The Curse of Intelligence; or, I Am Not A Number!

As I sit here in my boring 9-to-5 job, having just moved to California in an attempt to jumpstart my life and figure out what the heck it is I wish to do with my existence, I see people working around me. Content people. People satisifed with their middle management or sales job or whatnot. People who feel fulfilled by the time they spend at the office.

Now, don’t get me wrong - an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work is nothing to sneeze at, and my father taught me the value of working hard and doing something right and well and the best you can. But the fact that these people are happy in these kinds of jobs makes me shudder. I sit here and watch groups of management walk by in their suits and ties and dresses and think, “Please, God, don’t let me become one of them.” It’s like watching a bad Dilbert Day parade, and everyone’s dressed as the pointy-haired boss.

It’s not that I don’t believe these people have found their niche - some of these people are terriffic people, who do their jobs really, really well, and derive a genuine satisfaction from them. And I understand that some of these jobs are actually important - I used to work for a pharmaceutical firm, and understand that if it weren’t for these marketing teams and such that do the jobs that they do, these drugs wouldn’t get to the people whose lives they save. But overwhelmingly, every time I see one of these people, all I can think is, “My God, you’re all sheep. What contribution are you making to the world? What difference are you making?

This, of course, is the question I’ve been asking myself, so maybe I’m just projecting it on to others, but I think there’s a thread for discussion. Is this the bane of intelligent people, to look at the world differently and not be satisfied without making some impact? As animals we somewhere along the line realized that we would someday die, and that has since affected our lives tremendously, so like this, does wanting to trascend the mundane and impact the world mark one as intelligent, or is it the result of already being intelligent? Or does it have nothing to do with intelligence at all, and if not, then what?

And while I’m at it, I’m soliciting ideas for how I, the Gay Guy, can leave my mark upon the world. :wink:

Last question - does anybody else feel this way?


Esprix, not everybody defines theirselves by their job. For many, a job is just a means for an end, a way to make sure you have the time and the money to maintain the really important thigs in life - family, friends, hobbies.


How come it makes you shudder?


By that same token by being at work what contribution are you making to the world? They are paid to do what they do so obviously their efforts are of value to someone. What makes them more sheep like then you?


It is possible and I only say this because your opening post mentioned your “boring” 9 to 5 job. It seems that you’re getting no satisfaction out of it and feel like a sheep yourself.


At the very least most people want to make a positive impact in their lives and the lives of those they care about. Regardless of how one views the world I believe the only way to achieve happiness is to live by our own values. If you find that you’re generally unhappy then you’re probably not doing something right according to your own system of values.


I’m not all that interested in impacting the world. Granted there are things I’d like to see done and I would even help to make them happen. But impacting the world is not my primary goal in life.

Just be yourself and don’t concern yourself with changing the world single handedly. Decide what you want out of life and go for it. I don’t mean to sound like a prick but that’s about the best answer I have. Of course finding out what you want out of life can be pretty difficult.


I agree with you there, Esprix, about never being contempt…ever. But some people either don’t have the capacity to make a difference or just don’t care about it. Those who don’t have the capacity to make a difference are Sheep, and those who don’t care about making a difference are Jerk-Offs. What do you think is worse?

Never be contempt or comfortable. That phrase doesn’t mean that you can’t be Happy. If you’re not happy, you certainly can’t make much of a difference. My goal is to change the world. But my world probaly won’t agree with yours.(actually, I know it won’t agree with yours. All people AREN’T equal is one of my principles.)

You see salesmen and middle managers at the office who seem genuinely happy in their jobs and find satisfaction in their vocation.

You understand that at least some of these jobs are important in that they indirectly (if not directly) create a “good” result.

You look down upon these people because they are not “contributing” anything to the world.

You ascribe your lack of personal contentment and contempt for your coworkers to a superior intelligence.

Might I recommend a bit of Voltaire?

I’m not all that interested in impacting the world. Granted there are things I’d like to see done and I would even help to make them happen. But impacting the world is not my primary goal in life.

