To unspoken dilemma of smart people

There is an unspoken dilemma that many smart people deal with.

To take the level of risk that they want to or to go for something that may lead to an above-average success with a win and a reasonably acceptable (face-saving) failure if that pursuit results in a loss.

They know they are smart.

They also know they want to go for the big win.

Swing for the fences.


They also don’t want to fail so badly that their smartness MAY be questioned.


What if that happens and their earlier successes are now attributed more to luck instead of their smartness and hard work.

Living up to the standards of smartness set up by the world around them becomes a non-negotiable requirement in their own mind.

Is this always the case?

No, but this is also the one that’s least acknowledged as the case for not taking big risks for the exact reasons that’s outlined above.

Think about it.

The odds of succeeding in any big project are beyond the smartness and hard work of any ONE person. Every piece of the puzzle has to fit nicely to get a win. If even ONE piece is missing, the result is sub-optimal. On the other hand, what if one chooses to pursue something that has a high-degree of success heavily based on one person’s smartness and hard work. Then, the goal has to be not a grand one, but something above-average.

For the world around them, they continue to come across as smart and successful as they accumulate one win after another.

It looks good on their resume.

How about in their own world?

Are they happy?

Most probably not.

They know deep in their heart they can do more, pursue something bigger and better and contribute at a whole new level.

This is one of many ways smart people feel stuck.

In a case like the above, the solution to fix it is not in a skill-set upgrade, but lies in a mindset shift and a self-esteem stabilization. It is easier said than done.

For starters, one has to deeply believe that reinvention is not a luxury, but a basic necessity as the world around them is changing rapidly. The strategies and tactics that brought them success in the past are rarely the ones that will get them their new wins.

Next is to get comfortable operating at the edges.

Edges are not safe, but big wins rarely are achieved by playing within their comfort zone.

Plus, when you operate at the edges, remember that criticism is part of the package deal.

Plus, there is luck. While one cannot hope and pray to get lucky, one has to be able to notice and capitalize on lucky breaks.

You, me and everyone else has capitalized on their lucky moments. Not many acknowledge it, but nevertheless the point is to be open and willing embrace such moments in your own life to get even further ahead.

I can go on and on about this.

Over more than five years, I interviewed close to 300 smart people just trying to find out why got stuck every now and then and sometimes stayed stuck for prolonged periods of time.

The result is the topic of my new book

Smart, but Stuck
When being brilliant is not good enough

The book is available for pre-order on Publishizer until the end of August. If the topic resonates or if you know someone in your circles who is smart, but stuck consider pre-ordering a copy for them.

Entrepreneur, Author and Teacher, co-founder of Based in Silicon Valley. More about him at

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