If You Want To Be Successful, Stop Focusing On Your Intelligence (Do This Instead)

If the goal in life is for you and I to be successful, then it is too easy.

Tobiloba Adejumo
Tobiloba Adejumo

Who is the busiest person in the world?

History is peppered with names of inspiring geniuses, written on the sands of time, who became catalyst of innovation and evolution. These geniuses existed with a splendid nature of diversity. While some appeared in overly large lab coat with the habitude of pushing their oversized glasses down their nose and index finger under their nose, others existed as prodigy in mathematics, performing complex calculations in thanos snap. The other variants, which are rarely spoken of, are completely normal and happy people. In my time on planet earth, never have I seen those who are genuinely busy referred to as a genius.

But, before diving in, let me give some context on why I am writing an article on becoming successful when there are pending articles to publish on deep learning and the ‘crowd pleasing’ artificial intelligence.

My failed “attempt” at becoming a genius

In junior school, I desperately wanted to be as smart as Adebisi. No matter the intensity of my reading or studying, Adebisi still emerged the best in the class. There was absolutely no reading strategy that wasn’t employed at this phase of my life. Adebisi always had her ways.

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What strategies did I employ?

The bucket of water trick which involved putting my legs in water almost knee-deep in order to completely annihilate sleep. The pacing trick which involved walking haphazardly at intervals in all direction during night hour churning out polysyllabic zingers like a machine gun, with sleepy eyes but with the irrefragable determination of “rest when you are done and not when you are tired”. Jim Rohn’s speech captures this paradox: “You do it or you die”.

The rewriting your note trick — worst and least effective trick of all; a strategy I have grown to despise because of what is required: lots of food. And like chalk and cheese, the energy dissipated during a study session, by and large, is not for a moment commensurate to the result of recall. I used songs, mnemonics, mind map but all failed because I wasn’t the “best”. I even recorded my voice while reading and fell asleep while listening to the playback but none of all these seem to make me a genius. Although reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary, the closest I ever got to Adebisi was to be her second.

Why am I sharing this, you may ask yourself? I do not know why — probably because of the struggles faced while trying to be the “best” or should I say be a genius? I wondered. I remember the little details of this struggle — How apart from normal school session which starts by 7:30 AM and ends by 2:45 PM, I had extra lessons in school for circa two hours before finally retiring back home by 6 PM. Isaiah 48:2 says “there is no rest for the wicked”. I wasn’t wicked, I just wanted to be a genius yet there was no time for rest. On getting home, there was a home tutor whose duty was solely to teach, mentor and inspire. Even at my wit’s end, two-hour home tutoring was a bane I had to deal with.

This atypical style of education is common to all African parents especially those whose parents are teachers. One would have imagined that even after being coopered up, I should have found solace with sleep or perhaps a more fun activity like playing video games. Still, it was mandatory that I studied for another 4 hours before finally going to bed.

If there was a time in my life that I was meant to be the “smartest student alive”, it supposedly should have been in my junior school. There was really no distraction at this stage. I was focused to a large extent; reading dictionary during my pastime earned me the moniker “living dictionary” Did I ever watch TV? Probably the mind captivating “who wants to be a millionaire” television game show, “nkan nbe” or how I often had to plea severally before I could be allowed to seldom watch super story anthology television drama series.

It wasn’t a no-brainer trying to be a genius. Although I had the starter park — lefthandedness & reading glasses due to myopia — it was simply a herculean task for me trying to keep up with the intelligence and smartness of humans. Even as artificial intelligence keep climbing the charts, it still cannot be compared to human intelligence

In Why Humans Will Always Be Smarter Than Artificial Intelligence, consultant Phil Wainewright writes:

People will always be faster to adjust than computers, because that’s what humans are optimized to do. Maybe sometime many years in the future, computers will catch up with humanity’s ability to define new categories — but in the meantime, humans will have learned how to harness computing to augment their own native capabilities. That’s why we will always stay smarter than AI.

From my childhood experience, I had firsthand knowledge that being busy doesn’t guarantee you becoming a genius. Since I clearly couldn’t become a genius with the amount of hours spent studying, I decided to pursue something else — I decided to pursue success.

Is Success Dependent On Hard work?

Hard work is a far cry, and it is totally overhyped. The easiest way to be successful is to find somebody building something great, invest quickly and help the person rise. If I am to choose between relationship between geniuses or extremely smart people and hard work, I will definitely go for the latter.

Here’s why.

There was a student in my senior year in the University. He had a gradepoint of 3.01/5.00. He told me of his success stories while he was in secondary school — the smorgasbord of awards he bagged and how he represented his school in series of international competitions. These tales weren’t cunningly device fables as Peter would say, I remember the effort he put into the second semester, literally spending all his night in the school, reading voraciously, ravenously and mindlessly, aiming to have a pretty high GPA in the semester. Now he wasn’t bothered about being the best like I was — he just wanted to succeed. At the end of the semester, his superhuman effort landed him a 3.02/5.00 which wasn’t commensurate to the intensity of his study. It was as though he didn’t prepare enough. An experience like this brought to fore the realization that hard work doesn’t necessarily equate to success. Nobody cares if you read for long hours or not. No one is interested in stories that galvanizes self drudgery or pity. I would also suggest that you should meet with your motivational speakers for lunch over coffee so that they meticulously explain what they mean by: “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard”.