IM(not so)HO, anyone who doesn’t want to make an impact on the Species and the world doesn’t have my highest respect. You seem a little selfish to me or a you aren’t at all ambitous enough to make a difference.

I wish for a time when people Live for more reasons than just LIVING.

Settle down, Unit 5527, or we will be forced to reprogram you.

If I understand you correctly, I think that the word you want is content.

Though, if I understand you correctly diction is hardly your only confusion.

I would disagree to this extent - I think it is more than enough to want to have a positive impact on your little corner of the world. Given how difficult that often can be, that can be ambitious enough.

I’m reminded of an old saw where missionaries were boasting of their work.
The first said that he had converted thousands. The second said that he had converted whole countries. The third was silent. The first one asked, “Well? How many souls have you saved?” The third missionary answered, “One”.


I know exactly how you feel. It’s not that I’m ingrateful that I have a job, but it’s just so souless (I don’t know if that should have one ‘l’ or two). In fact, that exact feeling is where my UserName came from, I feel like a monkey sitting at this desk, just typing on a keyboard, pushing papers around, going to boring meetings, and waiting for the day to be over. ~sigh~

I imagine there aren’t too many people who have the luxury of saying “Yay! I’m going to work!” but there’s got to be something else out there. Every day I sit at this desk is another day further away from true happiness and fulfillment. The only trouble is, I have no idea what I would find fulfilling. The closest I ever came was working with developmentally delayed kids. It was challenging, I was moving around constantly instead of sitting in front of a computer, and I actually felt like I was making a difference in the lives of these kids and they were making a difference in mine. But there’s a really high burnout rate in that field, especially working with kids that severe. It’s emotionally draining and after a few years, I just couldn’t do it any more.

I just try to make my personal life as fulfilling as possible. My job definitely takes a back seat to my friends and family. But it still would be great to feel like I was feeding my soul instead of just collecting a paycheck. I’ve been thinkng of volunteering at an animal shelter or something on the weekends. There’s a program where you can help elderly people and terminally ill people take care of their pets. I think that may be what I need.

Sorry Esprix, I have no advice, I just figured I’d commiserate with you. :slight_smile:

The endless search for the answers to the very same questions cops ask when they pick you up for being suspicious. (i. e. Not doing anything criminal, but not looking or acting like average people)

What are you doing?

Where are you going?

Who are you?

So, the assistant general manager of the client records department of the Moderately Useful Corporate Services Co. is not making a difference in the world? A narrow world view, Esprix. (one I find at odds with your post history, I might add) Perhaps that would be a sentence in Purgatory for you, perhaps not. But the work needs doing. It can be done well, or haphazardly. There is a difference.

But the corporate cog who does this job might be just treading water, pulling down a paycheck because he wants to make a decent home, and good future for his family. Is that noble enough? Perhaps not for you, but it is the fundamental basis for the growth of a stable and decent society.

However, I think your basic point is very valid indeed, if you apply it to your own life, without judgment of other people. Is what you are doing for your money worth the time you spend? Keep in mind that time is your life. Is it worth your life to do what you do? If it isn’t, is it giving you access to the things you need to do some other thing, or provide some other thing that is worth your life? If you can’t see that being true, then by all means find another thing to do!

But look with greater charity at those for whom serving as busboy in a cheap restaurant is a challenge to their abilities. They do what they can, and give what they have, to make their own way in the world. When you make a comparison with them, remember you have to compare yourself to Lao T’su, Genghis Kahn, Steven Hawking, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Take care of the part of the world you can reach. If you get ahead of that, reach out and help another poor schmuck get his part of the world under control. If you manage to keep that up for a while, you will be a great man. You won’t have to ask if what you do is worth the effort, others will make that clear to you.


