Focus vs IQ & Discipline vs Talent

It all started with me putting this photo-quote on my LinkedIn ( My connections made all sorts of comments, as they do on other posts, agreeing or disagreeing. My LinkedIn, with 8,000 connections, has very high engagement levels. To some I responded, to others I let them find their own answers.

An interesting thing happened. Prof Dr Asir Ajmal, my colleague from another life, The News of 1991/92 era, posted a comment on his LinkedIn and tagged me. His post:

Asir: “IQ is more important than focus and talent is more important than discipline. Sorry Wali Zahid but I think when we are hiring, this is an important consideration. I don’t want a focused dimwit and an untalented rigid disciplinarian working for me.”

Now, Asir supervises PhDs in psychology. One of the finest names in our country. He was formerly a Professor & Chairperson at prestigious Government College University, Lahore and now an Adjunct Professor at Kinnaird College for Women, another eminent place. I didn’t want to be on the wrong side of argument with him. So I ignored his bait, and instead threw a wit:

Wali: “Loved it, Asir Ajmal. Old school vs new?”

Several other people commented. A clever Asir knew I had dodged him. He was adamant. After a couple of days, he wrote back:

Asir: “I don’t think the conflict is old school vs new. I think it is a question of truth vs political correctness. What do you think? Wali Zahid: I am interested in your opinion.”

To which I had to:

Wali: “Thanks Asir. Was too shy to say anything because you are a PhD in this. If you insist, here’s my take: People like Dan Goleman (his new book Focus), Marcus Buckingham (Now, Discover Your Strengths), Dan Pink (Drive) emphasise focus and discipline because these are learnable, as opposed to IQ and talent which are inborn. Since they can’t do anything about our birth configuration, they are trying to build optimism that people like me (with no talent and IQ, you know me for 23 years!) can still achieve significance if they use focus and D. Their emphasis also implies that unused talent & IQ are of no use, as may happen in most cases. What do you think?”

Asir wrote back:

Asir: “A brilliant response from someone I have always respected as a talented and intelligent man, Wali Zahid. I have read quite a few things, especially in the popular literature which undermine natural talents and intelligence by contrasting these with abilities that we can develop. I agree with you that unused talent and IQ are of no use, but I also believe that people with higher IQ are better able to develop EQ and focus. Our society, however, has a tendency to favor mediocrity and punish natural talent, thus my earlier reaction. That having been said, I enjoy your posts, so keep posting.”

If you have landed on this page from somewhere, welcome. What do you think? Did we make it any clearer for you? Or just added to confusion?


  1. Hi , read your post on regular basis , they are really short, simple and easy to understand language.Now my question is that how to increase focus ?

  2. Thanks Farah. Would read Daniel Goleman’s new book, called Focus where he mentions three types of focus and gives tips on how to increase each type of focus. Or, watch his short video by HBR

  3. this is the some up of my todays parent teacher meeting in my school as an elementary teacher. thanks a lot sir once again, i would love to have your guidance in delivering this message to my students of grade 4, as they are extremely talented and gifted with intelligence IQ but avoid HARD WORK, FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION, not only in study but its their general behavior to almost every thing.

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