The New Intelligence Test for Finding the 3 M’s (Mission, Meaning, and Money)

“I suspect the IQ, SAT, and school grades are tests designed by nerds so they can get high scores in order to call each other intelligent.…Smart and wise people who score low on IQ tests, or patently intellectually defective ones [who]…score high on them, are testing the test and not the reverse.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb

“IQ accounts for what portion of our career success? The answer: between 4 and 10 percent.” — Daniel Pink

To hear a deeper discussion on the following topics, listen to:

The Mission Daily Episode 26: The New Intelligence Test — Part 1

The Mission Daily Episode 27:The New Intelligence Test — Part 2

The first step to begin finding meaning is through overcoming some of the largest impediments to our mission. Our rational mind, IQ, and analytical capacities are both our friends and enemies. They can greatly aide us or cause us to second guess ourselves away from a mission-driven life.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if we don’t have a high IQ, brand name college degrees, or a high GPA, we don’t have a propensity for meaning. Or, we worry that because we don’t have a sufficient degree of these (old) measures of intelligence, our ability for growth and service will decrease (an impediment to meaning). The reality is, science and research increasingly show that these old credentials and measures of intelligence don’t matter that much.

If we allow those traits to control our lives, they can do so forever. It’s not necessary that we let these abilities completely go, but it is important that we examine why these “talents” are increasingly being shown to be a small part of our overall success or mission.⁠

IQ is the Smallest Part

Researcher Daniel Goleman and the Hay Group have shown that IQ accounts for only 4 to 10 percent of our success. The mindset and conclusions to be drawn from this are that after a baseline of intelligence, it’s on us to acquire what we need.

The SAT that Never Mattered

Sadly, the SAT — and every other test like it — only measures how well you can do on the SAT. Yale University professor Robert Sternberg has been at work for years building an alternative, or as some call it, a “supplement” to the test. Sternberg’s test includes:

  • Writing funny captions for five blank New Yorker cartoons
  • Narrating a story
  • Addressing life challenges (ex. How would you handle arriving at a place where you didn’t know anyone? How would you try to persuade friends to help you with something?)

Sternberg’s fledgling test has already been shown to be twice as successful as the SAT in predicting how well students perform in college. In the next few years, even more data will come out as the success disparity grows between those who focus on what matters, and those who focus on old holy grails of education: memorization and standardization.

As with IQ, after a baseline of competency, awareness, and attention to detail, it’s on the individual to learn what they need. If we focus on tallying and quantifying what the predictors are of our future success, we’ll stay mired in inaction, or convince ourselves out of great accomplishments. But if we become definite that we can improve and grow, we’ll naturally develop the heuristics, emotional intelligence, and creativity required to succeed in life and business.

The Companies that Stopped Asking about Grades and GPAs

Google, Khan Academy, and a slew of other Silicon Valley technology companies are no longer asking applicants about grades, GPAs, and where they went to college. At first, these institutions used the old metrics listed above to find employees out of pure convenience. Now, companies like Google have found methods which work better to find great employees, and they’re embracing them wholeheartedly. Laszlo Bock is the man in charge of hiring at Google, and this is what he has to say about who they want to hire:⁠

“For every job, though, the #1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.”

Laszlo went on to detail the second most important thing they’re looking for:

“…is leadership — in particular emergent leadership as opposed to traditional leadership. Traditional leadership is, were you president of the chess club? Were you vice president of sales? How quickly did you get there? We don’t care. What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else? Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.”

Google is one of many companies who are interested in applicants with character, common sense, and grit. A GPA is a fine measure of prowess for memorization and devotion to curriculum. But a grade of an A+ hardly matters if we’re testing something anyone can look up the answer to in minutes. A GPA of 4.0 doesn’t matter if the applicant hasn’t mastered technology, friendship, or the ability to learn and lead.

The businesses which thrive in the future will continually move away from old metrics of competency. They’re now scouring for individuals with high emotional and creativity quotients. These are the skills at lowest risk of becoming commodities in the future. These are also the traits which make someone coachable, speed up learning, and generally contribute positively to company culture.

Silicon Valley technology companies are increasingly creating a philosophy on life and business which is spilling out into the rest of our country. Consider some of these practices that hail from Silicon Valley and are present in successful startups:

  • Encouraging work that is done in flow states (work in the zone)
  • Flattening hierarchical structures (think distributed teams such as Special Forces)
  • Preferring leadership over management (leadership is management with less coercion)
  • Pursuing results over fundamentalism (they’re not biased about how things get done)
  • Valuing emotional mastery (culture is everything)

These companies are building their own mechanisms to replace the outdated, “where’d you go to school?” and, “what were your grades?” When we are asked these questions when applying for a job, it means we’re applying for a job rooted in old paradigms.

As results, skills, and interpersonal emotional intelligence and empathy become more quantifiable, testable, and preferable, expect more formalized tests for them to appear.