The curse of intelligence? Sorry, Espirix, you’ll find no sympathy from my corner. As far as I’m concerned the curse of intelligence includes:

The assumption that one is right in any given situation
The assumption that intelligence somehow equates to wisdom
The belief that intelligence can substitute for initiative
Or common sense
Or common courtesy
The assumption that being intelligent somehow makes one, as a human being, superior

Take pride in your work, resolve to give your employer good value in exchange for compensation and cultivate relationships with your fellow workers. If you still don’t feel you’re making an impact, follow DeskMonkey’s example, find a cause you believe in and do volunteer work.

Then maybe try a post on “the gift of intelligence.”

started seriously wondering stuff like that at 26 when i worked for IBM. most IBMers weren’t interested in computers, they were PROFESSIONALS. the idea of having a computer at home was BIZARRE!

heard one Customer Engineer kept getting in trouble with the accounting department for not cashing his paychecks. months of checks would pile up at home. he had invested early and was rich and didn’t need the money. he was always getting awards for a great job. his motivation was entirely different from everybody elses. i thought he was nuts. he was in his 50’s and i thought. “can’t this guy find something better to do with his time?” i thought IBM was boring compared to repairing stereos to the transistor level. IBM had MAPs, Maintenance Analysis Procedures, that lead you by the hand to fix stuff. put your probe on pin A7, is the light flashing red?, is the light flashing green?
YES, go to Board 3, pin C6…replace card XZ3729.

that’s nice. i got the machine fixed, but i don’t know what that circuit board did. get a chimpanzee that can read.

so let’s foment the next microcomputer revolution. get people to switch to Linux. trash Microsoft. they’re just the software version of what IBM was.

you still have to deal with the economics, get the books:

RICH DAD, POOR DAD by Robert Kiyosaki

both of these guys made themselves rich, so they are not just economic theorists. i suggest reading the 1st chap of YOUR MONEY, THE MONEY GAME, then do RICH DAD, it has a better graphical explanation of accounting, then finish YOUR MONEY. life is to short for and endless 9 to 5.

Dal Timgar


I have a day job. My job is to make other people’s jobs easier, make it simple to use the tools, help them learn the tools, make them less frustrated with the tools (I write user guides, online help, and training materials, as Esprix knows). Not too bad for a day’s work, knowing that if I do my job well, hundreds of people will NOT spend hours swearing at the computer.

Esprix, are you doing what you enjoy, or just what you know you can do? I used to do similar work (for the same companies, as you may recall). I enjoyed it, as a paycheck, and I felt reasonably good about doing it. But it wasn’t enough. I was too smart to ‘waste’ my time doing something that didn’t satisfy a deeper need. Now, if I couldn’t get the skills to do something that suited me better, if I was really best suited to that kind of work, then, sure, I’d be where Alessan described, doing it so I could spend my spare time doing something else. But working grunt jobs didn’t feed my soul, and that was what I WANTED.

So, time to do some soul-searching. What gives you pleasure? (aside from the boys, dear) I figured out that I love helping people. I love teaching. I love mastering something then moving on to a new project, rather than doing the same thing all the time. I love impressing the heck out of someone, but not having to stick around long enough for either of us to get bored, even though I also like exploring certain topics (and relationships) in detail. I love learning complex technical stuff. I love putting myself in someone else’s shoes and thinking from a different perspective. All this makes me a great consultant, and a great technical writer. And I keep my brain in gear. Is this what I planned to do? Nope. Not anywhere near my degree. But it suits at the deeper level. So I don’t feel like I’m wasting my day hours. The pay don’t hurt, either. (just got another raise, and on the way to moving up the tech track next year!)

As for your ‘sheep’ - Some people really get a kick out of selling things. Some get a kick out of managing people (my manager is one who loves that). Some love managing technical stuff. And so on. I discovered why I enjoyed tech writing long after I was doing it. Defining what made it satisfying helps keep it satisfying, for me. Since I know what I want, I can see what it is that I do, and how that satisfies what I want. If you don’t know what you want, how do you determine if you are doing the right job or not?

