The True Sign of Intelligence

A quote I found today spoke to me. I have to share:

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.

–Albert Einstein

It’s fairly likely you’ve heard that quote before. But have you really stopped to ponder what it means? What Albert Einstein, arguably one of the the smartest men in history, is saying? He’s saying things like factoids don’t mean a thing.

Which means modern society has got it all wrong.

The school system concentrates on hammering little facts of any and every kind into student’s heads, for no reason and often no explanation. These facts are usually quite useless, and don’t really make anyone any smarter. Why is there so much importance placed on knowledge, why is this world so obsessed on teaching the new generation stuff that won’t necessarily serve them as people? Stuff that isn’t really all that useful?


Imagine if that math was taught in the context of how to run a business. I would say that that kind of schooling is far more worthwhile! (Photo credit: MStewartPhotography)

Because we still haven’t opened our minds to understand what creativity truly is. We’re still stuck on teaching kids to cram for tests on things they’ll forget the next week. Grades don’t mean anything. Society is telling you you’re stupid or smart based of a series of flat, fact-based questions. I think it’s time we make a serious shift in our perspective, because fostering this attitude is kind of sad, if you ask me.

Intelligence is shown through one’s ability to imagine. Creatively coming up with answers and solutions, to, I don’t know, the world’s problems. Finding loopholes, making new discoveries. Imitation, then innovation. We need to start appreciating the right brain for what it can do.

Intelligence is so much more than math facts and how to spelling words. Look at Bill Gates,

English: Mark Zuckerberg at South by Southwest...

Why is it that we all recognize his face…?(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Ellison: three of the most bright men alive right now, and none of those three graduated college. Their brilliance came through their inspirational and revolutionary visions.

My mom is an extremely intelligent person, although not if you look at her in the traditional, inaccurate sense. She always has an ingenious, creative solution, one that often eludes the rest of the family. She makes discoveries and has the astute eye of one that can tell much through only body language and behavior. These are underrated skills that many others considered “smart”, lack. It doesn’t matter if she’s not the quickest mathematician, or if she doesn’t know the periodic table by heart. Those things don’t matter if she has skills that far outweigh that knowledge, in terms of practicality and inventiveness.

So keep that quote in mind as you evaluate other’s mental capabilities. There is far, far more than knowledge in an intelligent mind.


81 thoughts on “The True Sign of Intelligence

  1. Your insights are appreciated by me. The US public school system is a factory, with a finished product of similarly suited citizens and workers, a “mediocracy” at best. While this may have served our citizenry in times long since passed, it hinders creativity, ingenuity, and inventiveness, not to mention stifling the natural motivation to wonder, explore, discover, and learn. The truly sad thing is, it seems that this is what we settle for because we’re not willing to invest in so much more. Why? I wonder, and hope for a better future.

    • Why? I believe it’s because we don’t know or care enough about what creativity is capable of. It’s one of the greatest forces, but only if it is encouraged and supported. Thanks for reading.

  2. Absolutely!! The education system that my children are a part of is completely wrong. I could stand on my soap box all day stating my opinion on this matter. People do not and should not have to fit into a box that society created, judging their importance on the knowledge they have gained in a school setting. We are more than that! It is time for change. Thanks for the post!

  3. I totally agree with eveything you have written! I wish that we encouraged thinking outside of the normal bounds that keep us thinking facts are the most important. Thankyou for sharing this wonderful post 🙂

  4. Thanks so much for liking my post – I’m really enjoying reading your thoughts. For such a young mind, you are sharp as a tack. I only hope my daughter can be as level-headed at your age.
    Take care!

  5. I love your blog and I will seriously digg it in order to read more of your posts. For the few posts I’ve read till now I must say I share my opinion with you. You are a thinker, I may say! Thank you for sharing your points of view and, mainly, for making us think deeper. Ana

    • Thank you, and I am so happy I did exactly what I set out to do – make you think. I’m afraid I don’t understand how digg works, could you enlighten me?

      • Oh, well that’s great, thank you! I’m pleased that you’re interested. It’s funny because digg is actually a social news website, when you can share articles, although I’m not entire sure how it works.

    • Intelligence is only one dimension of what makes a person good or bad. Intelligence is a measure of how effectively you use the knowledge you gain to pursue your goals. The nature of the goals and the path chosen to achieve them illustrate the person’s morals.
      The great “E” was only great in his area of expertise. His pronouncements in other areas of human endeavor were conventional. It is the great fallacy we all have within us – that our expertise in one area can be transferred to another completely different area.

      • No, I don’t.

        I don’t believe the converse either, that is, ‘the true sign of intelligence is not imagination, but knowledge.’

