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Hey, Colleague: I can't seem to keep up with my peers at work. Help!

Everyone is different and should be managed differently.
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Hey, Colleague:

Everyone on my team seems to be smarter than me… I can’t keep up in meetings and brainstorming sessions. Some people identify problems faster than I do, making me feel like I am underperforming. I mean, it’s confusing because I am good at my job since I’m getting promotions and praise from my colleagues but I just feel like I’m never enough. Am I just slow?

—Anonymous


I hear you! But have you ever thought about your unique personal talents and personal learning styles? Some workplaces are not optimized to cater to the multitude of personalities. It may be in your best interest to learn more about yourself and then talk to your manager to create a plan to set your environment up for success.

Sometimes meeting structures and problems may not be presented in the way that your personality type learns the best.

Everyone is different and should be managed differently.

I use to feel bad about myself because I always thought I wasn’t “smart” enough but that was my young, undeveloped mind comparing myself to others. I didn’t feel “smart” because I was repelled by math and numbers.

On top of that, I use to work as a user interface designer and I always thought I wasn’t as creative as my peers.

  • I couldn’t “draw” (*but was good at art direction and composition).
  • I could’ve cared less for the precise shade of blue we were using on a button.
  • I thought more like an engineer than a designer. I enjoyed both but sometimes preferred writing code over actually designing.

Thankfully, I later learned being smart wasn’t just about “book smarts” and we all learn differently. I discovered my strengths were a combination of linguistics and an equal balance of logic and visual — I was a big-picture, intrapersonal, and existential thinker. I was happier, thus performing better being able to set creative direction and strategy, and delegating tasks.

You can find out your strengths as well.

Understand your type of intelligence for a better life

If you are struggling or trying to understand yourself, a great place to start is to understand your natural talents.

This is why personal development is so important.

Many people are stuck in careers or lifestyles they aren’t happy with because they aren’t in tune with themselves. A deeper understanding of ourselves will only lead to radical growth and transformation which translates to a more fulfilling life.

Different types of intelligence

Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist and a professor at Harvard, introduced his theory of multiple intelligences in his 1983 book, Frames of Mind.

His theory proves to us that we are all special because we have our strengths and weaknesses and personal interests. Knowing this, never compare yourself to others.

People can hold different types and levels of intelligence and not one is more important than others. There's not one type of intelligence that is more important than others because we need all of these for our society to thrive.

Which one(s) are you?

If you need help, ask your closest friends for their observations. Remember, this is just a guideline and does not define who you are — everything should be seen as a scale, and you can work to your strengths, or what you feel you need to improve.

“We are all able to know the earth through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to unravel problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is within the strength of these intelligence — the so-called profile of intelligence  —and within the ways during which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains.” — Howard Gardner

1. Logical intelligence

Logical (mathematical) intelligence is what we usually think of when thinking about intelligence — being book smart.

Logical intelligence refers to people who are good at math, numbers, recognizing patterns, good at solving puzzles, and having excellent reasoning skills. They excel in vertical thinking — step-by-step direction, using an already defined path with existing ideas or knowledge.

The mathematical logical learner tends to think conceptually about numbers, relationships, and patterns. They are natural tinkerers who like to bring mathematical and conceptual ideas to reality. For example, computer programs and graphs from analyzed data.

They learn best using statistical and analytical programs, computers, visual materials, and hands-on projects. They prefer structured activities over unstructured creative activities that don’t have a predefined outcome or goal such as strategy games and puzzles versus a drawing prompt.

They maybe intolerant of others who don’t follow logical sequences like they do.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you good at math?
  • Do you excel at logical problem-solving?
  • Do you follow the steps well?

Possible careers: computer programmer, accountant, mathematicians, scientists, and engineers.

Think of Bill Gates, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

2. Interpersonal intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence (‘people smart’) refers to social skills — being good at reading verbal and non-verbal cues as well as determining temperament and mood.

They are aware of other people’s moods, motivations, and feelings so they excel at maintaining peace within organizations, and are excellent communicators. They are also good at accepting different perspectives and strive to understand and relate to those around them thus making them good leaders.

