Intelligent people have their own demons.
A month ago, I was invited to one of India’s biggest literary festivals to deliver a talk on “Personal branding as a writer.”
On the bright January morning, despite the crowd’s enthusiastic applause, I felt nothing.
A friend texted me to congratulate on the talk. We got on a call, and I wondered out loud if this was anything to be proud of. Hearing this, they said, “Trust me, you’ve already reached a place where most authors dream of being. I hope this continues until you’re a household name.”
But all I could say in response was, “This is nothing. I can do so much better.”
And hence, the void.
Which brings me to a sentiment I often find myself repeating in my head —
“I’m talented, but I haven’t yet got what I deserve.”
Have you ever said this to a friend, written in your journal, or felt that you’re made for better things (people, jobs, places) that you currently have?
If yes, then you aren’t alone. I was going through an old edition of James Clear’s 3–2–1 newsletter, and something in it struck me hard. In James Clear’s own words,
Things that keep talented people from fulfilling their potential:
- Trying to please everyone
- Imitating the desires of others
- Chasing status without questioning why
- Playing superhero and trying to do it all alone
- Dividing your attention between too many projects.
In this article, I wanted to talk about the gap that always exists between the expectations and reality of talented individuals. Let’s take a look at these individually, shall we?
Trying to please everyone
It’s not easy to distinguish between something you’re doing to be nice, and something you only did to get someone’s validation or attention.
For chronic people pleasers, the line gets blurred further.
I know relationships aren’t transactional. But there’ve been times in my life when I found myself shocked when a friend refused to help. I pictured myself in their situation, and I knew I’d always rush to help them if they were in need.
Why weren’t they giving me what I wanted, when I would so readily have, had the roles been reversed?
But this isn’t the right way of thinking.
Just because I’m nice to someone doesn’t mean they need to be nice to me. In the same way, just because I did everything in my power to make someone happy, they might still be disappointed.
If you look for validation often from others, your talent won’t matter. You’ll design your life according to someone else’s expectations from you.
While that isn’t wrong, it’s also a sure-shot way to always settle for less than what you deserve.
Imitating the desires of others
When I was on the verge of quitting my engineering job in 2021 to become a full-time writer, a voice inside my head said, “You’ve given ten years of your life to engineering. Is quitting it now the right decision?”
It took weeks of journaling, therapy sessions, and deep inner work to realize that while I’d indeed given ten years of my life to engineering, it wasn’t a choice I’d made consciously.
I picked this career path because both my parents are engineers. In my family, it was always a given that both my brother and I would become engineers when we grew up.
That’s how I knew wanting to stick to engineering because of the sunk cost fallacy wasn’t my heart’s desire. It was something my parents had inculcated in me.
This knowledge gave me the courage to switch directions. Today, I couldn’t have been prouder that I mustered the courage to choose what’s important for me.
If you’re confused whether you’re following your heart or imitating someone else’s desires, remember the mantra I live by:
“Don’t take advice from someone who’s living a life you don’t want to live.”
Chasing status without questioning why
This is again, a tough nut to crack.
Growing up, some things are so deeply ingrained in us, that we find it hard to understand if we’re pursuing a goal because our heart wants it, or have we been told by someone that it’s a worthy goal to chase.
I recently wrote an article about the status games I quit to live a truly fulfilled life. You can read it here.
Playing superhero and trying to do it all alone
A few days back, I put up a story on Instagram with Ernest Hemingway’s famous quote,
“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
To this, my friend and Life Coach Dipanshu Rawal replied,
“Also, most intelligent people carry a big ego and don’t want to take help. I call it the “I can do this myself no matter how hard it is” syndrome.”
If you’re talented, it isn’t always easy to acknowledge your limitations and seek help when needed. If you can get past this mental hurdle, you’ll see a lot more new opportunities opening up in front of you.
Dividing your attention between too many projects
Listening to podcasts while doing menial chores was supposed to be my ultimate productivity hack. But when it started to eat into my time for self-reflection, I understood how dangerous diving your attention between too many projects or tasks can be.
Multi-tasking is a lie.
You can never truly “multi” task. All your brain does is quickly switch between multiple tasks, ensuring you can’t focus fully on one, while also getting exhausted quicker.
I’ve written a deep-dive about the science behind it and how you can get ride of your tendency to multi-task. You can read it here.
Intelligent people have their own demons: Final words
I hope this article gave you something to think about. Please leave your insights in the comments. I’d love to hear them.
I’ll close this post with a line from Netflix’s You:
“If there is ever even for a fleeting moment a tiny voice in your head, and that tiny voice is saying “I deserve better,” listen to her. That’s your partner. That’s you real true love, and if you betray her long enough, you will lose her.”
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More on being true to the person you want to be here —