Where do intelligent people go?
August 28, 2008 11:47 AM   Subscribe

I have finally decided that though I'm smart, I'm mostly average. The only way for me to be able to make decisions that will lead to becoming really successful is if I have people around me who are smarter than me, and who can teach me stuff. I need a mentor, how do I find this mentor?

I'm a bit above average, and for a long time, I always assumed I was very smart. But with time and after examining my actions through the perpective of others, I realise that actually, I do make a lot of mistakes. I'm not that good, I just thought I was.

So I want to somehow bring myself into a position where I can build on the smarts of others.

My friends are lazy people who like to party, womanize and talk about shit, but never actually do shit. Looking at my friends should have been my hint as to how I really am, but I somehow continued to assume I was better, even though I never had anything to show for it.

I'm tired of this life, and I need to move up. But I keep making bad decisions, not completing stuff, and so on. Just discovering the right thing to do takes a lot of failed attempts.

But when I work together with people who are very smart, I don't make these mistakes because they sort of neutralise the wild side of my mind. I need this in my life to fulfill my potential.

Right now I'm still at the university, shortly about to finish. Most of the people in my class at the university do not qualify as smart, they mostly just seem to be idling along. Some of my professors however, have that thing. But I'm their student, they will not be direct friends with me.

So, how do I meet people who are smart? I do NOT want to meet them to debate on topics or to somehow challenge their intellect, I want to learn from them, listen to their reasoning, and learn how they progressed and became successful in their lives, and so avoid repeating their mistakes.

Where do these people 'hang out'?
posted by ChabonJabon to Human Relations (18 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Metafilter.
posted by Laugh_track at 12:08 PM on August 28, 2008 [5 favorites]


There are smart people everywhere. Some of them are more driven than others, and there are plenty of brilliant folks just 'idling along.' If you want to surround yourself with ambitious people, you should keep in mind that they probably won't be spending a lot of time 'hanging out.' If you're still in school, there are probably tons of extracurricular activities available with an intellectual bent. You seem to have pretty strict criteria about what constitutes 'smart' though. Perhaps if you expand your operational definition a little, you'll find that there are a lot more smart people out there than you realize.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:23 PM on August 28, 2008


I had no luck in my last two attempts to find a mentor on Metafilter. However, I did managed to supply loads more information about what it was I wanted to do and what it was I wanted to get out of the mentor relationship than you have managed to do in nine 'paragraphs'. So, how about being clear about what you are doing and what you want to actually accomplish with a mentor?
posted by parmanparman at 12:27 PM on August 28, 2008


You do ask interesting questions.

It's easier to find mentors in the working world or as a graduate student. Unlike life as an undergraduate student, you will be freely mixing and working with people of different ages and experience levels.
posted by Alison at 12:29 PM on August 28, 2008


I want to learn from them, listen to their reasoning, and learn how they progressed and became successful in their lives, and so avoid repeating their mistakes.

You can spend a lot of time avoiding the mistakes of others and not avoid a single one of your own. You have to own real mistakes you make.

The "smart people" progressed like we all do--by making their own mistakes. Don't kid yourself--we all are making tons of mistakes every day. It sounds like you may be perfectionistic and expecting to be something that doesn't exist.

As for finding smart people, just keep your eyes peeled. You need to know someone for some time to know if they are really smart.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:31 PM on August 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


I question the logic behind "finding a mentor." Are you incapable of teaching yourself?

Take a mental inventory, figure out what subjects you're clueless about, then do a self-study. Maybe you want to know more about business, or finance, or law... do you really think that you're incapable of picking up a book and learning about those subjects?

Maybe you think you need a mentor to pass on "life lessons." Don't be trite. Everyone's life is different, you make your own way.

Be your own mentor.
posted by wfrgms at 12:38 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe you want to know more about business, or finance, or law... do you really think that you're incapable of picking up a book and learning about those subjects?

That's part of the problem. I have the same issue as the OP. Well, I used to. Books don't tell you everything, and there aren't books on every subject. I lacked a LOT of knowledge about my field (student affairs), despite all the reading I did. The info textbooks were too basic, and the info I found in publications was either outdated or way too theoretical. I didn't start learning about important things until I started asking experts (like my advisor and internship supervisors) LOTS of questions.
posted by sixcolors at 12:48 PM on August 28, 2008


Seconding parmanparman. You're a little vague about why your university can't provide the career guidance you need.

I question whether you need your professors to be "direct friends" with you. Your professors, or most of them, will be happy to chat with you about your career ideas and help give you some direction. I expect that what you need is a good job.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:51 PM on August 28, 2008


I question whether you need your professors to be "direct friends" with you. Your professors, or most of them, will be happy to chat with you about your career ideas and help give you some direction. I expect that what you need is a good job.

Quoted for truth.

I'd also recommend that you approach your professors and tell them that you're interested in assisting with research in the field or doing independent projects. But, also, they're not going to be really interested in you if you're just looking to observe them as an example of a successful person. You have to be really interested in this stuff--and, if you're not going to challenge their intellect, you at least need to pique their interest.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:09 PM on August 28, 2008


There are all kinds of intelligence, and they have use in many different places. I've found that once you know what you want to achieve, and have the motivation to learn, teachers will appear and guide you to success. But that requires you to look inside and really understand what you want to learn. To paraphrase the Cheshire cat, if you don't know where you want to go, it's doesn't matter which road you take. Conversely, no one can tell you what road to take until you know where you want to go.