As long as you aren’t deadened by your work, beaten down by it, depressed by it, bored by it, or overwhelmed by it, (at least not more than being satisfied or fulfilled by it) you are at least not making your ‘real’ life worse. Sounds like your job isn’t adding anything to your life. So find a new direction.

Parental note: Raising an exceptionally bright child is tricky - you have to raise them not to be star players in every area, but to be able to find the space that satisfies them. Blazingly brilliant kids end up doing all sorts of things, from being astronauts/politicians/artists (high profile), to doing ‘regular’ jobs like accounting, teaching, carpentry, ministry, military, counseling, and so forth. Look around the boards, here. Lots of range. Mostly of people who are at least comfortable doing what they are doing, and don’t feel like they are missing something.

Going for the bigger change in direction can be scary. But you are talented, bright, and unencumbered. Take some classes, figure out what you really want to do when you grow up. Then do what it takes to at least try to do it. If you end up doing grunt jobs to feed cash into your life so that you can do what you really want (say, if it doesn’t make enough money, or if it is a draining job that you can only handle emotionally if you do it in bits), that’s fine. As long as you are satisfied with that being the reason, then you won’t be complaining. If you are complaining, you aren’t satisfied, so then you need to change something.

Time for you to get off your butt, dear, and I mean that in the fondest way. You’re smart, you can figure this out. Find your calling.

As if anyone cares whether they have your highest respect or not.

Why should impacting the world be my primary goal in life? Granted I didn’t say I wasn’t concerned at all about these things but I fail to see why it should consume my life.


After a quick read but not yet responding to anyone directly, let me make something clear before I continue - I’m not making value judgments of anyone or any profession. I’m speaking from my own point of view, from things coming from my own head. The term “sheep” in my head means “people who just follow the crowd, do what’s expected, and don’t make waves,” so in this instance it’s not as insulting as it sounds in my head. It’s my own unexamined life I’m wondering is worth living, that’s all.

More to come. Thanks for the input.


My dad was a teacher, and he loved it. It was his calling: he made a difference in people’s lives, and he was good at it.

Then, he realized that he couldn’t possibly support a wife and 5 kids on a teacher’s salary, so he became principal and eventually superintendant. He was good at it; he was widely respected in the community. He hated it.

The job caused him so much stress that he drank too much (at home, after work; it didn’t affect his job) and had a couple of heart attacks. He withdrew. The only time he looked really happy was when he reminisced about his teaching experiences. His eyes would be dreamy, far away. He died at age 61.

My dad sacrificed his own life, quite literally, for the good of his family. Otherwise, we could not have survived financially, even with my mom working. We were more important to him than his own happiness.

What’s most important to you? What are you willing to do for it?

Umm… Mr. Esprix? Sir?

Having lurked on here for months, having come out of the lurker closet recently, it’s a little bizarre addressing you. Kind of like initiating a conversation with the Dalai Lama… you’ve read his words of wisdom, but hanging out with him is a bit odd.

But it occurs to me that you may already have the answers you’re coming to us for. If you want to know what kind of impact you want to make upon the world, look at what you already do.

Your Ask The Gay Guy threads have been truly inspiring. You make an erudite “ambassador” to the straight community, and should be proud of all the ignorance that you’ve valiantly fought against. Along with your posts in other threads, on homosexuality and a wide array of other topics, these have made me develop a true respect for your perspective.

Another way you may be having an impact on your world… remember that “I’m getting laid too much” thread? Don’t you think it has an impact on some people to spend intimate time with someone as attractive, intelligent and considerate as yourself? I know that the great lovers I’ve been with in the past have helped to make me, not only a better lover, but better able to express my feelings for others in all sorts of ways. And the memories I have of the really beautiful guys I’ve been with will make me smile, long after I’ve lost the rest of my marbles.

So, as to career choices, I suggest either advice columnist, or gigolo. Let me know how it goes.

