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Which is more Important for Material Success in the Modern World Knowledge or Intelligence

In today’s modern times, individuals are discovering that both knowledge and intelligence are valuable assets in establishing their respective marks upon the multi-faceted world in which they live. Humanity’s dive into the ‘Information Age’ implies that society is in need of people who, according to their profession, can not only delve into their vast reservoir of collected knowledge, but also confront new problems and ideas with creativity and ingenuity.

The appearance of laptop computers to the market, and now the advent of the smartphone and the tablet, have definitively carried the developed nations and their people into an era where education is freely available. In the past, curious children would have to go to their local libraries to enter the world of their favorite characters. Now, children can interact with tablets and computers that not only allow them to read almost any book for free (or at a relatively affordable price), but also listen to the audiobook version of the works.

Additionally, the burgeoning popularity of the social networks and the blog community has given rise to a generation that can speak, read, listen, and collaborate with efficiency. As a result, the process of acquiring knowledge, for both young and old, has been streamlined to a certain extent through the technological innovations of recent times. If one is ambitious and motivated enough and has access to books (either in print or electronic), knowledge can be rapidly obtained.

However, the process of obtaining knowledge does not simply arise from being a voracious reader. One can argue that intellect plays a key role in understanding when the occasion is ripe for one to “put a dent in the universe.” An individual can have expansive knowledge about many subjects; however, the inability to apply that knowledge to a situation in the present will probably lead to a disadvantage in the modern world. These days, it is simply not enough to “know,” one has to also be able to use one’s creative faculties to react to the changing times.

Walter Isaacson, in his biography of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, noted that before Apple was created, Jobs displayed a keen sense of business intellect – despite not having any formal business education – when Jobs convinced his friend, Steve Wozniak, who was a electronics whiz, to not freely dispense his vision for a computer circuit board as a memento of his unique abilities and to, instead, create the boards themselves on a large scale and then sell them at a price that would ensure great profits.

While Woz had great knowledge and intellect where electronics were concerned, he lacked the aggressiveness and the business sense needed to realize that he was capable of manufacturing a product that not many could build as well as he could. His innocent and benevolent nature prompted him to forego any thoughts of making profits from his abilities.

Jobs, on the other hand, had a strong reactionary impulse to the thought of selling Woz’s circuit boards at a marked up price because he instantly recognized the value the product had given the market. Jobs’s keen awareness in this regard led to the building blocks of Apple and helped him to eventually create a dominant juggernaut in the computer/technology industry.

The key takeaway point from Jobs’s early experiences in creating Apple is that knowledge without the intellect to apply it is almost useless. Recognition of a life-changing scenario or an interesting opportunity as the gateway to future personal growth and success is an important faction of having intelligence in certain areas of life.

For Jobs, while he may have been intelligent in spotting a lucrative business opportunity, he, nonetheless, lacked intelligence in many other areas of his life. So, having intellect for one subject by no means does not always guarantee material success in the modern world.

Further along in his biography, Isaacson notes the drama involved with Jobs and his firing from Apple. Due to power struggles in Apple, Jobs was relieved of his duties at Apple and found himself a wealthy man abandoned from the company he found. Looking back on this tumultuous time in his life, Jobs noted: “It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.” 

It was during this stage of his life that Jobs made up for some of his gaps in knowledge about how the business world really functioned. He started other computer companies that he hoped would rival and eventually surpass IBM and Apple. In many of his products, he underestimated the consumer market and, accordingly, the products flopped upon their release due to their inefficiency and high price.

It was during this creative, but turbulent time in his life that Jobs realized the value that lay in combining art and the music industries, which were both fledging markets at the time (mid 1990s). During this tough time, Jobs actually revamped his knowledge base of what the consumers really wanted and, as a result, was able to inspire his Apple employees, upon his return to the company, to create sound and effective products.

Obviously, Jobs’ life story illustrates, to a certain extent, the need for an individual seeking to succeed in this modern world to be able to constantly adapt his knowledge base and, in turn, reshape the way he/she sees the world. As the modern society, economy, and technology undergoes a constant flux, it is evident that in order to obtain success, one must be able to change with these aforementioned entities as well as anticipate the areas which would be impacted next by these unyielding changes.