Everyone has been made for some particular work and the desire for that work has been put in his or her heart.
Howard Gardener, a Harvard psychologist, believes there are multiple types of intelligence. Our school experiences have led us to believe that those who do well on IQ tests and have achieved high SAT scores are the smart ones and the rest of us are average or worse. The damage done by defining intelligence in a too narrow context is that it affects our self-esteem and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe you are average you will act accordingly. You can never outperform your self-image.
There is a classic experiment in which a group of kids were told that those among them who had blue eyes were smarter and those that had brown eyes were mentally inferior. The kids’ performances were consistent with how they had been labeled.
There is an obvious bias in favor of those who do well on intelligence tests. They are considered smart, receive preferential treatment (sometimes not knowingly) and have a better shot at the more prestigious schools. Those who received lower SAT scores are labeled as average or damaged goods and labor under the illusion that they have nothing going for them because their skills, intelligence and potential haven’t been properly identified. Acing SAT tests just might say that you are good at taking tests and nothing more; some people are good at taking tests. Of course it may also say other things and I don’t mean to imply that scoring high on these types of tests is without merit, but it isn’t that strong of predictor as to how successful you will be in life. There are many underachievers and unhappy people who do well on tests and fare poorly in life. Let’s review the seven types of intelligences identified by Howard Gardener:
- Linguistic intelligence is the intelligence of words. This is the intelligence of successful writers, storytellers and poets. People who are particularly smart in this area can argue, persuade, entertain, teach or instruct. These are the people we call wordsmiths.
- Logical/mathematical intelligence relates to numbers and logic. This is the intelligence of the mathematician, accountant and computer programmer.
- Spatial intelligence is the third kind of smarts. It involves thinking in pictures and images. It’s the domain of architects, photographers and artists.
- Musical intelligence is the fourth kind of smarts. People blessed with this have the capacity to perceive, appreciate and produce rhythms and melodies.
- Bodily/Kinetics intelligence refers to the physical self. It includes talent in controlling one’s body movements and also in handling objects skillfully. Good hand eye coordination is an example. Athletes, artisans, mechanics and surgeons possess a great measure of this kind of intelligence.
- Interpersonal is the ability to understand and work with other people. It involves being able to perceive and be responsive to the moods, temperament and desires of others. An example might be a social coordinator for a singles club.
- Intrapersonal is the intelligence of the inner self. Counselors and therapists have good intrapersonal skills. They can be very introspective, contemplative and enjoy various forms of soul searching.
You might strongly identify with one or two of the above descriptions, but you actually possess all 7 types of intelligence.
When these intelligences get way out of balance and one is highly developed at the expense of all the others, we get idiot savants like Raymond in the movie Rainmaker who could calculate numbers with lightening speed but couldn’t take care of himself.
The important thing to remember is that you should give all these intelligences equal billing when evaluating how smart you are. Book smarts get all the press, but I know many successful people whose street smarts more than compensate for any alleged lack of book smarts or formal education.
There are lessons to be learned from highly creative and extraordinary individuals. Highly accomplished individuals are able to identify their strengths and then follow a path that utilizes and exploits their talents. You don’t want to become an unhappy doctor or lawyer just because your father wanted you to follow in his footsteps when you were really meant to be a musician. It’s a prescription for frustration rather than happiness.
Oprah Winfrey has incredible talent in front of a camera or live audience, but she would be the first to tell you that there are innumerable talents and abilities she sees in her various guests each week that she herself does not possess.
Bill Gates said Microsoft would be only a fraction of what it is today if it wasn’t for the talents and abilities of his partners.
Steven Scott said that he only has four significant talents: he knows how to type reasonably well, he knows how to effectively and persuasively communicate, he knows how to direct on-camera talents and he knows how to market products and ideas. He can’t play a musical instrument. He doesn’t understand accounting or computers, possesses no mechanical skills and yet he has generated over one billion in sales and created multiple companies from insurance to cosmetics.
The lesson these examples can teach us is you have to identify your strengths (intelligences) and focus on them.