Mr(Shoulda been a guidance counselor)Visible

Count me in on the side of Alessan and MGibson, by and large. MaynardJK would likely not have a great deal of respect for me :wink: .

I neither like nor dislike my job particularly. It pays well with good benefits, isn’t particularly stressful, allows me some independence of thought and action in terms of decision-making, and doesn’t intrude into my off-hours. It is an operation that runs slightly in the red financially, but is maintained ( by local government ) because it preserves scarce ( occasionally scarce ) resources and is environmentally responsible. I’m reasonably good at it and I generally don’t dislike going to work.

But from an intellectual standpoint, it is not particularly fascinating or satisfying. The science of the field bores me. I do not attend conferences, read journals, or belong to professional organizations associated with my job. If I could work less than 40 hours a week, I would ( I’m notorious for almost never working overtime - the money’s not worth the intrusion into my off time ). If I could get away without working at any job ( i.e. if I were idly wealthy ), I would. My interest in my job pretty much begins and ends with my paycheck. And because it’s such a good paycheck, I’m not likely to leave - It finances my self-indulgent lifestyle :slight_smile: . Any other job that I would both enjoy and be qualified for, wouldn’t.

I am unambitious. I have no interest in making an “impact” on the world. Rather I am concerned with making myself and those around me happy. That’s about it. As far as I’m concerned, I owe society at large nothing, other than to not be an asshole :slight_smile: . I’m generous with friends and occasionally strangers ( charities and the like - but with charities I’m not generous with my time ). But being the child of political activists has long since burnt out any desire to participate directly in the system ( I love and respect my parents - But you try standing on a picket line when you’re three :rolleyes: ).

We all have to do what makes us feel good. Many of my friends have seemingly the same desire to make a mark as you do. And I think that’s admirable :slight_smile: . Although I get frustrated when they make themselves miserable over their failure to achieve what they wish ( some of them are excessively perfectionist and hard on themselves ). And I get annoyed ( and amused ) when they worry about me ‘wasting myself’.

My advice, for what little it may be worth, is to not worry so much about what motivates the people around you ( unless you’re a sociologist :wink: ) and just concern yourself with you. There are many perfectly intelligent, decent ‘slackers’ and ‘corporate cogs’ in this world. And there’s probably more brain-dead ones :smiley: .But we don’t all get pleasure out of the same things in life. Try not to get so hung up on the differences :slight_smile: .

And I’ll try not to condescendingly pity those that seem perpetually unable to achieve any contentment in their lives. That’s MY hangup and prejudice and it’s not any better.

By the way, as a long-time lurker I should say that I’ve always felt that you make a fine contribution here :slight_smile: .

  • Tamerlane

On whether or not other people are sheep …

Esprix, I think I see what you’re saying. It’s almost impossible to express those sorts of thoughts without coming off as condescending, and I think you did the best job possible at describing how you feel honestly without making harsh judgements on others.

I think the popularity of Dilbert shows just how typical this perception is. Perhaps one of the reasons that other people seem like sheep is that it is actually a reflection of our own fears of being sheep-like. Isn’t the point of Dilbert often “if I find this funny, then *I’m * not like them”?

Some things to keep in mind have already been mentioned … these people who are so happy in their jobs might be

a. very happy, because they find satisfaction in their work.

b. moderately pleasant, because the job gives them the means to support themselves so that they can go home and do whatever it is that really gives them satisfaction (family, hobbies, writing their history of the Civil War for 20 years).

c. not happy, but they figure the best way to get through the day is to put a good face on things, and try to make it as bearable as possible.

d. happy because they have seen other things … a 9 to 5 desk job might look pretty good to someone who came to this country to escape war or poverty, someone who was raised by a parent who couldn’t hold a job, or someone who is recovering from an illness and once had to worry that they might never be able to support themselves again.

Many, many people make the world a better place, and they do this after they have clocked out at the end of the work day. When you think about the things you might do to contribute to the world, don’t forget that they might not necessarily impact what you do to get the bills paid.