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Work Daze: It’s Smart to be Dumb

Let’s face it. You’ve devoted a lot of time and hard work to convincing people that you’re dumb. And it’s worked! Difficult assignments are regularly routed to other employees because, “It’s a pretty complicated project; I don’t think we should give it to someone with a long history of screwing things up.”

Yes, your reputation as a major doofus has resulted in a lot less work and a lot less pressure. Best of all, since no one expects you to succeed, no one is bugging you to work harder. If you do manage to complete a project and it isn’t a total disaster, you get praised to the skies.

Because you know the advantages of playing dumb, you will be surprised to learn that certain “smart people” are taking steps to avoid looking dumb.

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Gordon Tredgold is one of those smart people, which is why he wrote “7 Dumb Things Smart People Do That Limit Their Careers,” a recent post on Inc.com.

“No matter how smart you are,” Tredgold writes, “you won’t achieve your full potential until you stop making these seven stupid mistakes.” (Only seven dumb mistakes? That’s pathetic! You can make seven dumb mistakes in a single morning without raising a sweat.)

For example, Tredgold believes, “You cannot think your way to success. At some point, you need to roll your sleeves up and make it happen.”

Yes, this may be true, and if you really are smart, you may indeed “make it happen.” But what will that get you? More work, that’s what.

If you really want to appear really dumb, it’s OK to think. Just make sure that what you think about is totally stupid. Video games help, as does a steady diet of puerile TV shows. Believe me, binge-watching even a single season of “Pretty Little Liars” can use up every brain cell you have left.

Tredgold also suggests it is dumb to wait for a leadership position before you start to lead. “Lead first and then the position will come,” he writes. Unfortunately, you could lead yourself into a position of such peril that you will be summarily fired the first time one of us dummies screw up. Which won’t be long.

If you’re ready to go full dumb, do take the first leadership opportunity you find. Then promptly lead your team directly over the nearest cliff. This should insure that you’ll never again be offered the chance to be a leader.

Also, according to Tredgold, some smart people are so brilliant they forget they are dealing with not-so-smart people. This is why, if you’re smart, “You need to explain things clearly and simply.” Good advice, but if you’re smart enough to be superdumb, never overestimate the intelligence of the person to whom you are explaining.

Suppose you’re due a company car. Instead of taking the first Korean compact offered, you say, “Want fast car. Fast car has premium sound system and built-in massage seats. Company lease twin-turbo Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet in Rhodium silver with black/Bordeaux red two-tone leather seat trim. Me like car. Car go zoom-zoom!”

Now that’s clear and simple enough for even an HR person to understand.

Tredgold believes it is dumb for a smart person to ignore feedback. “Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” Tredgold believes. “Don’t be the person who, just because they’re smart, thinks they know it all.”

As a dumb person, you pride yourself on knowing almost nothing about almost everything. This is why you act immediately on any feedback that comes your way, especially if that feedback comes from your manager.

Implementing your manager’s smart ideas will surely cause havoc and result in your manager’s swift exit from the company. Do you want their job? Certainly not, but it will give you a few peaceful months as your new manager tries to figure out who you are and what you do.

Another mistake made by smartypants employees is to “wait until they are 100 percent ready before taking their shot.” According to Tredgold, “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”

This is true as far as it goes. What ultimate dummies know is that “good enough” is the enemy of “good for nothing.”

It’s not easy maintaining a barely acceptable level of incompetence over a long career, and you should be proud that you have mastered the art of being mediocre — but not quite mediocre enough to be fired.

Now that’s the way to be smart about being dumb.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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