What would you recommend for a high-IQ person who seems to have no ambition or ability to get things done? Do you know of a resource for smart people with self-discipline problems? Now the wordy background, in case it helps: I'm a [forty-something] programmer and [retail shop] owner, and have been broke or nearly so most of my life, because I always seem to make just almost enough money to get by.High intelligence, superlative athleticism, and great beauty come with the same handicap; the expectation that the mere possession of it is sufficient to merit the high regard of others and material success. My recommendation is that AB belatedly get over his intelligence, realize that no one but him actually gives a damn about it, and focus on developing his self-discipline so he has the wherewithal to pay attention to a task longer than the average male kindergartener with ADD.
I was tested at an 8th-grade level going into kindergarten, and at a 160 IQ when I was 13. I'm not a savant in any particular area. Though math was my best and favorite subject, I got all A's in everything (when I wanted to) and my ACT scores were 32+ on all subjects.
I don't think I'm lazy exactly, because I'll work hard on a killer sudoku or building something in my back yard when I'm into it. I tested positive for ADD a few years ago, but the medication seemed to make no difference except reduce my need for naps, so I gave that up.
The problem comes when I have a job to do: if I don't absolutely have to do it right now and will be totally screwed if I don't, I put it off. I try to make lists, leave myself notes, give myself pep talks, but nothing helps much. When the creditors are knocking and I need the money to keep from going to court, then I sit myself down and tear through a job to get paid, and feel stupid that I didn't do it much sooner. So I *can* do the work, and I'm fortunate that I'm smart enough to do it fast, but it's still a miserable way to get by. Ten billable hours a week would cover my living costs, but I don't manage that most of the time.
It started in school, when I could do the homework during class while all the other kids were still learning the lesson, or in a pinch I could knock out a 3-week essay on the bus in the way in. Then it got worse, to where I'd turn stuff in late and use the extra credit to get back up to an A. In real life, the consequences are worse, of course.
As best I can figure from bouncing ideas off a counselor, the problem is that I hate having to do anything on anyone else's terms, and when it came to mental work, I've never had to. Terminal stubbornness, basically, and having no self-discipline. I'll spend an hour writing and polishing a comment for someone else's blog, but when I think about spending an hour working on a job that's over deadline, I get tired and start rationalizing a nap. Even with my own projects, I get started well, but I think I start to balk when I reach the point where I'd be going live soon, because then I'll be obligated to support it.
Sorry to go on so long, but as you can probably tell, I've been struggling with this for a long time, and I hate wasting my God-given brains this way (and giving smart people a bad name). If you have any suggestions, I appreciate them, and also your time in reading this.
Some very smart people don't seem to realize that talking about their intelligence is no more intrinsically interesting to normal people than listening to strong people talking about how strong they are or pretty people talking about how pretty they are to them. Nor do they realize that their obsession with one facet of their lives tends to render them rather low in the socio-sexual hierarchy. There is a reason, after all, that Roissy subtracted a point for IQ over 120 in rating male attractiveness.
The chief problem here isn't a lack of focus per se, but rather that intelligent people can rationalize practically anything, no matter how stupid or self-destructive it is.
If AB really wants to change his life, then I recommend first getting involved in an activity where intelligence doesn't help much, if at all. Full contact martial arts is a great way of truly understanding the irrelevance of intelligence versus hard work. Weightlifting is also good; the iron doesn't care and you can't persuade it off the bar. He doesn't need to develop a work ethic, but rather, a work habit.
The second thing is to learn to start completing tasks. Pick a small, reasonable goal and do not permit any divergence from it until it is accomplished. Then pick a larger one, and do it again. There is a sort of decision paralysis that tends to afflict the highly intelligent; the more options one can see, the harder it can be to choose between them. But in this case, the perfect is not only the enemy of the good, it is the enemy of accomplishing anything.
The third thing is to get over the fear of failure. The intelligent often pre-rationalize their failures by refusing to throw themselves sufficiently into their projects and responsibilities. But this is simple self-sabotage and an exercise in repeated frustration.
AB is starting late. These are lessons he should have learned by his mid-twenties. But in such cases, better late than never. The prime objective is to avoid getting trapped into the high-IQ gamma mindset, in which everything happens to the gamma for reasons beyond his control and nothing is ever his fault.