If you want to "succeed" in "life", I've found this book very valuable. I wish I've found it 5, or 10 years earlier; but I'm glad I've found it anyway.
http://www.johntreed.com/succeeding.html
posted by curiousZ at 1:27 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Graduate School and Metafilter work for me.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:48 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


In popular career advice today "get a mentor" is repeated a lot. I really question the validity and practicality of this advice. Unless you're in school or in a specific mentoring program, most people don't have a lot of extra time to take on someone to mentor.

If it happens, it happens, but I don't think you need to pursue a mentor in order to be a success. Take advantage of the resources available to you, learn as much as you can, and work towards your goals. I think a lot more satisfaction comes from self-directed motivation.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 2:20 PM on August 28, 2008


Well, I daresay you gotta bring something to the table to hang out with other "smart people," whether it's equally formidable intelligence, a wicked sense of humor, or the willingness to punch yourself in the balls for cheap laughs. If I were you and still hell bent on hanging out with other smart people, I'd pick something I liked or found interesting - anything, really - and get good at it, and start meeting other people who are good at it/like it/find it interesting. I think hanging out comes naturally from there.

FWIW, though, most "smart people" I know either are presently or were at one time utterly deficient in some non-smarts related part of their lives; brains aren't everything. I get the sense however, that you want to hang out with people who've got it together, rather than just someone who is brilliant. So work on your own self-discipline first and start taking little acting steps towards fulfilling your potential - after all, water seeks its own level.
posted by universal_qlc at 4:38 PM on August 28, 2008


Be your own mentor.

Yup. Contrary to what some think, there ARE books on every subject and what's missed can be found on the internets. Mabye you need a sort of hiatus. You know, when you cut down social time a bunch to really focus on developing yourself. Read a lot, write a lot, do all the projects and things you've always fantasized about.

And, yeah, go talk to some professors. I don't know where you go to school, but while all professors won't come over to your room to play video games and chat quantum physics, they'll be happy to in their offices.
posted by saxamo at 5:32 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hmm. If we are talking about financial success, I don't believe that listening to "smarter" people is going to help a whole lot. I have no data, I have no way to prove it, but after college in an honors program with really smart people, I now believe that most of success comes from extreme motivation.

I think you are percieving a shortfall in yourself that you would like to fix - but mentors cannot teach you drive or ambition. Their advice may make your life easier on the road to success, but that's about it. As my father, another smart man, once said - you can be anything you want, son, even a bum. You just have to promise me you will be the best bum on the block. And, that maxim, no matter how lame, is true. As long as you are the best, money will surely follow. Even naked cowboy, the best bum in times square, makes six figures.

Screw finding a smart person to emulate or idolize. Instead, roll up your sleeves and seize your own success.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 7:59 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit above average, and for a long time, I always assumed I was very smart. But with time and after examining my actions through the perpective of others, I realise that actually, I do make a lot of mistakes. I'm not that good, I just thought I was.

I think you've reached a certain epiphany, but you're framing it in a self-deprecating way. Being smart does not, alas, preclude making mistakes. In fact, some of the smartest people I know got that way by learning from their mistakes.

Nor are smart people omnipotent. Most people have their smartness confined to certain domains of ability or knowledge. It is very true that to be successful in any enterprise which is beyond the capability of a single person to master (compare publishing to painting), surrou8nding yourself with smart people .... is the smart thing to do.

It's part of the life cycle of entrepreneurship. Some people can come up with ideas, but can't make a company out of them. So they hire people who are smart at making companies. In time, the company is no longer fun for the inventors, and they leave (hopefully richer). Think of the different kinds of smart represented by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, for example.
posted by dhartung at 12:35 AM on August 29, 2008


The few good mentors I had were smart, but more importantly, they were leaders. And I don't mean charismatic leaders. I mean moral leaders. Thought leaders. Get sh*t done leaders. Not afraid to bloody their hands leaders. I have gained a lot more by watching someone's leadership style than by listening to them drop knowledge. If you want to 'talk' to smart people, start attacking the archives of ask.mefi. If you want to find an impactful mentor, keep your eyes and your ears open. I think finding a great mentor has a lot to do with luck, timing, and preparedness. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. The best mentor I ever had was the owner of a pizza joint I worked at in university. I learned what excellence was by watching how he swept the floor. I will never forget that guy and the lessons he taught me.
posted by kaizen at 6:42 AM on August 29, 2008


I found a mentor by having a need that they could fill.

In other words, I knew what I needed and I started reaching out to find someone who could help me.

More specifically, I was looking to find work after law school with bad grades and average work experience. I read that informational interviews were an excuse to start a conversation. Informational interviews help if you're ambitious and want to learn how that person got that job and how their career developed.

A job is a very direct need a lot of people can identify with. People will help you because they know what that's like.


But smart people in general - how do you meet them? Get into competitive programs. Smart people generally make good grades or good products and good achievements get you into good programs.

Other than that, there are lots of smart people who don't advertise "Hey, I'm a smart person". There are your smart people doing average things that don't suggest their smartness.


What it sounds like is that you want someone to give you advice on a journey, but you don't tell us where you think you want to go. I mean, you need to set some kind of goal and then you can find people to help you get there.

Smart people make mistakes too. However, they minimize these by staying informed. You can inform yourself by books, you can do it by life experience and you can talk to people. Really you need to do all three though. Even when you talk to people, they'll tell you to read books and go somewhere for an experience.

There is no, to my knowlege, magic way to harness the power of smart people to make yourself infallible. People are not commodities or machines.
posted by abdulf at 12:46 AM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


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