Traditional Measures of Intelligence

There are many instruments that measure intelligence — the kinds that give individuals a score and compare their score to that of the average person. The IQ test, for example, provides a bell curve of intelligence mapping that looks something like this:

Subjective Measures of Intelligence

A person measures their own intelligence, however, by the beliefs they acquire over the span of their lifetime and the evidence they collect during that time to prove their beliefs. Often, people form their beliefs as a result of the messages they have picked up from others.

Let me give you a few examples:

My Experiences

1. I was in grade 4 and I was struggling with my math homework. I asked my brother for help. He was in his early 20’s at the time. We sat down at a round table in the basement and when I answered, “I don’t know” to a question he asked me, he jabbed at his head repeatedly with his index finger and proclaimed, “You’re DENSE.” I left the table upset and went upstairs.

2. In university I signed up for a course on creative writing. Our professor gave us our first assignment: she asked us to pick a side and write an essay on whether or not people like to stand in lines. I figured that most of the people in the class would choose to write about why people don’t like to stand in lines so I chose to build a case on the other side of that argument. I explained why people like to stand in lines. I failed the assignment and the note attached to my mark said, “I recommend that you choose a career outside of creative writing.” I dropped that course and switched to something else.

3. At the age of 23, I was hired as the Marketing Manager for a company that developed document management software. Let me be clear — neither software nor document management was a strength of mine. On my first day at the job, the Vice President of the company took me into the board room for some training on the product and its application. He spoke fast and in order to make sure I understood the information that was coming at me, I asked a question, “What’s the difference between a file and a folder? Does a file go in a folder or vice versa?” The Vice President looked at me with disdain in his eyes and said the following, “This is not rocket science you know.” In that moment, I knew that this would not be my life’s career.

Impact of These Experiences

I have absorbed enough messages in my life to form the belief that I am not smart enough to be where I want to be and achieve the goals I wish I could reach. And like all other humans, I have learned to collect evidence that this is true. I look at my failures and mistakes as evidence that I am simply not smart enough.

I got married young, had 2 kids and got divorced at the age of 35. If I was smarter, I would have known that at 20 years old, my personality, character and identity were still not really formed and that getting married at that age was not a good choice. People tried to warn me, but I would not listen.

At around 32 years old, I made a terrible hiring mistake and hired someone who clearly did not have the same values as me and wreaked havoc on my business and my personal life at the time. If I was smarter, I would not have ignored the blazing red flags that were presented in our early meetings and I would not have hired this person.

The list goes on… As a business owner, there are countless investments I’ve made into ‘marketing initiatives’ that led to nowhere but a hole in my bank account. On a personal level, the number of weight loss programs and coaches I’ve signed up for are too many to list. If I was smart enough, I would have figured these things out by now… after all, I’m no spring chicken. I SHOULD have it all figured out by now!


The truth is that so many of my failures were the specific stepping-stones I needed to get me to the next place.

I struggled in math in grade 4 — but I got better and ended up graduating with a Master’s Degree in Business.

I failed that creative writing essay — but I have been published in countless magazines, I have written and published a book and I continue to write articles every week!

I started my own software company in 1995, sold it 10 years later, and then created a NEW journaling software (JournalEngine™) that we use with our coaching clients and have been licensing out to other coaches worldwide for close to a decade.

At 40 years old, I got remarried to someone who is a much better fit for me than my first husband.

And — while I continue to experiment with ‘marketing initiatives’ for my business — I have finally learned to experiment affordably!

Yes, my failures have helped me grow and learn. However, are my accomplishments and/or failures a true measure of smart? I don’t think so.

How to Measure Smart

The true measure of smart is a person’s ability to manage their emotional state even when things are far from ideal. ‘Smart’ is the fundamental understanding that a rich life does not come from the money one acquires, the size of one’s company, the books one publishes or the rungs they climb on the corporate ladder.

The smartest people are the happiest people. They are the ones who milk their moments and live a life with a sense of awareness of the vast and awesome world they are surrounded by. They live consciously. They don’t let unimportant things get under their skin and they don’t let the opinions of others rule the day. They are dreamers and yet they take pleasure in the simplest of experiences.

Smart people make a huge investment in their personal wellbeing and make it a priority to learn and understand the relationship between their beliefs and their outcomes. Smart people control ONLY what they can control — their thoughts, their feelings and their behaviors.

Do you think you could be a bit smarter? We all can! If you feel like you are not enjoying life as much as you would like and are not feeling quite as happy as you could be, I’d love for you to reach out. Let’s talk! My email address is

Now might be a good time to make an investment in your own personal wellness, and I’d like to help! I look forward to hearing from you.

Kim is the President & Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ & JournalEngine™ Software, an executive coach & a supermom of 5.