I came across a great quote attributed to King George V who reigned from 1910 to 1936.
“I am not a clever man, but if I had not picked up something from all the brains I’ve met I’d be an idiot“.
I really like it because it underlines the fact that “being clever” isn’t a static thing. It doesn’t have a single, universal meaning and certainly isn’t something which is particularly measurable.
I was delivering a talk to a group of 17-year-old students at a school recently. They were all considering careers as professional engineers and were planning to go to university. One student asked the question “don’t you have to be really clever to be an engineer“?
My reply surprised them: “To become a qualified engineer you have to somehow pass the exams. That’s maybe what you mean by being clever. Once you’re qualified, the real learning starts, and you find yourself learning from everything you do, and from everyone you meet – that’s what I mean by being clever“.
Passing a driving test doesn’t make someone a great driver – it merely qualifies them to start learning to drive well. The really clever students are the ones who recognise learning opportunities when they present themselves, and who are able to extend their own abilities from them. It seems to me that this is an important message for students to understand, as it greatly improves their self-confidence and enables them to grow more without worrying about self-imposed hurdles.