Are you ever stupid? Well, I am, sometimes.

Unfortunately, being stupid is easier these days than ever before. But before I get into that, let’s establish some meaning on the topic. Being stupid, or stupidity, in my mind was always the opposite of, or lack of, intelligence. I have been known to think or say, “That was stupid” or “I was stupid” or “They are stupid”. Frankly, I never thought about it very much, if at all. It’s not a moniker or description I prefer to use frequently. It has a “fixed-ness” to it.

My thinking changed recently when I came across a definition of stupidity by Adam Robinson: “Stupidity is overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information.”

Let’s look at that again: the information is conspicuous (it’s obvious to the eye or to the mind; it’s right under our noses) and it’s crucial (it’s important, perhaps very important; we should not ignore it) and yet somehow we miss it or dismiss it. Wow.

That’s stupid.

How does stupidity happen?

Robinson describes seven factors that contribute to stupidity. All seven do not have to be present in order to trigger stupidity; one is sufficient.

  • Rushing or urgency
  • Any task that requires intense focus (think fixation)
  • Information overload
  • Stress (including fatigue, illness, lack of sleep)
  • Being in the presence of an “expert” or “authority”
  • Being in a group, especially when cohesion or unity is involved 
  • Being outside your normal environment or changing your routines

If any one of these factors can trigger stupidity, imagine the increased potential of multiple factors!

Does that list seem familiar? It should. It describes much of our daily activity in today’s ever-connected world! In fact, Robinson makes the point that “Stupidity is the cost of intelligence operating in a complex environment.”


Yes, really. There’s the story of Yo-Yo Ma, the musician who forgot his $2.5-million dollar, 266-year old cello in the trunk of a taxi in New York in 1999. Ma is from Boston and was in New York (#1 out of his normal environment), rushing (#2) and exhausted (#3); three of seven factors. His cello was safely returned but Ma said, “I did something really stupid.”

We all do, sometimes.

What’s a person to do? Two words: be aware. Our lives are fast paced. Look back at the seven factors. If one or more is present, be aware. Don’t make important decisions. Know that multitasking is a form of information overload. Fatigue, illness, an all-nighter, or emotional overload can give you the mental acuity and reflexes of someone who’s legally drunk.

This is why we never text while driving (right?), because that would be stupid.

In Other Words

“Sometimes a man wants to be stupid if it lets him do a thing his cleverness forbids.” ― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

“It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt” ― Mark Twain

“Cause when a guy does something stupid once, well that’s because he’s a guy. But if he does the same stupid thing twice, that’s usually to impress some girl.” ― Dr. Seuss

“If it is stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid.” ― Mercedes Lackey

In The Word

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 NIV