Still Waters Run Deep

In life, the aspiration to be good, even outstanding, is universal. Yet, discerning what I call “true intelligence” from “mere intellect” is an art.

A truly intelligent person knows how to hold their tongue and hide when necessary – they have what I call ‘underground intelligence’. So, what distinguishes those truly wise individuals? Here are my two cents.

1. A truly intelligent person doesn’t usually like to engage in fierce debates with others. They let the other person speak first, listen to their opinions, consider them, analyze them deeply, and then articulate their thoughts thoughtfully.

2. Truly intelligent people take time to deliberate. They are slow and calm when they talk and work, especially in times of crisis and adversity. They think twice before speaking, and their tone is soft. Their communication is characterized by logic and simplicity.

3. A really smart person doesn’t bother with small things, but they are clear on the big things. They have their own principles and never compromise. They are also generous, tolerant, and patient in both big and small matters.

4. A truly intelligent person is humble, cautious, approachable and gentle (don’t be fooled by how they dress). They treat everyone politely, and always maintain a friendly demeanor.

5. A truly intelligent person knows a lot about many topics, but they are not quick to flaunt their knowledge. They often choose discretion, sometimes even pretending not to know to save face for others. They are content being silent observers. They might not say it, but they see through many things.

6. They are consistent. After succeeding, an intelligent person doesn’t brag. Instead, they meticulously identify their own shortcomings and work to improve them. Even when they fail, they choose not to give into discouragement and falter, choosing instead to put in the hard work and move forward.

7. A really smart person won’t pretend to know something they don’t. They ask others for help when needed, regardless of the other person’s position or status.

8. A truly intelligent person won’t interfere in other people’s affairs. If they’re a boss, they’ll let trusted employees handle everything. If they’re an employee, they’ll operate within the perimeters of their given authority. They’re flexible and willing to change when a problem arises.

9. A really intelligent person often likes to be alone, and they enjoy quiet and solitude. They immerse themselves in their own world, learning what they want to learn, thinking about what they need to think, and doing what they want to do.

10. Most really smart people agree with the principle of ‘happiness’. They are willing to accept limitations, and are adept at turning messes into successes in their career. They also understand that ‘happiness’ transcends personal gain and are happy to take others along in their adventures called life.

As you can see, the word “smart” doesn’t fully capture the essence of a truly intelligent person. I reckon we should use the word “wisdom” instead. Intelligent people understand everything and don’t need to make a big deal about it. They are people who exercise great restraint, they value human dignity and use their wisdom to foster it.

Do me a favor, if you come across a smart person with bad morals, please don’t give them credit for their “intelligence”.

Sincerely yours,

Stephen Le, Lead Litigator