File Under "Smart Is Overrated": Lack Of Impostor Syndrome Is A Bad Sign

Smart people have a problem, especially (although not only) when you put them in large groups. That problem is an ability to convincingly rationalize nearly anything.

Logic is a pretty powerful tool, but it only works if you give it good input. If you know all the constraints and weights - with perfect precision - then you can use logic to find the perfect answer. But when you don't, which is always, there's a pretty good chance your logic will lead you very, very far astray.

Most people find this out pretty early on in life, because their logic is imperfect and fails them often. But really, really smart computer geek types may not ever find it out. They start off living in a bubble, they isolate themselves because socializing is unpleasant, and, if they get a good job straight out of school, they may never need to leave that bubble. To such people, it may appear that logic actually works, and that they are themselves logical creatures.

Working at a large, successful company lets you keep your isolation. If you choose, you can just ignore all the inconvenient facts about the world. You can make decisions based on whatever input you choose.

It's a setup that makes it very easy to describe all your successes in terms of your team's greatness, and all your failures in terms of other people's capriciousness.

One of the biggest social problems currently reported at work is lack of confidence, also known as Impostor Syndrome.

But I think Impostor Syndrome is valuable. The people with Impostor Syndrome are the people who *aren't* sure that a logical proof of their smartness is sufficient. They're looking around them and finding something wrong, an intuitive sense that around here, logic does not always agree with reality, and the obviously right solution does not lead to obviously happy customers, and it's unsettling because maybe smartness isn't enough, and maybe if we don't feel like we know what we're doing, it's because we don't.

Impostor Syndrome is that voice inside you saying that not everything is as it seems, and it could all be lost in a moment. The people with the problem are the people who can't hear that voice.

That's a "Reader's Digest" version of the original; I omitted intercessory languauge to improve the flow of the excerpt, but have not changed the meaning. Please read the whole thing at apenwarr.