"Freakonomics Ruined My Life"

An e-mail from a reader named Eric Durchholz:

Too smart? Yes and it sucks. I am smarter than everyone I know. I hate it. I had to “come out” as smart recently because for years I dumbed myself down just to be able to communicate with people. I constantly quote books and blogs and podcasts to keep from sounding crazy. Between Freakonomics and the works of Malcolm Gladwell, my relationships have suffered from being smart because thanks to you I see the hidden side of everything. Most people don’t want to see or know the hidden side. The more I quote, the crazier I sound. Is this the downfall that Levitt touched on?

I moved to Chicago from Nashville to study improv and it broke my brain. I came to improv late in life and all those years of study and life experience are available for quick access at all times in my brain. Not only that, when I see things now, I see the hidden side automatically and it has made functioning in the world (of non-academia mind you) very difficult. I worked for big tobacco in promotions for years and we couldn’t promote smoking or cigarettes so I learned the value of the hidden side from the front lines.

Like when McDonald’s launched Fish McBites, I didn’t see the product. To me it said: “An excuse to come back to our restaurant and try a product we know you’ll hate but at least you’ll be in the store to smell a Big Mac because we know that’s what you want, anyway.”

And even if that is not true, it sucks because everyone I know is off to see the new Star Trek movie and I just think of things like that as business these days. So. … how do you learn to ignore the hidden side of everything and just get back to enjoying a nice Sprite without thinking of corn subsidies? How can I make new friends? Can you guys start a personals section?



If it is any consolation Malcolm Gladwell is wrong in most of his conclusions so you may not sound as smart as you think if you quote him all the time. :-)

But your general point is well taken, it isn't easy to find like minded people. Perhaps as listeners we need to promote freakonomics more often so we can create more similarly minded people to choose from.


The Problems of being smart are shared with a lot of not-smart people via the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Iwo Jaros

Well that is quite funny and I understand completely, best thing to do is to learn to use your time as best you can. With friends you do friends stuff but while on your own or while you are walk - I like to think when walking, thou I have on occasion in deep thought gone the wrong way lol - think and process stuff that catch your attention.

Awesome email you guys get lol


Eric, there are societies, such as Mensa or Triple Nine Society, specifically geared towards highly intelligent people. However, If I were you I probably wouldn't put all my eggs in that basket because from just your brief explanation of how smart you are I kind of get the impression that you're just an averagely intelligent ass.

Charles Taylor

Fascinating, there was an episode of The Simpsons where Homer had this exact same problem after the doctors removed a crayon from his brain. He learned that his new-found intelligence only alienated him from the world around him. His solution was to shove a crayon back up his nose - I wouldn't recommend doing that to yourself.


That episode of The Simpsons brought me to tears. I felt so sorry for Lisa.


Anyone who has to brag about how smart they are in order to find people similar to themselves, isn't as smart as they think they are.


I'm really smart too and Star Trek was good :)


If you're smart, you should be smart enough to win friends and influence people so maybe you're using your perceived intelligence as a rationale for not having friends.

I'll tell you what I told a contact of mine when he complained that his girlfriend doesn't hold a good conversation when it comes to world events: if you want a good conversation, go be with henry kissinger. Of course, this may result in other complaints down the road.

John Glenn

Rational intelligence is only half the picture. Emotional intelligence is an entirely, and probably even more important thing. Sounds like you're lacking in the latter.


Ah, "Emotional Intelligence." Once again, by one with IQ roughly one ten, its virtues espoused.
What Negligence! Geeks above all rate care and love but sentiment be doused.


Being a humblebragging [word removed as it voilates Freakonomics' abuse police] ruined your life.


I do take pity on you, it's tough to have all sorts of information trying to get out of your brain. I think we all have to be careful about what we say, even to people we spend a lot of time with! It's just self-control really...


I think you're confusing "smart" with "conceited".

Eric M. Jones

The older I get the more I believe that mediation is the answer to all these weird little complaints.


According to tests I've taken I'm smarter than 99.9% of the population but unlike the author of the is article I don't feel very smart. In fact I've come to the conclusion that while I may be better at some kinds of thinking than most people, many important problems are of the type where a 99.9% understanding is of no more discernible advantage than a 70% understanding. On top of that I find very many people who lack extraordinary intelligence (at least of the type that shows up in tests) have experience and interests which put them in possession of information and insights which intelligence alone does not provide.

Also I've been around a lot of very intelligent people my whole life and many of them, while remarkable in some ways, are really messed up human beings. In sum I am wary of intelligence (of the testable kind) lest it make me like a man who only has a hammer, to him every problem looks like a nail.


Michael Goldberg

There is a difference between wisdom and intelligence. Most of the time they are mutually exclusive. Most people that are intelligent assume they are wise. But rarely will you find a wise person who thinks they are truly intelligent.


Eric, take up fly-fishing. The trout will put you in your place. Actually, you have a marvelous opportunity to use your superpower for good. Stop the self-pity.


His grammar is fairly poor. I doubt he is that smart.