Thoughts on Effective Intelligence

Why do smart people do dumb things? Why are the most intelligent or privileged people not necessarily the happiest ones? What does it take to become “successful”?

What is Effective Intelligence (FI)?

Effective intelligence (FI) is one’s ability to use their natural and developed capabilities effectively in order to achieve “success”. It is one’s ability to develop enabling beliefs, make appropriate decisions and take appropriate actions that can translate who they are genetically and who they’ve become because of their environment, timing and luck, into success.

In the context of FI, success is that “space” in life which fulfils us to the maximum. It is that space of becoming, being and doing, which we crave and aim for. It’s not something we obtain, but rather a space we inhabit. This space is a product of both “the end” and “the means”, that is, the goal and the journey. Success is a multidimensional space which includes an internal perspective (how we feel within it) but also often a “reflected” perspective (how we believe others will see us once we have occupied that space).

Self-Esteem= Success/Expectations.” – Alain de Botton

head_stuck_in_sand_400_clr_6605Happiness (Eudaimonia) is a result of living within one’s own and honestly defined Space of Success (SoS). Therefore, it becomes important for individuals to formulate their own honest definition of success based on their own values, beliefs, capabilities and capacity. The value of this space is subjective.

“Eudaimonia is the end goal or purpose behind everything we do as people and is desired for its own sake.” – Aristotle

SoS=ƒ(Effective Intelligence, Constraints[1],[2],[3],[4]).

Effective Intelligence is a “meta”-intelligence and defines the degree to which we can put into effective use all of our “other intelligences(e.g. IQ, EI, SI, etc.). It is one’s ability to capitalise on these intelligences in an effective way that will lead (via a rich journey) to success. The lack of FI is the answer to “why smart people do dumb things” and explains why the smartest or more privileged people are not necessarily the happiest ones.

Existential Intelligence: Sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence – Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Why is this concept useful?

“Unless a word exists that is commonly used to describe a concept, that concept cannot exist.”

Success is the space where everyone wants to be. Achieving success is an optimisation issue, albeit a complex one. Most people fail to see it as such, but most importantly, they fail to define their “own equation” (to be optimised) and/or fail to identify, and invest in developing, the skills necessary to “solve” such an (optimisation) equation. Therefore, simply by understanding the concept and context of FI, one is significantly closer to commencing and/or improving the effectiveness of their journey to success.

“A good prospector must know more than the physical landscape (what is to be found where, with what probability) but also at what cost in effort and risk and with what possible gain.” source

The concept of Effective Intelligence can be applied separately to any of the dimensions of one’s definition of success (professional, spiritual, social, financial, or those related to health, family, physical appearance, etc.). Or, it can be applied to a holistic definition of success, and evaluated as something more than just the sum of the Effective Intelligence (∑FI) demonstrated in the various dimensions.

“The part can never be well unless the whole is well.” – Plato

People with higher levels of Effective Intelligence are able to consistently put their smarts and capabilities to work for them, instead of wasting them (or even having them work against them). They are able to productively acknowledge the various constraints in their lives, set realistic (and stretch) goals, and craft plans to achieve them. Such constraints are genetic traits[1], environmental factors [2], as well as timing[3] and luck[4], but they should not be seen as blocking factors or excuses, but only as parameters of the broader optimisation challenge.

[1] Examples of genetic traits are IQ, physical traits, disabilities, talents, etc.
[2] Examples of environmental factors are geography, family, social surroundings, culture, financial starting point, access to information, knowledge and education, etc.
[3] Examples of timing are historic timing, synchronicity with major (or seed) events, etc.
[4] Examples of luck are any misfortunes or serendipitous events.

How can Effective Intelligence be developed?

“The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.” – Rita Mae Brown

connect_the_dots_400_clr_11515Most people become victims of accepting society’s stereotypical definition(s) of success which tend to be generic, conflicting and unattainable spaces, often misaligned with higher existential values. Effective Intelligence is manifested with signs of an “awakening” that usually starts by questioning conventional definitions of success and leads to developing and using, in an increasingly effective way, one’s capabilities towards achieving success. This journey to success involves a series of steps: 

  • Defining and continuously refining and evolving one’s (own) honest definition of success.
  • Acknowledging the multi-dimensionality of success and the need for trade-offs and productive compromises.
  • Exhibiting productive self-awareness.
  • Understanding one’s constraints and capacity limitations.
  • Understanding the physics (laws) of the systems one interacts with.
  • Defining a plan on how to achieve success (translating one’s honest definition of success into goals and actions).
  • Continuously optimising one’s plan – finding one’s personal Efficient Frontier.
  • Developing and aligning values, beliefs, mindsets, attitudes, capabilities and goals.
  • Managing effectively the dynamic nature of life.
  • Balancing the contribution of both goals and journey.
  • Learning from the challenges while enjoying the journey.

“Destiny is not a matter of chance; but a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for. It is a thing to be achieved.” – William Jennings Bryant

Once the journey has started, an accelerating increase of one’s Effective Intelligence can be expected, as the results of FI contribute towards the further development of one’s FI.

How can Effective Intelligence be measured?

One can exhibit low or hi FI in a given situation (the degree of which would only be obvious to an objective observer that is fully aware of the constraints and goals of the acting person). In reality, the FI one exhibits at any point can only become apparent in hindsight.

So, perhaps Effective Intelligence can only be measured in hindsight – by the choice of one’s selected journey and the produced results. Perhaps you can only measure relative changes in FI (e.g. an increase in FI).

Achieving Success=ƒ(Effective Intelligence, Luck[4]).

Does it make sense to try to compare the FI of different people? Probably not, as this would require knowing the goals and constraints of each person in unattainable detail.

“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence, but by the distance they have travelled from the point where they started.” – Henry Ward Beecher

Closing thoughts

stick_figure_in_deep_thought_400_clr_8120Striving to succeed according to commonly accepted definitions of success may temporarily feel good and win you the admiration of others, but will almost never bring you a sense of personal accomplishment and happiness. Can anyone, therefore, really afford not developing their Effective Intelligence to its maximum?

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3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Effective Intelligence

  1. […] Effective intelligence is related to our capability to maximize the number of (worthy) goals achieved (and consequently maximizing the value produced). Efficient Intelligence is related to our capability to minimize the time/effort/cost needed to achieve them. Or, in other words, our capability to maximize the value to effort ratio (the return of our efforts). […]


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