I have always admired foxes for their agility, elegance and adaptability. They are known as clever and cunning. But sometimes their intelligence invites trouble. Like when they figure out how to get inside a chicken coop, only to retreat frantically from the farmer's rifle shots.
In contrast to foxes, owls are known for being wise. Which is a bit strange. Bird experts will tell you that parrots, falcons and pigeons are far easier to train than owls. Owls, like cats, are indifferent.
Some folks argue that owls simply look wise due to their big, penetrating eyes. But owls are laser accurate predators, with an over 85% success rate on hunts. Their huge eyes afford them incredible day/night, as well as peripheral vision. Owls may be difficult to train, but so are cats. And I've met some darn smart cats.
In 1926, psychologist Lewis Terman used a new IQ test to study 1,500 "high IQ" California students. His research charted the lives of these students, following their ups and downs. You'd expect high intelligence to assure successful lives. And some were successful. But others led more conventional lives, becoming everything from police officers to sales persons. In the end, life outcomes for these bright students didn't vary much from everyone else. In some cases, their high IQ's appeared to be a hindrance.
Really smart kids know they're smart. And that can create a burden to perform. Smart people also tend to ruminate more, but not necessarily about profound ideas. Rather, some smart people anguish over every day decisions and problems. They're also given to mental "blind spots" that can lead to issues like confirmation bias.
Writer David Robson, in a compelling article for the BBC entitled The Surprising Downsides Of Being Clever, noted, "The harsh truth, however, is that greater intelligence does not equate to wiser decisions." Wisdom is different from high intelligence. Wise individuals are able to make good, unbiased decisions. They don't ignore details inconvenient to their biases. Sometimes highly intelligent people are so sure of themselves, they fall victim to their biases.
Robson suggested individuals talk through their problems in the third person (he/she) instead of first person (I). This "emotional distancing" seems to create a less biased approach. Robson also explored the notion of "intellectual humility," which involves a willingness to admit your intellectual limits. Such honest self awareness is a positive quality that some leading companies, like Google, screen for.
There's nothing wrong with being supremely intelligent. So long as you remain aware of your biases and don't fall prey to "analysis paralysis." For those of us who were not invited to join Mensa, never fear. Our lives are likely to be just as successful, and maybe more so, than the ruminating geniuses. In the end, the goal for everyone should be to seek wisdom. Which is why it's better to be like an owl than a fox.