Work Ethic Trumps Intelligence Every Single Time

I’ve just finished watching Forrest Gump for the 7th time and is the embodiment of work ethic. This fictitious film is about one of the best entrepreneurs ever. For those of you who have committed the crime of not watching this film, I will provide a synopsis. In this film, IQ is not a factor in this man’s success, what does matter is that he has promises he must keep and he has the work ethic to fulfil those promises.

The film starts with Gump, a boy with an IQ of 75, which is the borderline for cognitive impairment who goes on to become a college graduate, decorated war hero, international athlete, social icon, multi-millionaire CEO, and father. Fictitious it may be, but it begs the question, is our work ethic more important than our IQ?

I spoke with multi-millionaires, doctors, influencers, and CEO’s and read the research to answer this question. There is a man who went from drug addiction to a multi-millionaire author. A student who fell behind in school to become one of the leading entrepreneurial influencers today. The studies show perseverance is more important than your IQ. Psychologists showed us that our mindset determines our success. I agree with academia and the people. This article tells us that the grind is your friend and that your success is determined by your work ethic, not what you’re born with.

The Science

A paper published in 2007 described perseverance and passion for long-term goals as “Grit” (a non-cognitive trait, measuring persistence) of equal or more importance than IQ and talent. The same has been found by psychologist Carol Dweck who said, “Attitude is a better predictor of your success than your IQ.”

Dweck focuses on two mindsets that people hold: one being a growth mindset which says people can improve with consistent effort. The other is a fixed mindset, which is that you believe you cannot change what you have been given. Dweck found that people with a growth mindset will outperform those with a fixed mindset even if they have a lower IQ. These types of people see challenges as opportunities, setbacks as lessons and failures as the chance to start again.

You no longer have the cards you were dealt to blame. Your beliefs and work ethic are now your main tools for crafting your future, and science agrees.

The Stories Behind Success

The people interviewed below didn’t have everything gifted to them. They worked for it. This is the primary question I asked my interviewees for this article: In your opinion – do you think your emotional intelligence/attitude or work ethic is more important than your IQ?

This is what they said:

Grant Cardone – Millionaire Real Estate Investor & New York Times Best Seller


When I was younger, I was a drug addict. I had become a cause of concern for everyone who loved me and a disappointment to so many who wanted to believe in me. I was broke and broken— financially, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.

The weekend of my twenty-fifth birthday I went to visit my mom at her place, not far from the dumpy apartment I rented for $275 a month. I showed up at my mom’s place loaded and my mom, exasperated, finally gave me the big ultimatum: “Don’t come around here anymore until you get your life together.” I knew I had to change or I was going to die without even getting a chance to prove—to myself or to her—that I could be something. I had the emotional intelligence to realize that I had to invest in myself. If I was ever going to be anything, I had to skill up and become obsessed with success. That was the turning point for me when I gave permission to be all in, completely obsessed with success.

Your attitude is that x-factor that is difficult to measure but it is so critical. Without the right attitude, nothing else matters. Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean you’re stupid. I wasn’t born knowing how to sell, it was a skill I acquired through hard work, lots of training, and a great attitude. Don’t worry about your IQ, it’s just a number. Have a great attitude and invest in yourself, your work ethic and you’ll be fine.

Brian D. Evans – Inc 500 Entrepreneur & Founder/CEO of Influencive


As a kid, my IQ was tested because I fell behind in school. I didn’t know at the time my IQ was very high. But I went through the early years of my life not really understanding why I was being treated differently. I thought that perhaps maybe I wasn’t that smart, so I developed a great EQ to make up for what I perceived as a weakness. My entire entrepreneurial mindset was developed because of the way I see the world differently. I learned very early on in life that connecting with people was extremely important, and I saw that many did it wrong. I was a nontraditional learner, so I was forced to always ask a lot of questions that seemed bizarre to others. This challenging of the norm and learning how to extract what I need out of people and communicate with them on a deeper level has been a major pillar of my ultimate “success” in life.

Natalie Ellis – CEO of BossBabe


I think that people often underestimate how important emotional intelligence is. A lot of people are very impressed by a First-Class University degree—and quite rightly so—, but without emotional intelligence or work ethic, I don’t believe that this will get you all that far. In business, your success can be directly related to the effort you put in.
Upon leaving University I was offered—what I thought was—my dream corporate job. I asked to take a year off before starting. While travelling, I had my light bulb moment and started to believe that I could turn this idea into a real business. I would be turning down a very attractive offer to essentially start from nothing and try to launch a business that could fail. I was losing sleep for weeks, I was really not sure which way to turn, and my family didn’t want me setting up the business. It was then that I started to change my attitude and question my limiting beliefs and self-doubt. The real driver was my work ethic.

Gallant Dill – Multi-Millionaire Consultant


I personally failed my way to success. The night before I gave up and went in to take a 9-5 job selling SEO, I decided to stay up and reach out to companies and offer my hand to help them. After about 12 hours of emailing, I had my first bite and from that moment on I learned success was just a numbers game. I went off to start multiple 7 figure consulting companies.
My work ethic and emotional intelligence/attitude are more important than my IQ, hands down. I know plenty of people who have super high IQ’s, but without drive, it doesn’t really matter. I dropped out of high school with only 5 high school credits and ended up being one of the most successful people in my town. I give the credit to my drive and hustle.

Coss Marte – Drug Kingpin to CEO of ConBody


I believe that work ethic is way more important than your IQ. Even though I’ve scored a high score on an IQ test, I believe I have emotional intelligence—aka street smarts—as a survivor skill. I’ve been in situations where I had to act fast to get out of situations in prisons. Such as seeing tension happening between two gangs and knowing that I had to step away before I was caught in the middle.

My work ethic and motivation created millions of dollars for me as a drug dealer. This work ethic, however, was what drove me to success. Following my time in prison, I started my own fitness regime, ConBody, and now employ others who were in my position. No matter how many barriers or hurdles you have to face, it’s the work that you put in to overcome this that counts.

What this means for you

The material you’ve been given genetically, emotionally, intellectually and financially are all malleable. This is a starting point. We do not control this. You now know that you do control the work you put in.

Genius isn’t something you’re born with, it is something you work for. Everyone you’ve seen who has created success has grafted this from continual work and effort.

So what’s holding you back? The answer is nothing. Your success depends on how much effort you want to put in. It’s not sexy, it’s not appealing, but it’s comforting to know that you are in control of your own life. It’s the amount of work you put in that decides the outcome.

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