        I understand what you are trying to say though in your original post. Intelligent students have the same experience as you and ask the same questions. This questioning and seeking answers and integrating them into one’s own life is a sign of a seeking mind.

      • I am seeking, and so I must ask you. If you do not believe in imagination or knowledge to be the signs of intelligence, what are the signs? Are they asking questions? Are they having a seeking mind? Both, in my opinion, require creativity and imagination.

      • Oh, so you see it as a balance? I can’t say I really disagree with that. Still though, I think it’s more imagination than knowledge, and imagination shows far more than knowledge does.

  6. Reblogged this on Musings of a Madman and commented:
    He makes a good point. Unfortunately the purpose of today’s “education” is to teach students WHAT to think and not HOW to think. It’s very sad, really, that we’ve all been “dumbed down” over the generations by propaganda and media programming over the generations that this very important truth has been all but lost to our society. But it’s encouraging to know that it hasn’t been completely snuffed out. More people should read this very insightful blog post.

      • No problem. More people need to know this fact. We’ve all been programmed and convinced to think that we’re not smart unless we have this or that piece of paper. Or this or that certification. It’s ridiculous. People are smarter than our government gives us credit for.

      • You’re absolutely right. Very corrupt. And I agree, people are smarter than the government. The problem is their also a lot lazier. That’s the only reason, the government has been able to get away with the atrocities it has been for the last few generations. People tend to think, “Oh I’ll let the next guy do something about it.” or “Oh my voice isn’t worth anything cuz I don’t have a degree or whatever”
        That’s why what you were saying in this blog post is so important. If more people realized their own intelligence, they won’t be so compliant and will speak up and when enough people start speaking up, things will finally start changing for the better.
        You should check out my best friend’s blog

        lol Not that you have to. I just think you’d find it interesting. It’s a bit of a mess but I’m working on fixing it for him, so bear with me. lol

      • Yes, yes, yes! I don’t want to be lazy, though. I might start attending civil protesting. Who knows? haha

        And I’ll take a look.

      • Why settle for just attending one? You’re smart, articulate and compelling enough to start your own. My best friend and I are working on putting one together ourselves. Well, mostly him, I’m just helping by putting my writing skills to use on his blog and promoting it as much as possible. We’re starting a group called The Club. Pretty much everyone is a member already but just don’t know it. You know how we talk about how messed up our government is and how we’re tired of it and people say “Join the club.”? That’s the club. I’ve even started a cafe press online shop with a nifty logo on buttons and whatnot.I don’t have a lot on there yet but it’s coming along. There’s a fight going on right now. Our government is slowly but surely taking away not only our constitutional rights but our human rights altogether. It’s encouraging to know that intelligent people like you are waking up and wanting to join the fight to reclaim our rights.

      • Yeah I guess I should open my mind more. I’m curious about your protesting thing… are you trying to get more rights for people (LGBT, woman, blacks, etc.) or just change the system?

      • The system. It’s insane. They’re not just messing with certain groups. Their messing with everyone. Passing and implementing laws without our consent and then locking people up for violating them. A video about that is on his blog. The post is called The Land of the Iron Fist and the Home of the Fed Up. This guy got arrested for violating this new law that he wasn’t even made aware of. His business that he’d had for well over a decade was operating as it always had and then suddenly, they arrested him and threw him in prison for … I don’t remember how long but it was long enough that he lost his business and his family fell apart. And as from what I understand, wasn’t our country founded on the basis of “by the people, for the people”? If there was going to be some law passed aren’t the people supposed to be the ones to pass it?…… Okay I need to get off my soapbox. It just enrages me so much to know that we’re not in charge of our own country. The “system” has to go. It’s not working for the people. And we, the people need to wake up and realize that we outnumber the government. There’s a lot of soldiers and marines and the like that are dropping out because of the things they’re being made to do that goes against everything our country was supposed to stand for. I’ll post the video my friend found of this one marine that spoke out about the horrible things he was made to do overseas. Well, as soon as I find it again that is.
        But yeah, the way our world is going is so sad. I do want more equal rights for groups like LGBT, women, etc. But it’s more important to focus on our human rights. The rights we’re all born with. If we all had those rights, maybe we wouldn’t feel the need to take them away from someone else. I mean if you think about it, it’s just like the whole bully concept………
        damnit… I’m off the soapbox again. You can e-mail me sometime if you like

      • Sure, and I agree. It’s good that you’re putting your energies and frustrations towards trying to be positive. I hope that everything goes well for you….

  7. Very astute post! When I was in beauty college, we had to master fingerwaves for state board exams, even though they hadn’t been used in decades, just rote BS. I was happy to recently learn they are no longer required, small steps, but in the right direction.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog today. 🙂

  8. Hi N.B.

    Thank you for liking my blog post yesterday, which led me to your blog. I was quite stunned by the contents of your blog,… your heart, writing and consciousness, and most of all your age. Wow.

