Most people think “stupid” means being slow to learn, making lots of mistakes, struggling to remember things, or having a hard time figuring out problems.
I think these are normal human difficulties that all have mechanical solutions – the tools and strategies that can be implemented to overcome them.
What’s actually “stupid” is choosing not to use these things. It’s stupid to ignore the available resources. It’s stupid to reject help when it’s offered. It’s stupid to refuse to use the techniques and tactics that have been proven to help with learning and problem-solving. It’s stupid to avoid trying to learn from your mistakes.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not judging anyone who does this. In fact, we all do it from time to time. Nobody gets through life without occasionally being stupid.
It’s just that the point of school isn’t to show off how smart you are (or avoid looking stupid). You’re not supposed to just breeze through it using whatever genetic gifts you happen to be endowed with.
The true purpose of school is to develop a stronger brain while learning to be resourceful and proactive in the face of diverse challenges. You gradually get smarter by engaging with those challenges. And you instantly get a great deal smarter when you use helpful resources and effective strategies.
It’s okay to be confused when you’re learning something new. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to be a beginner. These are inevitable parts of going through school and growing up. When they happen, you’ll probably feel embarrassed that you look stupid. Other people might judge you and look down on you. But that will pass.
Don’t be afraid to look stupid. But please do your best to avoid being stupid in the sense that I’ve described here. Use the tools that are available to you. Be proactive. Accept good advice when it’s offered. And seek out help when you need it. As long as you’re doing those things, you can be sure that you’re actually being quite smart.
Chris Loper has been an academic coach for Northwest Educational Services since 2014. Along with Greg Smith, Chris is the cocreator of Parenting for Academic Success (and Parental Sanity) – a five-part course offered every summer.
Chris also offers habit coaching, helping busy adults with habit formation and productivity.
In 2021, he published a humorous memoir titled Wood Floats and Other Brilliant Observations, a book that blends crazy stories with practical life lessons, available on Amazon and through most local bookstores.
He lives in Issaquah, WA, where he is the owner of South Cove Tutoring.