Justin Locke

Smart vs. Brave

Which makes a good CPA?

September 6, 2011
by Justin Locke

It’s a good thing to be smart. Sure beats being dumb. But sometimes being “smart” gets too much emphasis. Sometimes we start to think smart will do everything. It doesn’t. While smart is essential and it will take you far, but to really go the farthest distance, you must balance smart with brave.

For example, no doubt you are fabulous at the work you do, but if you are afraid to pitch your services to a stranger, or maybe ask for a raise, you may not achieve a level of success commensurate with how smart you are. If this happens, it’s not because of you lack smartness, but because you lack bravery.

If you wish to make changes in your life, it may not be enough to simply follow the instructions in a self-help book with great care and precision. Making real changes requires abandoning the safety and familiarity of the old for the uncertainty of the new. It may even require outright disloyalty to the past. The changes may be very logical and smart in the planning stage, but at some point, when push comes to shove, there will be fear to overcome. There will be choices that, no matter how well thought out, will carry unknown and possibly unpleasant consequences. When they have to be executed, smart is not the answer. Beyond a certain point, thinking just delays things. Brave is required to make the final transition.

If you occasionally find that you lack adequate courageousness, you are not alone. Brave is hard. We teach smart like crazy, but brave isn’t taught nearly as much.

Many people hesitate to pursue their highest goal, not for lack of being smart, but because smart, by itself, does not do as well when faced with an infinite number of uncertain outcomes. It’s not that anyone lacks brave; it’s just that smart. For instance, mulling over how to avoid an infinite number of negative possibilities is overly emphasized, even though it is not always the right tool for the job. “Smart” promises predictable, controlled and safe ways out, but you can never out-think every possible risk. Every so often you have to simply stop thinking about how to do something perfectly on the first try and just start doing (remember Nike?). This requires balancing “smart” with “brave”. Sometimes this means being little less smart to make room for it.

There are lots of “smart” available these days. “Brave”, however, is a little harder to come by. It is good to be smart, but it is essential to balance your smart with brave.

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Justin Locke is an author and speaker. He spent 18 seasons playing the bass with the Boston Pops, and he is the author of Principles of Applied Stupidity, an amusing look at how to be more successful by going against the conventional wisdom. You can find out more about his presentations on overcoming cultural inertia by visiting his website.

© Justin Locke