I’ve had a vast array of job experiences. While in high school, I worked as maid for a local motel. While attending college, I worked as an office worker in the Sociology Department and Museum of Fine Arts.
Following a career change, I spent the next several years working as an editor and technical writer in various publishing and software companies, including Microsoft. And…whenever I had any spare time, I worked on my true passions: creative writing and art.
I’ve worked with maids, nurses aides, office workers, people with PhDs, and millionaires. I’ve worked with people subsisting on welfare and those living…and dying…in nursing homes. I’ve worked with software engineers, project managers, and vice presidents, as well as publishers, artists, and writers.
And…in that vast array of different jobs, locations, and peoples, what have I observed?
I’ve observed maids and nurses aides who are as sharp, witty, and insightful as famous guests on television talk shows.
I’ve observed employees who had made millions in stock options, standing in the espresso line at Microsoft, bragging about how many coupons they had for free lattes.
I’ve observed post-graduate students getting their PhDs, cramming hard to write their dissertations in time, sweating over passing.
And, I watched in amusement, as a coworker who had recently received his PhD spent 30 minutes hanging a sign over his cubicle that read, “The Doctor Is In.” Otherwise, he’d just be a plain technical writer, like the rest of us.
Based on my observations from working with many types of people, millionaires and PhDs are not smarter or better than the rest of humanity. But there is one major difference: Confidence! Because of their situation, they feel much more secure about the future.
So, if millionaires aren’t smarter, why do they have a lot more money than most of us? A few reasons come to mind:
People with money often inherit it. Or, they inherit the opportunities that come from their families having money. This often includes access to a network of well-heeled businessmen and investors.
They are in the right place at the right time. For example, during Microsoft’s heyday, many employees became millionaires and retired after working with the company only 5 years.
People who make millions from the ground up, from their own efforts, are rare and usually have a good business sense. Most millionaires aren’t in this category.
And, if people with advanced college degrees aren’t really smarter, they must have something (besides confidence). So, what is it?
They have the financial resources to pay for college, whether from their family’s savings, financial aide, or working their way through school.
They usually have good memories, or at least a good short-term memory that enables them to memorize numerous facts they promptly forget after the exams are over. (Most educational systems still reward good memories over the ability to analyze and creatively solve problems.)
They have a certain amount of discipline. (Or, they hire ghostwriters to write their masters theses and doctoral dissertations for them! Yes—some people do this!)
Life circumstances, including those that evolve from the choices we make, can make a big difference. For example, when people get married or have children at a young age, it limits their opportunities for going to school. Sometimes people must take care of disabled family members or younger siblings. There are many life events, some unforeseen, that can make it nearly impossible for someone to complete a college, or even a high-school, education. But most of these have nothing to do with intelligence.
So! If you have been feeling “less than” because you don’t have a degree, an advanced degree, or a million dollars in the bank, please stop beating yourself up. Most likely, you are just as smart as the next person. You are just on a different path.
And, contrary to popular belief, having a college degree doesn’t automatically mean you’ll earn more money. I’ve known service workers who work for themselves--for example, guys who mow lawns, paint houses, and wash windows–who earn more than many software engineers!
I’ve also worked with people from all over this country, and people from countries all over the world – including Asia, Vietnam, Canada, Ireland, England, France, Indonesia, India, and Russia. I have found most of these people to be intelligent, charming, and sincere. Yes, our customs (and our senses of humor) may be different, but most of our needs are very similar.
Yet stereotypes abound. Some people feel a need to judge others, or themselves, by superficial differences. But when all is said and done, no group of individuals is smarter, better, or less than another. We each have our own talents and strengths. As well as our own weaknesses.
We each live life the best way we know how, learning lessons along the way. And, hopefully, learning tolerance and compassion as well.