    Truly, I have no file for anyone 14 years old who thinks and feels like you do. Which must make your rarity a difficult thing to bear…? Then feeling some deeper, because this is internet and anonymous, My inner skeptic wondered if you might be an inner teen 14 year old part of an older someone. Are you in fact a bona fide 14 year old?

    • I’m almost fifteen, so that might explain something. 🙂
      I am in fact fourteen, and you are very perceptive in noticing that I find things difficult to bear sometimes… by that I mean that I feel alone a lot, and find it a struggle to connect with people my age, at a deeper level. I feel independent, and through that I feel strong being on my own, but as you said, I feel deeply, and thus things can be hard at times.

      It is of my own doing, though, because I have cut off friendships (as I wrote in the post), that I found unhealthy, to feel free again.

      So to answer your question, I am in fact 14.

      • Thank you for letting me press my question, and for being you.

        I get there is a difficulty in setting boundaries with friends, advocating for what you need and want, completing relationships that don’t serve you, or them, but I also feel the difficulty of simply just being as awake as you are…

      • I really take that to heart. I do my utmost to channel my passion into my life. And it’s always nice to hear someone compliment you for being yourself. Thank you, quite seriously. This comment made my day.

  9. Hellooo! Thanks for popping by; I probably wouldn’t have been led here otherwise, and glad, I am.

    Couldn’t agree with you more. From my personal experience, all that school has done is taught me stuffs I’ve no interest in (though, that’s, my fault for enrolling, I s’pose) and diluted the imaginative juices! Creativity is confined to the curriculum. And it’s bullsh*T! ‘Cause the curriculum aint creative!


  10. Totally agree with you! Schools and colleges think that grades will make the student’s future, they don’t concentrate on his/her abilities and skills and how they can extend those skills! they think memorizing maths, science, etc will make us smarter! They should be more practical and search for the best methods to bring out the best in students!

  11. You remind me a bit of my late husband. He shared many of the sentiments you do about the educational system. He never fit into their box and so was left to his own devices, kicked to the curb so to speak. He never graduated 8th grade but he was one of the smartest people I know. He looked at the world so differently and had an uncanny ability to see people for who they really were. I am teacher, though I have no school that I belong to(yet). I find myself thankful for that at times because I see how we cram our kids so full of information and how we tell them that there is only one way to do things when the truth is there are an infinite number of ways to accomplish the same goal. I don’t want to be the teacher they tell me I have to be. I am different(or so I like to think) and so I will teach differently. Thank you for your insightful and well written post.

    • Thank you, and I’m honored to have reminded you of your husband. The sad truth for me is, I’m really smart. It wouldn’t be all that hard for me to graduate high school and perhaps college, because up to this point in my life, I have never been challenged academically. I’m not saying you husband wasn’t smart, he’s seems brilliant, I’m just saying I could be the perfect puppet, and I don’t want to be. As I go through high school, I predict I will become frustrated, because I feel like I’m wasting my time. I guess only time will tell.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  12. Very interesting thoughts! I do agree there needs to be more practical math taught in school. most of my math career was filled with useless. Accounting was practical. I took a “business math” class, but for years it was useless!

  13. nice! it’s absolutely true. it’s somewhat annoying if teachers teach things without even sharing how it can be applied to real life. :”< but, yeah! so, i can say, Barney's powers of imagination is totally needed in this life 😀

    • True, true. Except I find barney doing the same things over and over. maybe I was too critical as a little kid… 🙂

      Oh, and I love to ask during class,”so why do we need to know this?” They never have an answer.

  14. Wow, I just read a bunch of the other comments. You’re FOUR-FREAKIN-TEEN? That’s AWESOME!!!!
    I’m even more proud of you now than I can successfully describe in words! You remind me of myself at that age and, heck, the way I am now too. I tried to go to college twice and got so frustrated by how ridiculous the curriculum was and the complete and totally BS they were trying to shove down my throat that I dropped out both times. I just couldn’t believe that people were actually buying this crap…..
    By the way, thank you so much for inspiring me. I’ve got at least two more blog posts to write thanks to you and your blog. ^_^
    Don’t ever change but for the better and brighter.

    • Thanks! I thought you knew haha. I’m especially pleased that I inspired you to write more… when you finish them, drop me a note and I’ll check them out.

      I’m sorry about the college thing, but it sounds like you’re putting direction in your life anyway. Like I wrote, some of the most innovative people around didn’t even go to college.