There will be far less need in the workplace for those who are manically competitive in contests to memorize random facts. There will be an increasing need for workers who can repeatedly identify where and when it makes sense to compete, and where it does not. This is the essence of entrepreneurship: can you help create things which are valuable and get them to people who need them?

Consider this: an entry-level job at the federal government might require a GPA of 3.75 or above. That job probably receives hundreds of applications a day. Those hundreds of people are competing so feverishly for a salary, armed with incentives to use outdated technology and do enough to get by. Now consider the job at a local, venture-backed startup where learning skills which produce results is vital to the company’s survival. The upside of this job through salary, equity, and rate of learning is virtually uncapped. Even if the company fails, the worker walks away with knowledge of how business works, and skills which another venture-backed startup would love to pay for.

This is exciting news for those who want to enter or align themselves with industries which create technology. Old-school credentials of college and GPA are slowly fading. We’re getting back to the basics and back to the old interview question of, “how can you be helpful to me right now?”

So if all these old metrics of intelligence, value, and propensity for success are fading… what will replace them? Are there a few traits or abilities that measure our propensity for success in the new economy, and our ability to find meaning?

The New Intelligence Test for Finding Your Mission

If the old measurements of ability are fading, what does the new intelligence test look like?

Grit + Imagination + Skills = The new measure of intelligence

This test or formula isn’t just to gain access to the new economy. It also gauges our propensity to create value for ourselves and others. Plus, this new intelligence test is practically a formula for meaning. If you have had a challenging life, you’ll likely have grit. If you have an active imagination (as most readers do), you’ll be able to come up with good ideas. And if you have marketable skills, you’ll always be able to provide value wherever you go. If you’re going to find meaning, it’s important to understand that you already possess high marks on the new intelligence test.

For the first time in history, many of the world’s most innovative companies are finding that mission-driven employees are the key to building a company that thrives. But let’s examine some of the other skills and traits necessary to continually find meaning.


Wikipedia defines grit as:

“A positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment, and serves as a driving force in achievement realization. Commonly associated concepts within the field of psychology include ‘perseverance,’ ‘hardiness,’ ‘resilience,’ ‘ambition,’ ‘need for achievement’ and ‘conscientiousness.’⁠”

Other ways to gauge and build grit are to think about our patience and attitude. As Rudyard Kipling said, can we “wait and not be tired by waiting?” Or consider the ultimate perspective on attitude from Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, founder of logotherapy, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning. He said:

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

If we can become patient, maintain our attitude, and endure what life throws at us, we’re well on our way to building grit.


Harnessed imagination and creativity are now two of the most in-demand talents in the world. As technology continues to grow, evolve, and commoditize many services, imagination is the last great bastion of human expertise to perfect and master. Building it is as easy (and difficult) as writing down ideas every day. Harnessing it is about practicing, developing, selling, and implementing our good ideas.

Lateral thinking ability also blends in with creativity and imagination. How can we blend ideas and concepts to create solutions to problems? Can we make everything around us a bit better by the way we blend ideas and resources? Do people know us as people who find solutions or identify problems?


The most important high-level skill may be thought of as becoming masters of our emotions. We’ll cover this is depth in future articles. For now, just think of emotional mastery as the practice of observing our thoughts and feelings as they arise. Choose the ones that serve you, and discard the ones that cause pain or frustration.

To be mission-driven, we must have enough to take care of our needs and (some) wants. This means we must develop marketable skills. We know we have marketable skills when we receive job offers, or can create or help build value where none previously existed. The marketable skills of the future fall into four broad categories which fit the acronym BEDS, or: Business, Engineering, Design, and Science. We’ll cover examples of these future-proof skills in a future article. If we have marketable skills in any of these categories, we can go out and make money very easily.

After we build marketable skills, it’s important that we are able to show proof of our skills. Do we have a body of work which can be cited wherever we go? This might be an online portfolio, or an app in the App Store that we created. Do we have an online presence which can work and source opportunity for us while we don’t work? This might be a LinkedIn profile, our own website, an app, article, book, or anything we’ve created.

The beauty of these three components of the new intelligence test is that they’re all self-reinforcing. That means that if you’re willing to build grit by operating in uncertainty, you naturally start to develop ideas to solve your challenges. This leads to a boost in imagination. As our imagination increases, we’ll have to find an outlet. Searching for an outlet to channel our energies will lead us towards wanting to build our skills. These three areas begin to strengthen each other, and the process of increasing this new type of intelligence becomes seamless. Once we are self-taught in one skill or field of study, we can repeat the process again and again. When we’re growing and improving, it becomes easier for meaning to manifest in our lives.

Want to learn more about this ‘New Intelligence Test’? Tune in here:

The Mission Daily Episode 26: The New Intelligence Test — Part 1

The Mission Daily Episode 27:The New Intelligence Test — Part 2

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The New Intelligence Test for Finding the 3 M’s (Mission, Meaning, and Money) was originally published in The Mission on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Author: Chad Grills

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