Success Strategies

You Can Succeed Even If You're Not the Brainy Type

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I went to a university where the whole group was about 14,000 times smarter than I was. They had the test scores, grades and pedigrees to prove it in spades. While these mini Mensa types skimmed their psychology books and hit Georgetown's popular hangout the Tombs promptly at 4 p.m., I memorized, was tutored and had every conceivable study buddy willing to take even a little pity on me and none of it happened over a beer. 

And I still didn’t get it. 

But I do now. And it’s not about IQ. Sure, a lot has been written about the book-smart kind of IQ versus all the other kinds proposed by Howard Gardner in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. While the number of types of intelligence seems to multiply by the day, even Gardner suggests at least one more could be included in his original seven.

In Gardner, I found hope. He believes that no individuals should be labeled with only one specific kind of intelligence. Rather people can have multiple strengths and are each a unique blend of them. Hallelujah. 

And here’s where all of this relates to business. My peers were probably logically mathematical or verbal linguistically inclined and their natural talents were very apparent every time they received an A+ and headed one notch closer to Suma Cum Laude-dom.

I, on the other hand, was an Adderall-deprived, interpersonally-strong beast. Sure, I could connect with people: My professors were always willing to give me extra time and encouragement. Then there were the study buddies willing to pitch in. I must have had some kind of juju going to convince them to take pity on me, right? And that’s how I’ve made it in business -- and you can too. 

Just because you didn’t ace the SAT’s, fear not. Thanks to Howard Gardner, there’s hope. Here are some pointers to help you on your way to becoming a better entrepreneur or business leader:

Related: How Smart Do You Have to Be to Succeed?

1. Determine your strengths.

Yawn. We’ve all heard that, but do it. Stop whining (pot meet kettle) that you’re not as good, smart, gifted, rich, privileged or connected as the next guy and figure out what you are good at. Then do more of it. 

2. Commit to your strengths.

Put some time and muscle behind them. I love Marcus Buckingham and his concept of focusing on your strengths and bleaching your weaknesses from your mind because you’ll go so much further, faster. 

3. Do something.

People like to credit to the likes of Albert Einstein this saying “Nothing happens until something moves." Assess what gifts you’ve already been blessed with and read, study, practice. Then rinse and repeat.  

Related: 9 Lessons You Won't Learn in Business School 

4. Stick with it.

Another Einstein-like saying is “It's not that I'm so smart. It's just that I stay with problems longer.” So be that guy. It’s amazing how far I’ve gotten in life just strictly by hanging in one second longer than everyone else. Make one more sales call, send two more emails. Eventually, as my own personal Einstein (Dad) says, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” It’s true. 

5. Course correct.

Road test your new plan and if it’s not working after a short bit, tweak it. Be conscious about where you’ve made progress and what could still use a little help and adjust accordingly.

It’s not like Edison discovered the lightbulb on the first try. 

6. Keep your chin up.

Through all of the C's I earned in statistics, I never gave up and surrounded myself with cheerleaders (professors, family and friends) who kept encouraging me and the parts of my intelligence that I naturally possessed. Eventually I honed my skills to compensate for my weaknesses.

I can make friends with just about anyone. (This comes in very handy in hospital emergency rooms, sales pitches and when I desperately need the other kid’s mom to share some details about school.) And this makes me naturally good at sales, writing, connecting and speaking. 

So you see, there’s hope. Maybe not for me as the next professor at Caltech, but certainly for me (and all of us on Team Challenged) in terms of nailing the next cool celebrity client.

Hang in there, because guess who loves statistics now? You guessed it.  

Related: The 10 Unique Soft Skills Employers Desire in New Hires