also found to better predictors of success than IQ in a study of 251 executives in six countries by Accenture.
So self-discipline, emotional and cognitive control and emotional intelligence are all considered hugely influential when it comes to how successful someone is likely to be. But the one crucial trait that was mentioned across many studies in one way or another was grit, defined (in yet another University of Pennsylvania study) as perseverance and passion for long-term goals.
IQ is important; it’s just not the most important ingredient for success. So even if you weren’t the brainiac of the class it doesn’t mean you can’t be its most successful graduate.