Since those with high interpersonal intelligence is a true people-person, they like to be coached in both group settings or one-on-one tutoring since they learn better through direct interaction.

They may not be comfortable with self-paced programs or learning alone.

Ask yourself:

  • Would you describe yourself as empathetic?
  • Are you good with other people’s emotions?
  • Can you read body language?
  • Are you able to sense other people’s emotions accurately?
  • Are you a peacemaker?

Possible careers: leader, politician, negotiator, salesperson, personal trainer, therapist, social worker and life coach.

Think of Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Mother Teresa.

3. Intrapersonal intelligence

Intrapersonal intelligence (‘self-smart’) is basically you well you understand yourself. It refers to an understanding of your own emotional states, feelings, and emotions.

These are the philosophers and daydreamers of our time.

They are open-minded, deep thinkers and able to understand the human condition as a whole. They have strong intuitions and excel at analyzing theories and ideas.

Introspection is their strength. They are good at quieting their inner thoughts and meditation. Being intrinsically motivated, those with high intrapersonal intelligence are good at choosing their own path without the validation of others.

Since they are self-motivated, they love personal development and spending time alone. They love reading and writing which helps sort out the never-ending thoughts and ideas in their head. They are curious and always looking for new things to learn or explore.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you self-motivated (intrinsically motivated)?
  • Are you extremely self-aware?
  • Can you accurately read your body’s emotions?
  • Do you tend to work independently?
  • Do you daydream?

Possible careers: entrepreneur, philosopher, theorist, writer, therapist, spiritual leader, researcher, librarian and scientist.

Think of Socrates, Einstein and Gandhi.

4. Existential intelligence

Existential (spiritual) intelligence (‘life smart’) refers to people who think more deeply than others about daily occurrences, and are often deeply philosophical.

They are able to understand abstract theories and engage in deep discussions about the meaning of life, and the human experience. They may be sensitive because they try to understand the world around them and still be able to rationally address difficult questions. **

Since they are able to see the big picture, they are visionaries.

In the workplace, they are executives and leaders who set general direction while maintaining a long-term outlook and are able to envision their position in the marketplace. They excel at aligning resources and inspiring employees, stakeholders, and customers in order to reach company goals.

That ability to see the big picture may be a distinct intelligence — the existential intelligence. — Gardner.

*Existential intelligence wasn’t included in Gardner’s original theory of multiple intelligence until after an additional two decades of research.

Why is the meaning of life? Why happens to us after death?

Gardner later stated, “I sometimes say that these are questions that transcend perception; they concern issues that are too big or small to be perceived by our five sensory systems.” People often ask these deep questions, but existentialists have the cognitive capacity to ponder them.

Ask yourself:

  • Can you see the bigger picture?
  • Are you a deep thinker?
  • Are you extremely self-aware?
  • Do you have the cognitive capacity to raise and ponder “big questions” — queries about love, about evil, about life and death — indeed, about the nature and quality of existence?

Possible careers: philosopher, theologian, scientist.

Think of Socrates, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) and Elon Musk

5. Visual intelligence

Visual (spatial) intelligence are those who are good at visualizing things.

People with spatial intelligence are highly creative with a vivid imagination, high artistic ability, and excellent spatial reasoning and conceptualization.

They may not be linear thinkers since highly creative persons tend to think and learn laterally (not in a straight line). They require creative freedom to think in multiple dimensions.

They may not learn efficiently by following step-by-step directions since they see tasks as a whole. They can be classified as systems thinkers.

They may seem messy and disorganized because their minds and imaginations are so vivid but give them time, and they can solve complex problems because they excel at seeing the bigger picture. They may occasionally miss minor details.

Those with high spatial-visual intelligence learn best by using visual aids, and written or modelled diagrams since they have good visual memory. For example in math, they may learn faster when presented with geometry and problem-solving rather than an equation.

Ask yourself:

  • Can you see the bigger pictures?
  • Are you a visual learner?
  • Are you good at reading maps and identifying patterns?
  • Do you have a vivid imagination and can come up with unique solutions?

