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  • Writer's pictureacoachsdiary

Intelligence Can Be A Liability

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

One of the most effective ways to hold yourself back is thinking you know it all, or not being open or willing to listen and learn something new. There is so much information out there about anything and everyone you might (or might not) want to learn, but there are not enough people taking advantage of opportunities sitting right in front of them.

Intelligence and talent can both be liabilities for someone who thinks they know it all, have it all or have done it all.

Intelligence can be a liability if you aren’t willing to learn.

Talent can be a liability if you think you don’t have to work to get better.

I’ll never forget the time I heard a coach say, “We have 10 ways we can guard a ball screen,” and then watched him demonstrate all 10 at a coaching clinic hosted by Larry Brown at SMU.

I was a young coach, but I had already been coaching for several years, including 3 at the college level.

Like many young coaches, I thought I knew more than I really did, but I didn't know there was 10 ways to guard a ball screen, and I sure couldn't teach them clearly, so that was a humbling experience and one I’m forever grateful for.

It taught me the importance of being a humble, lifelong learner.

Adam Saenz is a psychologist whom I’ve heard speak several times. His messages usually cover Emotional Intelligence - the ability to be aware of and manage your emotions and the emotions of others.

Recently I heard him say, “Intelligence is great, but it can be a liability if you aren’t teachable.”

I think three of the most important skills we can have were the ability to listen, learn, and apply.

The fourth might be work. You have to be willing to put in the work so that you continue to get better because the best of the best never stop working.

The work either closes gaps or creates bigger gaps.

I tell my athletes all the time that coaches want athletes who they can teach, who will learn, and who will do.

Coaches don’t want to have to explain themselves over and over again.

The same goes for any relationship. The best of the best listen, they learn, and then they apply.

Be humble and aware that there is so much out there that you don’t know.

The best coaches spend all off-season exploring and learning. The best athletes do the same.

The best in every field search for ways in which they can grow.

Be hungry to learn, and be hungry to grow.

Then be diligent about applying what you are learning.

Don’t let your talent and intelligence be a liability for you and the people you teach, lead, and serve.


1 - If you had to teach someone one thing, the one thing you know more about than anyone else, what would it be?

2 - If you could give a Ted Talk over anything in the world, what would it be, or what would it be called?

3 - If you could learn from the master of any subject. What subject would it be?

4 - If you could listen to one Ted Talk on anything, what would that Ted Talk be?

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