The All-around Brilliant

I would like to propose the idea that there is such a thing as a sort of people who are All-around Brilliant. Before elaborating, I would like to immediately make note that I grudgingly exclude myself from this variety; I simply do not fit. It’s also necessary to emphasize that these extraordinary people come from all sorts of backgrounds and personalities and are rarely found grouped together (in clubs, societies, interests, and the like). Arrogance and elitism ruled out, let us continue.

The first thing about The All-around Brilliant (TAB) is that they’re smart. That’s not to say the TAB get the highest SAT scores or rank “genius” in IQ; the amorphous word choice of “smart” is used for its very flexibility. The TAB are smart in many ways and to different degrees, depending on the person. They all have some degree of book-smarts, but they also tend to be thoughtful writers of poetry and prose. They have penetrating abilities in critical reading. They can problem-solve quickly and efficiently and have a plethora of knowledge in the arts and in literature.

When it comes to constructive conversations of depth and meaning, TAB’s smartness is pushed to the forefront. They have a refined rhetoric, with internal phrase banks developed and used at will as if to prove their own brilliance. They have a great factual understanding of the world around them, with statistics and studies on their side for the opinions they hold and the conversations they undertake. They have a balance between logic and emotional, reason and passion which they delicately use in tandem. But it’s not “smartness” that makes the TAB what they are. It doesn’t define them.

What make them brilliant are their skills with people. They can dance with any audience and play any group. They can work with diversity and collaborate in conflict like few can. Many can generate the most logical and ingenious ideas in the world, but they have that hint of brilliance to present ideas and sway others. It takes a TAB to carry and lead a group, instead of merely managing one. It takes a TAB to not just develop a vision but to see it actualize. They have senses like a hawk to watch other people, but also an intuition that perches right into people’s souls to understand them. It’s not a deliberate and conscious ability at interpersonal skills the TAB have, it’s something they do with paradoxically casual zeal.

It might require some shady activity to carry and lead a group: manipulation, seduction, and the like. But it doesn’t need to. A lot of it only requires simple human geniality. The rest require sensory awareness, a depth of past experience, and strong intuition, which TAB have no lack of. The All-around Brilliant are best noted for their ability with people, but they also have a brilliance with themselves.

One can’t be an individual without individuality. One can’t be oneself without self-preservation either. TAB often stand out of the crowd and are e pluribus unum. I do know a few that are exactly the opposite, who mesh into the crowd and seem like everyone else, but anyone who spends time with a TAB soon comes to realize that they stand out. They have resonance, radiance, exuberance, and vitality that glows among a sometimes dull set of peers. They get more attention. Whether it’s liked or not, made aware or not, TAB are noticed while others aren’t.

That excessive attention (or lack thereof if the attention isn’t apparent) can cause enormous pressure. For that reason and many others that all people deal with, The All-around Brilliant have the same emotional and mental troubles as everyone if not more. This is where self-preservation comes in. For them to succeed and maintain stability, TAB often pull away from others and retreat into their own minds (some, in fact, never leave it). They will do what it takes to keep their own acuteness – their own brilliance – by preserving themselves and their individuality.

So The All-around Brilliant are diverse. Some are introverts, some are extroverts. Some are logical purists, others are passionate radicals. Some are book-smart, others are creative. Some are structured, others are flexible. Some are quiet, others are loudmouths. Some are arrogant, others have low self-esteem. But all have a bit of both, and a lot of one or the other. All are smart, all can work with people, all can stand out, and all are brilliant.

Their capabilities are far and vast. In my experience, most have numerous talents, whether that’s singing, dancing, or writing. Many have vast friend networks and are popular. Most do some sort of community activism. All have a complex understanding of the world that is developing and ever changing. All are at some degrees polymath. Much of this depends on age and resources, of course.

They come from different backgrounds and histories, such that some TAB are wealthy while others are poor. There are advantages to both that TAB needn’t hesitate to use, whether that’s extensive resources or unsheltered experiences. Their potential however is vast, and it would be a shame for a TAB not to use them. The All-around Brilliant should find their calling and follow it, onward.

