IQ, EQ, and HQ


If you ask most people, they will tell you that, at the end of the day, what they really want is to be happy.

Of course, it is well known that most people aren’t very good at answering questions like that. It is much more useful to look at what they are actually doing. That gives you a much clearer picture.

So if you look at what most people are actually doing, at its core, we are chasing after power. We spend most of our day working at a job to earn money, to “change the world”, to get a raise or promotion, to have a bigger impact. All of these are ways of being more powerful.

Even on evening and weekends, when we want to interact with our friends and family, we want them to like us, pay attention to what we are saying, laugh at our jokes, and so on. This, again, at its core, is about power, though in a much softer way.

A few people chase after knowledge or creativity purely for its own sake, i.e. not as a proxy for or as a side effect of chasing after power.

For a long time, we believed that being successful as a human being involved being good at chasing after knowledge or creativity. So we invented the concept of IQ, as a way to measure our ability to acquire knowledge or be creative.

Then, as I stated above, it dawned on us that IQ didn’t really correlate very well with high levels of success. Most high IQ people lead fairly simple lives. They typically don’t live in poverty or pain, but they don’t rise to the top of the ladder of success either. They don’t run countries or  companies, be on TV every day, or become life of the party.

This cartoon actually captures this quite well. (Warning: NSFW)

So we invented the concept of EQ, which was a way to measure our ability to interact with and influence other people. This of course correlated much better with our real behavior, which was to chase after power.

But, in all of this, what happened to or original goal of chasing after happiness? Isn’t it time we came up with a way to measure our ability to make ourselves happy? Say, “HQ”? Happiness Quotient?

How would we define HQ? It is a person’s ability to make themselves happy. Period. At its extreme, this would be something like a Buddhist monk or a stoic, where one is able to be happy or peaceful even when under severe physical or psychological pain. (That would be similar to having an Einstein-level IQ.)

Of course, a typical (non-stoic) person’s ability to make themselves happy will probably involve some use of their EQ to get some amount of power – to have some control over their environment and to create a barrier around themselves to protect themselves from the vagaries of the universe. And it will probably also involve some amount of IQ so they have a deeper, more “knowing” appreciation of life and some interesting activities they can indulge in. But there would also be something more than that.

Maybe it is a better understanding of philosophy? Faith? History? Psychology? Something to think about.

My basic point is, there is probably a hierarchy of “quotients”, with “HQ” at the top, supported by EQ and IQ. And we should really be spending a lot more time thinking about what’s our HQ rather than what’s our IQ or EQ.