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September 26, 2008


First a comment on a small, specific point you made: I have met a large number of VC's during the last 11 years, and in terms of intelligence and insight I really found them to be all over the map. Some brilliant, wide-ranging thinkers ... some narrow-minded morons. Hard to generalize.

Regarding happiness, if you're not familiar with it you might want to look at the work on flow and optimal experience:


which is likely relevant to why many successful CEO's would habitually feel happy...

Also, there have been many psychological studies of the impact of wealth on happiness, and one result I remember is that, once a basic level of wealth that avoids profound physical discomfort is achieved, the main impact of wealth on happiness is to DECREASE UNHAPPINESS but not to INCREASE HAPPINESS. (Yes, I know this wording is imprecise ... but it is precise in the relevant research papers, which I don't have at my fingertips right now...)

That is, having a lot of $$ decreases the amount of petty annoyance in your life. But it doesn't provide higher highs, or significantly increase your overall life-satisfaction. But, having so little $$ that you're hungry, or cold, etc., obviously does decrease your overall life-satisfaction.

-- Ben G

You didn't see any of the behavior that Paul Graham described because he is describing the venture capitalist/entrepreneur/investment interface while you are describing the venture capitalist/conference/marketing interface. Being sparkly in conversation doesn't produce much work.

"functioning without recourse"

Is here anyone in this world who is NOT functioning without resource? The Sudanese refugee crossing the Sinai desert to get into Israel, is not functioning without resource? The runaway 15 years old girl in America is not functioning without resource? The Bronx accountant sent to jail has any resource? We are all forced sometime in our lives to survive without any outer help and direction. From the amoeba up, we are all self motivated automathons.

Feels like there's a lot of stuff muddled up in this discussion.

For what the anecdote is worth, I went to Harvard Business School, a self-styled pantheon for the business elite.

The average person was:
- top decile intellect (though probably not higher)
- top decile emotional intelligence (broadly construed - socially aware, self-aware, persuasion skills, etc.)
- highly conscientious / motivated

Few were truly brilliant intellectually. Few were academically distinguished (plenty of good ivy league degrees, but very few brilliant mathematical minds, etc.).

A good number will be at Davos in 20 years time.

Performance beyond a certain level in the vast majority of fields (and business is certainly one of them) is principally a function of having no cognitive and personal qualities which fall below a (high, but not insanely high) hygene threshold -- and then multiplied by determination, of course.

Conscientiousness, in fact, is the best single stable predictor of job success for complex jobs (well established in personality psychometrics).

Very high intelligence actually negatively correlates with career success (Kotter), probably because smart people enjoy solving problems, rather than making money selling things -- which outside of quant trading, show business and sport is really the only way of being really successful.

There are some extremely intelligent people in business (by which I mean high IQ, not just wise or experienced), but you tend to find them in the corners of the business landscape with the richest intellectual pastures: some areas of law, venture capital, some cutting edge technology fields.

Steve Ballmer - for instance - might deafen you, but he would not dazzle you.

height and "native intelligence" are correlated.



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