Why Your IQ Doesn’t Matter

businessman leaping over a bar using a long pencil

Throughout my life I’ve met a lot of really smart people. People with really high IQs that excelled in school.

And I’ve also met and worked with a lot of extremely successful entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs worth 7, 8 and even 9 figures (yes, that means they’re worth over $100 million).

And interestingly, the two groups are pretty much mutually exclusive. That’s not to say that the extremely successful entrepreneurs aren’t smart. They are. But not as smart as a lot of the other folks I know.

So why is it that the high IQ folks haven’t achieved as much success in life?

The answer is that IQ, your intelligence quotient, is less important then RQ, your risk quotient.

To become successful as an entrepreneur, you must take risks. You must get out of your comfort zone and try things that might not work.

Interestingly, throughout our early lives, we were trained NOT to take risks. I know I do this all the time with my kids. “Don’t cross the road until there are no cars in sight,” I tell them. Or “stop playing lacrosse; it’s getting late and I don’t want you getting hit in the face with a ball.” We were all taught this to improve our survival.

But once we get older, survival is not enough. I don’t want my tombstone to read “Dave survived.” I want it to read that I thrived. That I accomplished my potential. That I made a difference.

And the only way to do this is to take risks. Some risks have relatively little downside. Like starting a new business that could possibly lead to bankruptcy. Other risks have bigger downside. Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s risk to fight for civil rights which ultimately resulted in his death. But, Dr. King’s risk also resulted in such amazing positive change, and the betterment of millions upon millions of lives.

I’m not suggesting that you take such a risk as Dr. King did. I am suggesting that you need to get out of your comfort zone if you aspire to be a successful entrepreneur. You need to have an honest talk with yourself. Write down what goals you truly want to accomplish with your life. And then write down what you’re willing to risk. Since if you’re not willing to risk anything, your goals will remain dreams.

Jay Turo, my co-founder at Growthink, wrote a great blog post called “Entrepreneurship and Overstating Fear of Loss” a few years back about how “human beings greatly over-estimate the pain they think they will feel regarding a prospective future loss.” Basically, when we do take risks and fail, the pain isn’t so bad.

So how can you increase your RQ quotient? Try this:

1) Write down your goals.

2) Write down all the actions and associated risks you might have to take in achieving these goals.

3) Start taking the actions with the smallest amount of risk. As you start taking risks and getting out of your comfort zone, taking bigger risks will get easier an easier.

For me, the biggest inspiration that helps me take risks is my tombstone. While not trying to be morbid, I think about how people will remember me and how I want them to remember me. How do you want people to remember you? Once you figure that out, figure out that actions and risks you have to take to achieve it.