Maybe you’re too smart

I recently met the CEO of a publicly traded Japanese company for some advice about entrepreneurship and business. 

I work hard in life. It’s part of my values and ingrained in me from a young age and I can probably thank (blame?) my Asian parents for it. I think for the most part it has paid off and I definitely still value a strong work ethic in myself and others. It has allowed me to graduate from good schools and get good job offers. As I enter the world of entrepreneurship, however, I realize it’s more about action than analysis. Both very nuanced words and it’s tough to gain clarity at times because at its core that’s what entrepreneurship, but really life in general, really is — our own interpretations. 

Business can be tough. 

Life can be tough. 

And we can get caught up in all the options we have. They are literally endless if you really think about it. Sure, someone may say “I could never start a business,” I could never do X, Y, Z” but that all boils down to them choosing that mentality. Of course, there are systemic issues in society that hold certain people back but the point of this article is to shine light on the parts of our lives where we do have control. That oftentimes than not, happens to be more than we think. 

I have a strong curiosity toward learning how high performers (CEOs, top-level entrepreneurs and executives) operate. I love meeting and interviewing these people with aims to hopefully glean some sort of golden nugget that I can apply into my life. The way people’s brains work fascinates me. 

This CEO told me about how staying calm in a zen-like manner is the key to his success. Even through the worst of the worst, detaching oneself from the external situation and moving forward with ease. Curious by nature, I dug deeper. About an hour into our conversation, the CEO made a comment to me about my business ambitions. He said, “maybe you’re too smart”. 

That really resonated with me. 

Maybe I’m too smart? 

Really?

All my life I thought I wasn’t smart enough. Now here is this high powered CEO telling me that perhaps I’m too smart. I let that marinate for a while. He began to share with me all the mistakes he made while building his company, all the struggles despite seeming perfect on the outside. I started to begin to understand what he meant. That there is a balance between action and analysis and sometimes we just need to get out of our own way. It’s part of the Every Irene motto of progress over perfection too.

I hear that CEO’s voice in my head at times when I’m faced with a tough situation or start becoming hard on myself. It’s strangely a voice of motivation guiding me toward the path of least resistance. It reminds me that not everything has to be hard work, a struggle, or grind. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can have the largest impacts in our life, business or otherwise.  

Maybe us type A go-getting women are too smart for our own good sometimes. If you’re not living the life you desire, maybe the answer is simpler than you think. Maybe you just need to get out of your own way. Maybe you’re just too smart.