Not That Smart


I was never the smartest kid in school. Nearly every traditional topic required extra tutoring and help. The only thing I had going for me was my curiosity. To the chagrin of most of my teachers, I asked questions about why or how nearly everything worked—especially if they were slightly tangential to the topic at hand.

One day, my math teacher had a stroke of genius (or just reached her limit). She moved my desk to a corner of the classroom and announced that I would be the “keeper of all class questions” unrelated to the regular class assignments. Anyone who wanted to ask anything non-traditional would need to give me their question. Then we’d work through them one-by-one during class breaks.

Our class took her up on the offer and my desk was flooded with the most random questions (some of which were wildly inappropriate…it was high school after all). Still, the thoughtful questions led to some of the most meaningful discussions I’d ever had—in Math class. We discussed everything from personal stories, the history of math, to various school policies. It was an open-forum that unleashed our curiosities. And “emceeing” the conversation was a perfect role for me.

Growing up, I felt like I could never quite get ahead academically. It turned out that solution for me wasn’t to do more, but instead to pause and let my questions surface, no matter how quirky they seemed.

In a time when the prevailing message is you don’t know enough, do enough, or earn enough, it’s easy to feel like the only solution is to try harder and grind at an unsustainable pace to get some existential grade.

But what would happen if you took your current situation and stepped back to ask “why,” or “how might we do this differently?” Maybe some of your most meaningful moments and best work could surface. And if you took the opportunity to actually explore those ideas, who knows what would come next?

You don’t have it to have it all figured out. You don’t need to be the smartest or furthest along. You just need to start with a few questions.