Before concluding, there’s one concern to address. Some readers may have trouble seeing what exactly is so remarkable about TAB, and how much of that is subjective. I suppose everyone would demarcate (and denote) the qualities I listed differently, so there is plenty up for debate. As a disclaimer, I have no authority of my own to say who is and isn’t a TAB, or if such a thing exists. I am simply writing what I think and thinking it is right. So it goes.

The All-around Brilliant are extremely few in numbers. For those I know, I can count them on the fingers. Most probably don’t even realize their own specialness and potential – assuming I even judged accurately. The qualities that make them different are not exceptional in themselves; it’s when one puts all of their qualities together that one gets something awesome. However, those qualities, those skills, and those abilities do have a flavor that is distinguishable.

It comes with a scent of exceptionality, vitality, remarkability, and brilliance. They have a duty to the world to make it a better place, to use that strange brilliance of theirs for the greater good. I would be a shame for TAB not to. The All-around Brilliant should find their calling and follow it, onward. The have a duty to the world, and the world needs them.



I had a high school teacher who once explained why the Dao de Jing was dumb. On top of violating every religious freedom act there probably ever was, I don’t think he actually read it. Not like I have: but I don’t call it dumb. Instead, I call it “interesting”.

I suggested a book to someone once who, after skipping to one of the later chapters called the book dumb within three minutes of skimming. I’m not entirely sure how you can blanket a book as dumb in three minutes. Or maybe I’m not intelligent enough.

Another time, I suggested someone actually educate himself by reading the Bible (even if just a snippet). On top of blanketing all scriptures as “dumb and boring” (keep in mind he had never read at that point any non-Indian prayer-text scripture), he read the first page of Genesis and called the Bible dumb.  He didn’t read anymore: there are far more important things to do in life then learn from dissenting views.

I confess to the same. I started reading the introduction to Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design and called it dumb in the first few sentences. He said (I quote), “philosophy is dead”. I think that statement is dumb, but is the book? Or maybe I’m the dumb one. No, I can’t be. If I were, my ego would be hurt.

Some people call human evolution dumb because their “great grandfather wasn’t a monkey”. That’s a pretty dumb reason. Why that mentality? Because they think they’re right and wouldn’t want to have it otherwise. After all, it’d hurt their ego.

Think about political science. Why is Samuel Huntington dumb? Because I don’t like what he has to say and frankly don’t want to learn what he has to say. Why is Francis Fukuyama dumb? Same reason .

Read about the world, think about the world, and don’t call anything dumb until you learn about it. If you do otherwise, you’re pretty dumb.

Taliban’s resurgence by 2017 – so much for helping a nation

The Washington Post, among many other news outlets, revealed leaks on a national intelligence report concerning Afghanistan. Here are the highlights:

A new American intelligence assessment on the Afghan war predicts that the gains the United States and its allies have made during the past three years are likely to have been significantly eroded by 2017

The National Intelligence Estimate, which includes input from the country’s 16 intelligence agencies, predicts that the Taliban and other power brokers will become increasingly influential as the United States winds down its longest war in history

The report predicts that Afghanistan would likely descend into chaos quickly if Washington and Kabul don’t sign a security pact that would keep an international military contingent there beyond 2014

“In the absence of a continuing presence and continuing financial support,” the intelligence assessment “suggests the situation would deteriorate very rapidly,” said one U.S. official familiar with the report.

That conclusion is widely shared among U.S. officials working on Afghanistan



“I think what we’re going to see is a recalibration of political power, territory and that kind of thing,” said one U.S. official who felt the assessment was unfairly negative. “It’s not going to be an inevitable rise of the Taliban.”

A senior administration official said that the intelligence community has long underestimated Afghanistan’s security forces. “An assessment that says things are going to be gloomy no matter what you do, that you’re just delaying the inevitable, that’s just a view,” said the official. “I would not think it would be the determining view.”

The Obama administration has sought to get permission from Kabul to keep troops that would carry out counterterrorism and training missions beyond 2014. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has so far refused to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States and has made demands that Washington calls unrealistic.


If Afghanistan is better off with the Taliban and the US should do everything to keep them down – as US policy will tell us – then perhaps there is a need to reevaluate. Of course, that requires dealing with the American public….


From the Washington Post