Being Too Rational Will Make You Miserable.

The negative side of rationalizing everything.

Photo by Gaspar Uhas on Unsplash

I used to work at a pharmacy for a short time, and my employer once said something which I won’t ever forget. He said: “Sometimes you have to be a bit dumb to succeed in life.” Then he went on to relate a personal story to explain his point. “One of my classmates used to be a genius,” he said. “His name was Ali. He was a great artist, and he used to get the highest grades, and never showed laziness in the class. He was the type of guy who always had his nose buried in books, and he knew three languages. But though Ali was smart, he also lacked self-esteem. We can say that his intelligence worked against him. His power of observation was so strong that not even he himself escaped its telescope.

“Despite having a normal face (I might add a little handsome), he was insecure about the few unnoticeable acne on his face, and the slight crookedness of his nose. This made him wear a mask all the time, and avoid talking to girls in the class as much as he could. When Ali confessed this insecurities to me, I was confused, because I had never seen anything wrong with him. No matter how talented and smart he was, he never fully believed in himself.

One time, there was a painting competition where students from three different schools would be given a topic — like war, or friendship — and whoever painted the best on the subject, would win a hefty prize. Ali didn’t compete despite being the best artist in our whole school, because he believed that he wasn’t good enough. ‘Three schools are competing against one another,’ Ali said. ‘undoubtedly there are going to be better artists than me in that competition.’

Later, one of the other students from our school — who wasn’t remotely better than Ali — won the competition.

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

“Long story short, after high school we didn’t see each other, and I didn’t know what happened to him. A few weeks ago, he entered the pharmacy to get a few pills, and we started chatting. Turns out, he had studied medicine and was now working in a small clinic/pharmacy in the town. He didn’t even own the clinic, but worked as the physician. Ali complained about his low salary. When I asked him why he didn’t apply for jobs in hospitals, he replied that he had planned to do so originally, but when he found out that one or two doctors who worked in the hospital he was applying for had studied at a better university than him, he was discouraged.

“Ali believed that he would never be accepted and that there were already better candidates for that position. That’s why he had settled down for a meager income, and an unfulfilled life.”

Now the contrast would be my employer. You should know that my employer had also worked as a physician for a hospital. But unlike Ali, he had believed that he was worth more, that’s why he had left his job, and opened his own pharmacy to earn more. My employer also added Ali had far better knowledge than him, but the difference in their mindsets had paved different lives for each.

People like Ali are too rational, which can sometimes be more harmful than good. Rationality can be poisonous. Rationality is when you realize that nothing will matter in the end, so why even try? Rationality is when you understand that most writers like you fail despite working hard, so why even persist? Rationality leads you to overthink different consequences and arrive at a conclusion in which you have no choice but to forfeit your dreams.

When you are too rational, you have high standards and it’s only you who will never achieve that standard no matter what. Just like an artist who never achieves the ideals he has in his mind no matter how much he tries.

Being dumb has its own benefits. When you are dumb, you don’t have such high standards, so you believe yourself capable of achieving it. I am not saying you should become an idiot. No. I am saying that whenever your rational brain starts to sketch possible scenarios before you make a big decision, just turn it off, and flick on the dumb switch, because the brain likes to feed on negativity.

Being too rational not only stops us from achieving our big goals, but it also makes us pessimistic. If only Arthur Schopenhauer had forgotten how ugly and pointless life is, he might have gotten married and led a happier life (ensuring his legacy would continue with his children).

I will end this with the quote you might have seen a lot.

“The problem with the world is that dumb people are confident while the smart ones are full of doubt.”



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A writer, classical music junkie, and a hermit. I like to write about writing and psychology. If you have a freelance gig for me, email me at faradali520@gmail