I have absolutely no idea what my I.Q. score is. I’ve never known, and I’ve never really had a strong desire to know. Personally, I don’t find very much value in concerning myself with such seemingly trivial pieces of information. The problem with the I.Q. score is that it is not a valid indicator of the level of success a person will obtain in their lifetime.

This past weekend I went to a bar to watch a college football game (Texas vs. Tech) where we celebrated a friend’s birthday. As the birthday girl was introducing me to her other friends, one of them introduced herself to me by saying, “Hi, my name is (we’ll call her Ashley). My I.Q. is 138. What’s your I.Q.?”

I was so taken aback by her introduction, I didn’t know how to immediately respond without being rude. (Please leave your comment below. I would love to see how you think I should have responded). I wanted to say something along the lines of, “wow, that’s a great line,” but I deferred to, “I don’t know. I’ve never tested my I.Q., but I think what really matters is not the amount of intelligence one has but what one does with the intelligence they have.” Yeah…that conversation didn’t last very long. I’m okay that it didn’t.

Maybe if I.Q. scores really were an indicator of the level of success I could expect to obtain, I’d find it more important to know. But then again, maybe I wouldn’t. After all, success is subjective. What means success to me might not matter to you at all. Some organizations base success on return on investment (ROI). Others base success off of the number of people served. Some people base success on social status. Others focus more on the impacts they make in their communities.

Maybe the real reason I don’t want to know that all-so-important number is that I’m afraid to find out I’m not smart. Maybe I’ve lived my life following dreams that were never supposed to come true for me. What if I find my entire set of goals is a mirage in the desert of life that I’ll never have the ability to reach? Will my performance suddenly drop with this newfound information? Will a lower number anticipated force me to succumb a self-degrading, self-fulfilling prophecy?

On the other hand, what if I find out my number is actually higher than I expected. Will I suddenly realize that I should have done more with my life? Maybe I would become increasingly unsatisfied with my accomplishments. I mean, maybe I would become more motivated. But I could just as likely become so frustrated, that I lose productivity. Would my personality suddenly change with all this new confidence I’d gain from realizing I’m smarter? I don’t think so, but hey, it could happen.

Those questions are hard for me to think about, with answers I don’t want to consider. At this point in my life, I’ve had time to discover my many of my strengths and weaknesses. I know what I’m capable of doing and the areas where I struggle. But what bothers me more is when I think about children, and how placing too much stock in this number effects them. I feel that placing too much emphasis on this I.Q. score is especially damaging to a developing mind, either providing them with an undue sense of pride or equally invalid sense of feebleness. Children respond more positively to praise for effort than praise for innate intellectual capacity. When we give a child a test and propose that their score measures their effort, they score higher than they do when we say the test will measure their intelligence. Do we really want to want to tell our children how successful they will or will not be before they’ve even had the chance to try?

I’m of the camp that believes that we are in control of our destinies, and feel that goal-setting, determination, intuition, drive, awareness, networking, and experiences are better precipitators for success, whatever success might mean to that individual. I like not knowing my I.Q. score. I like learning from the people around me. I enjoy sharing stories and growing from those with different sets of experiences and cultures than my own. On track, in the classroom, and in the workplace, I’ve excelled because I’ve never become complacent. In an era with so much information, sometimes not knowing is the best way to keep striving to do better.