The Unary Rule of Success

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” — Henry David Thoureau

You are here because you are looking for the perfect little nugget that will change your life.


Let’s say you are invited to my house for the first time. You ask for directions, I tell you. You get to my bus stop, call to ask if it’s a trekking distance. Of course it is for me, but it won’t be for you. You eventually gain the strength and confidence by every experience to walk down rather than taking a bus. You get to my house panting, thirsty, looking for a place to lay your head to rest. This is what happens when you pursue success — your mind is solely focused on the outcome rather than the process. And yet — after thinking about this for a while, I’ve come to an unpleasant conclusion:

The moment you are seeking for it, you will never get it. Success was never designed to be pursued. When a part of you strives desperately for success. Every part of you will never get it.

Success is a process — with no complicated rules — rather than a destination.

What No One Will Tell You About True Success.

We live in a world of men; the earth, the heavens, even the heavens of heavens belong to the world but the earth has he given to the sons of men. The cosmos is a domain that is controlled and managed by man. If you know God alone, you will do well but you will not succeed in the cosmos, you need to know both God and men. The gatekeepers in this realm are men. — Joshua Selman

Success is a paradox. Let me tell you why:

Even with an unfair advantage, everybody is a potential candidate of failure until you exempt yourself. This means that without a level of grit, failure is imminent. On another note, one of my dearly revered mentors referred to success as being too easy. In his words:

“If the goal in life is for you and I to be successful, then it is too easy.” — James Fowe

At first, I was flustered. How is becoming successful an easy goal? You know, I spent a quantifiable amount of my life thinking that the only way I can be successful is by “being the best” — a careless lie I chose to believe for decades! This statement brought to fore two realizations that will corroborate how “easy” success can be. First, you will never succeed in life if you are not mentored and trained. Training and mentorship is how successful people are made and how people can be sustainably successful. I don’t care if you’re a genius or not, I have learnt and I am more convinced than before that training and mentorship is how successful people are made. The story of Claude Shannon, the genius that revolutionalized information theory, revealed that he was a product of mentorship and training.

In 10,000 Hours With Claude Shannon: How A Genius Thinks, Works, and Lives, award-winning author — A Mind At Play: Claude Shannon And The Invention Of Information — Jimmy Soni writes:

Shannon’s most pivotal mentor was probably his graduate school advisor at MIT, Vannevar Bush, who went on to coordinate the American scientific effort in WWII and became the first presidential science advisor. Bush recognized Shannon’s genius, but he also did what mentors are supposed to do — he pushed Shannon out of his comfort zone in some productive ways.

Mentorship is not also listening to someone speaking or reading their books, liking and retweeting their tweets on twitter, it is about humility. It is you saying: I am willing, able and ready to submit myself to be trained and I will insist until I understand.

Another interesting fact about success that no one ever tells you is that success is spiritual. This is, by far and large, the most underestimated truth of successful people in human history. Your lifetime is too short to create all the track record you need. Do not be deceived, even with your speed-reading ability, you cannot read all the books in this life. You cannot know what the future holds. You need to able perceive what is useful as far as a context, dispensation or a civilization is concerned, paying attention to the secret that will make you dominate the cosmos. In 1985, Steve Jobs made eerily accurate predictions about the future of technology. There are many claims on the internet that proves to you that Steve Jobs did not believe in any religion. Hardly can anyone confirm if he was truly spiritual but it was said also that he was greatly inspired by a spiritual book titled:Autobiography of a Yogi” by Pramahansa Yogananda.

Culled from Wikipedia page on ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’

One of the most famous advocates of the book was Steve Jobs, the co-founder, and formerly Chairman and CEO of Apple Inc. Jobs “first read Autobiography of a Yogi as a teenager, then re-read [the book]. Autobiography of a Yogi has inspired people, such as Steve Jobs, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc. Walter Isaacson, a biographer, records that Jobs “first read [it] as a teenager, then re-read [it] in India and had read [it] once a year ever since.”[20] Marc Benioff, CEO of CRM and Cloud Computing To Grow Your Business — Salesforce.com, told his story of attending Steve Jobs memorial service, where the attendees were handed a small brown box on their way out. “This is going to be good,” he thought. “I knew that this was a decision he made, and whatever it was, it was the last thing he wanted us all to think about.” The box contained a copy of Paramahansa Yogananda’s book, “Autobiography of a Yogi.”[21]

The Bottom Line

They say “appearance can be deceitful”. I choose to say “appearance of successful people can be deceitful” because most successful people will tell you tales of their “merciless drudgery and hard work” while inciting you to get angry with poverty but will leave you to dear life to wrap arms around you, squeezing you tight until you draw breath no more. But you must remember to keep breathing, because your breath is your anchor.

🌐 Life⭐ Success

Tobiloba Adejumo

Doctoral Candidate, Research Assistant at The University of Illinois Chicago | Biomedical Optics and Ophthalmic Imaging Lab