In 2000 I started my own company. This was my second attempt in 3 years, after having worked 15 years in a certain industry and rising about as high as could working for someone else. Over the next 5 years, I made a lot of money and the company was poised for true success.
Then, in 2006, it all came crashing down.
A “perfect storm” of bad circumstances and bad decisions on my part left me broke and nearly emotionally broken. I was able (barely) to salvage enough of my company to sell it off to a partner for enough money to survive on.
Much of what went wrong for me that year can be found in the list below.
Smart people (and most who know me would describe me in those terms) do dumb things. Maybe not as often as truly dumb people; but more often than we would like to admit.
Business aside, we make a lot of our worst mistakes in our personal lives and choices.
As example, I just got out of a 10 month relationship with a young woman less than half my age. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work out.
All of my male friends gave me two thumbs up. Most were at least mildly envious. One advised me to “put a ring on her finger” ASAP!
My female friends saw things far more clearly. From the beginning, my very best friend (a wise woman indeed) described it as a slow-moving train wreck; one she just couldn’t bear to watch. Most others just looked at me with that “you poor dumb shmuck” look, smiled sadly and shook their heads.
I tried telling one that though “weird”, our relationship weirdly worked. She scoffed at that openly, replying, “You just THINK its working!”
Of course, she was right.
This wasn’t the first or worst bad decision I’ve made regarding my choice of feminine companions; just the most recent. Being pretty wise when it comes to analyzing other people’s relationships doesn’t make me any less stupid when it comes to my own…
We all make mistakes, even the smartest of us. But its often surprising when really smart people make really dumb mistakes. Here is a list of the Top 10 reasons that they do:
Top 10 Reasons Why Smart People Do Dumb Things
- They’re too close to the situation. Lack of objectivity or perspective is probably the most common reason, but not the only one, by any means.
- They’re in uncharted territory. People tend to forget that intelligence or experience doesn’t necessarily translate from one situation or company to the next, as we discussed in Carol Bartz and the CEO’s Dilemma. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
- They’re distracted. They’ve got other things or priorities on their mind and they’re just not paying attention. Sometimes, it’s that simple. Like Occam’s Razor says, all things being equal, the simplest solution is usually the right one.
- They’ve made up their mind based on limited data. Ever try to have an objective, intelligent discussion with someone who’s already made up his mind about something? Didn’t turn out too well, did it?
- Their assumptions are flawed. As a really smart high-tech CEO once said to me, most mistakes are the result of bad assumptions. It’s true. Every conclusion and decision is based on assumptions. The logic can be perfect, but if the underlying assumptions are flawed, all bets are off.
- They feel like it. People have a nasty habit of connecting behavior and decision-making with thinking, reasoning, and logic. That’s just not the way it is. Both thoughts and feelings play a role in everything we do, and the split varies constantly. So, a smart person can do a dumb thing if the mood is right, so to speak. That’s usually followed by a smartass like me saying, “He should have known better.”
- They’re panicking. Emotion to the extreme, usually fear or anxiety, drives the fight or flight response and, sometimes, behavior or decision-making that may, in hindsight, prove unwise, to put it nicely.
- The second law of thermodynamics. In the physical world, entropy tends to increase. People are no different. Even biological organisms obey physical laws. Smart decisions tend to bring order to chaos; dumb decisions tend to have the opposite effect. Thus, smart decisions are less likely and harder to achieve. In other words, s**t happens.
- People change. People age, things change. Our ideals, goals, motives, mental state, and of course, behavior and actions, all change over time. Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders calls itTime The Avenger: “Nobody’s permanent; everything’s on loan here.”
- They’re off their meds or their rocker. What, you think I’m kidding? You think really smart people can’t have psychological problems, temporary mental lapses, brain farts? Haven’t you ever said someone’s “lost his mind” or is “off her rocker?” Then there’s the whole meds thing. They can be just off them or just on them? Either one can trigger erratic behavior.