Possible careers: architect, advertising, art director, photographer, interior designer, surgeon, engineer and pilot.

6. Linguistic intelligence

Linguistic intelligence (verbal or ‘word smart’) are those who are able to use words well in both written and spoken communication.

These individuals are typically very good at writing stories, memorizing information and reading. They may be prolific writers and readers who enjoy word games such as Scrabble.

They learn the best with verbal lessons, reading materials, written projects, and problem-solving in math over equations. They usually enjoy journalism, language classes, speech and drama.

Linguistic-verbal learners may have a hard time with visual-spatial tasks and hand-eye coordination, finding visual presentations and information difficult to interpret. For example, they prefer a written problem over reading a chart or interpreting a graph.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you good at reading?
  • Are you a good communicator?
  • Are you good at explaining concepts?
  • Are you good with words and memorization?

Possible careers: poet, journalist, editor, novelist and lawyer.

Think of Maya Angelou, Oprah and J.K. Rowling.

7. Kinaesthetic Intelligence

Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence is good at body movements, hand-eye coordination and dexterity, physical control, and performing actions.

It refers to a person's ability to process information physically through hand and body movement, control, and expression.

They are able to stay calm in times of high stress, making them good athletes and surgeons, which requires sticking to a strategy, being hyper-aware of their surroundings, and having strong peripheral vision.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you love movement?
  • Are you athletic and good at sports?
  • Do you have good hand-eye coordination?
  • Do you have fast and accurate reflexes?

Possible careers: dancers, athletes, surgeons and actors.

Think of Michael Jordan, Tom Brady or Cristiano Ronaldo.

8. Musical intelligence

Musical Intelligence refers to those who are good at thinking in patterns, rhythms, and sounds.

Music is important because it tells stories and transcends culture and languages. To be able to communicate or capture the attention of others with music is a skill that can bring people from all cultures together.

This was a highly controversial type of intelligence because some scientists argued musical intelligence is a talent, but Gardner (and myself) disagrees. We need to transcend the definition of “intelligence.” How do we explain those who are born innately with musical intelligence such as Mozart and Bach?

Musicians can often be described as deeply sensitive because they are literally speaking the language of our souls.

Susan Cain's book, Bittersweet, and Scott Barry Kaufman’s, The Psychology of Creative Writing, explore the personalities of deep and highly sensitive individuals. They often produce work that weaves and connects the fabric of humanity because they have a deep awareness of the impermanence of life through their own mental suffering. This is similar to existential intelligence.

Through music [and writing], they deliver transcendence to those wanting something deep, and they even entrance those who don’t have the cognitive capacity to understand these depths because it is simply one of the building blocks of humanity.

We all have it in us and creative individuals, including musicians, help bring it out in all of us since creativity is so important for our well-being.

“Music can serve as a way to capture feelings, insights about feelings, or insights into the forms of feelings; communicating them, thus, from the artist or creator to the attentive listener.” — Gardner

Ask yourself:

  • Do you remember the lyrics to songs?
  • Can you hear and recognize patterns easily?
  • Do you enjoy playing musical instruments?
  • Do you have a rich understanding of musical structure and rhythm?

Possible careers: singers, songwriters, DJ, musical conductors and composers.

Think of Mozart, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney

9. Naturalistic intelligence

Naturalistic intelligence refers to those who are more in tune with nature and are often interested in nurturing, exploring the environment, and learning about other species.

It’s in our human nature to be curious and explore, thus we love to classify and categorize information but some are born with deeper characteristics of this trait. Most children are born with this trait but some tend to lose it as they grow up.

Those with naturalistic intelligence can work together but also work independently. They appreciate, categorize, classify, explain, and connect the things of everyday life with nature. They can use this knowledge productively.

They are true purists and nature lovers because they appreciate Mother Earth. We absolutely need them otherwise there may not be enough people devoted to the health of our planet and our children’s future.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you love to be outdoors?
  • Do you enjoy activities such as camping or gardening?
  • Do you categorize information easily?

Possible careers: botanist, landscape architect, farmer, geologist, biologist and conservationist.

Think of Charles Darwin, David Suzuki and Jane Goodall.

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