      • No way, I don’t believe you! Are you serious? Gah, it must be scary that I’m only 14 then. I must be like one of those babies with adult voices.
        Seriously though, I’m flattered. Your kind words make me want to help your protest thing even more, and if you need help in anyway, I’m more than happy to see what I can do.

  15. Thanks for the like of my post Living in the Sidebar.
    I so agree with your post here. I am a retired elementary public school teacher.
    Even though I had to follow the prescribed curriculum I made a point to make it relate to real life. I also think learning should be fun. We always had fun in my classroom. I was fortunate enough to have the gifted and talented students for much of my career. Creativity is a must! Where would we be if we were not allowed to think ‘out of the box’? I hope that along the way you have and will have the opportunity to experience teachers that recognize your talents. Keep moving forward…you are not alone.
    Your mom sounds awesome too.

    • haha, I know that learning can be fun. For sure. I went to a school that was all about giving a more one-on-one education. But as I enter high school, I know that things will change a little bit, the quality will go down, and it makes me quite sad. I’ll have to make the best of it.

      Oh, and she really is. She wants me to write to Oprah to get an interview, and I told her that I don’t have the kind of skill she would be interested in, and that she doesn’t have her talk show thing anymore.

  16. The best way you can help is to stay informed. Search the “criminalization of rainwater collection” Our government now claims to OWN THE RAIN and by collecting it one your own property, you are “stealing from the government” and can go to jail.
    We are no longer “the land of the free and the home of the brave” Instead we’ve become “the land of the sheep and the home of the slaughter” because our government is now trying to OWN us. It’s absolutely insane what they’re doing and as a minor, you will be the one to suffer the consequences if we don’t change things now. The way things are going, by the time you’re 18 you won’t have the right to do anything. You won’t be allowed to stay out late or say what you want or think how you want to because they will have taken all of those rights away and will throw you in jail for even trying to do otherwise.
    But the best thing you can possibly do to keep this from happening is to stay informed. Pay close attention to the news and what’s going on not just in your community but in your country and share all information you find. And make sure your opinion is heard.
    It’s best to have a separate blog form this one to post all of that (that’s what I did because a fashion/beauty blog is NOT the place for this sort of thing LOL).
    I’m so glad to know that young people like you are still so smart that you can’t be manipulated.
    Keep strong and smart my young friend.

    • Yeah sounds good. And you’re right, fashion ain’t got nothing to do with governments and civil rights.

      The thing that keeps me scratching my head is why americans are so proud of their country while entirely overlooking all faults that we have. How can you? I wrote a piece on the fourth of July about that, might want to check it out. It’s called Think Twice About What You’re Celebrating: and I hit on many of the issues we have without going into great detail. You might like it. Read it when you’re bored.

  17. Great post – and I think you might like this video on changing educational paradigms, which talks about how the current educational model is based on a factory line, grouping kids based on their ‘date of manufacture’:

  18. I totally agree about this. I am in intermediate and doing a speech on smartness. This needs to be shown to some of my teachers!

  19. Hey there…I never thought I’d accidentally run into this post of yours a year later after you published it..

    But nevertheless, I just wanna say thanks for sharing such a factual opinion that holds an undeniable truth about the nature of human intelligence. You have such a great point and such a great mind for pointing it out.

    Indeed, our world has a false perception and understanding of intelligence. Schools cram information into children’s heads without its essence. Children understand things they are being taught about but they don’t understand why such things are being taught to them. This type of learning, as defined by psychology, is known as conceptual learning In which learning is achieved by symbolic means(i.e facts, numbers, other relevant data).

    The result- a generation of passionless, knowledgeable(not intellectual) competitive people who know the price of everything but the value of nothing….
    People who are satisfied to have a home, a car, and some food on the table..

    There is one type of learning however, which I believe and what you also believe is very effective. And that is exploratory learning. It is a type of learning achieved through direct experience and total immersion of the people into the subject. Where their imaginations are stirred as they freely explore and seek the answers to the “whys” which will then ultimately lead to strong interest and true passion.

    The result- a generation of people who knows the real meaning of “value” and sees life as an inquisitive, and marvelous journey where every moment is filled with curiosity…

    That is how we humans are supposed to live. There is a reason why we have been designed to have the infinite capacity to imagine…..

  20. I think you are absolutely right. The school system is becoming outdated. We should focus on a broader form of intelligence! Creative intelligence, that is.

  21. I wrote a perfectly innocent blog, I thought, touching on imagination and received a very haughty reply stating that imagination was dangerous. I used a quote by Einstein and this gentleman said that Einstein never understood the energies beyond our universe. I happened on to your blog looking for some sort of understanding of this quote. I enjoyed reading what you had to say. Do you have any insight into what might be dangerous about using your imagination to create your reality (of course, mental illness aside)? I questioned him but he hasn’t responded.

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