Life Lessons From Some of the Smartest People in the World

by Don Smith

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Online international mensa forum question post

Mensa is an international organization that only accepts members with an IQ higher than 98% of the population. Recently, I asked some Mensa members, “What life lessons have you learned?” Far from the stuffy replies you might expect, replies ranged from funny quotes like “Don't sweat the petty stuff, it's much better to pet the sweaty stuff” to the deep and serious.

Funny & serious, lighthearted & deep, humorous & enlightening, their responses may surprise you! Here are 60 lessons about life from Mensa members, some of the smartest people on the planet.

  1. I have learned that you can't judge a person's character, solely based on their political or religious views. Over the years I have been in countless heated arguments, with the only result of dividing people into friends and enemies, right and wrong, good and bad, smart people and stupid people, etc. And as a result, I only had friends with the same opinions as me, and no one to spar with. I now have friends both on the right-wing and the left-wing. And when I talk to them, it usually becomes apparent that our values aren't that far apart, even though our political opinions about how society should be run differ quite a bit. I still get into heated debates once in a while though. Old habits are hard to kill. But I think I have become more relaxed and end the debate sooner than I used to. If I have shared my opinion and it has been clarified as much as is needed, then usually stop answering. I see no reason to keep repeating myself, just because the other side has a different opinion. I have shared my views and values, and if people don't agree, then repeating myself won't make any difference. I would much rather sit down and have a beer with my counterpart, than ending up despising the other, due to an argument that went too far. We humans are different from each other, but at the same time, we are more similar than we might realize. Not many things are truly important. But laughter is.
  2. Be seated while on the toilet.
  3. Masks are a necessity unless you're living alone with 0 contacts with the outside world.
  4. Always consider whether something will still matter in a year’s time before getting angry about it – I loved this when I heard it and have tried to live by it; I don’t always succeed but it’s still made a noticeable difference to my overall happiness!
  5. Who are “the people?” WE are “the people.” My late father-in-law used to say this to me when I worried about what “people would think.” Helped tremendously with self-confidence.
  6. Try to become more than just promising.
  7. Lack of action is the true enemy of progress and evolution. Not destruction.
  8. Don't bang crazy
  9. Death only exists to those who aren't dead.
  10. I am a slow learner.
  11. Learn to differentiate between ‘want' and ‘need'. Think very carefully indeed before taking out credit and going into debt to satisfy wants. By all means borrow for needs (eg student loan, mortgage), but try to satisfy wants by saving for them first. They will cost less without interest payments and you will not be so financially vulnerable if you suffer an interruption to your income.
  12. It is easier to push toothpaste back into its tube than it is to get yourself off a spam mailing list
  13. A quick decision is a good decision.
  14. It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
  15. Don't compare your behind-the-scenes bloopers reel with everyone else's highlight reel that they post on social media.
  16. When in doubt, there is no doubt.
  17. Look at where you want to be, not at where you are going.
  18. NEVER buy a stripper a car.
  19. Don't spend time with ‘energy hoovers'.
  20. Ideas don't mean anything if you don't do anything with them.
  21. Know your limitations.
  22. If you don't try you'll never know. What's the downside, seriously?
  24. Five minutes of thought, no matter how intelligent you are, does not substitute for wisdom.
  25. You don't have to do anything. But you always have to suffer the consequences of your choices.
  26. I would rather have questions that can't be answered, than answers that can't be questioned.
  27. Don't think about doing it; do it.
  28. If you don't actively choose a path, life will choose one for you. Odds are very good you'll wind up wishing you'd made a choice.
  29. It is not necessarily wrong to chose the path of least resistance.
  30. Try to avoid going to prison.
  31. Life is more interesting when you continue studying, learning new things, and stay curious. The only meaning in life is love. Don't blame others, try to change yourself if you are not happy. Being smart doesn't mean you do smart things. And it doesn't mean you're wise. With some luck that comes with patience, age, and hard work. And the last: Meditation does work!
  32. I learned a long time ago that people really don't want to know the truth.
  33. Many things in life (like human behavior) can be modified from time to time, but decisions made based on your ‘drives' will last a lifetime.
  34. People tend to be brainwashed idiots. Even those in the top 2%.
  35. Choose your words carefully; you may not understand how ironic they are.
  36. Driving lesson from my mom: “Stay out of the way, and don't hit anything.”
    Anger management lesson from my father: “If it ain't one thing, it's another” (he was talking about those lemons life gives you).
    Business lesson from a mentor: “For the first five years you are in business, your employees should make more than you.”
    An observation I have made: “Most everything that ever happened in my life was a result of choices I made.”
  37. For those that believe, no explanation is necessary; for those that do not believe, no explanation is necessary.
  38. Just use a calculator.
  39. The brain is fine, but it’s better if it partners with the heart.
  40. Intelligence isn't everything. It's what you do with it that matters.
  41. If you do everything with confidence you'll improve your chances 100% and even if you fail you'll be fine with it. I wish I had learned this a lot earlier.
  42. Measure twice, cut once.
  43. Buy high, sell higher.
  44. Don't sweat the small stuff –and learn how to set proper priorities.
  45. You do not get what you pay for when you buy the wrong tool.
  46. Put the important things on your calendar. Only you can determine what is important.
  47. Being wrong is much cheaper than staying wrong.
  48. Occasionally, you'll have to choose between being right and being happy. If being right makes you happy, you're the one who has to live with yourself.
  49. Being smart isn't the same thing as being tall. You're not necessarily dumber than the guy who is smarter than the guy who is smarter than you.
  50. Don't waste valuable time and energy trying to help people who won't listen, just cut them out entirely.
  51. Don't sweat the petty stuff. It's much better to pet the sweaty stuff.
  52. Save money and invest it early and often. Don't be too eager to buy a house. Rent for a while or better yet, live off the relatives if you can to save up enough of a safety net before buying.
  53. The only useful diversity is the diversity that comes from indifference.
  54. Everyone is an asshole in their own special way. No exceptions. If you can't accept that in others, then you are in the wrong universe.
  55. You can't tell other people what to feel.
  56. Dress for the job you want, not the one that you have.
  57.  Don't make excuses for nasty people.  You can't stick a flower in an asshole and call it a vase.
  58. If I may steal a quote from someone else, “Never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television.”
  59. When you choose a career, look at the list of average salaries and projected demand, first.
  60. Read. It's much better to learn from other people's mistakes than to make them yourself.

If you enjoyed this list be sure to share!

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

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