The Top 5 Most Over-Rated Traits

Sep 18, 2008

The world has changed a lot, from even just a few years ago. And as such, the traits that were important in the past are arguably not as important today. So, here’s a list of what I think to be the most over-rated traits, in no particular order.

Hard Work

Or rather, ‘long’ work. Even today, kids in school are thought to believe that if they’re not doing well, they should study longer and try harder. We are taught to think that working longer would lead to better results. I don’t think that’s true anymore. As Seth Godin has said, “Hard work is about risk“. It’s not the number of hours you put in that matters, it’s not necessarily how hard you try. It’s about what you are trying – how many approaches, etc.

Being Reasonable

To quote George Bernard Shaw, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man adapts the world to himself. All progress depends upon the unreasonable man.” That says it all, really.


I don’t know about other cultures, but this is one of the biggest problems I find in Singapore. Yes, humility is all well and good, and too much arrogance isn’t a good thing. But on the flip side, you shouldn’t always be playing down your contributions or talents (as too many people, in my opinion, do over here). If you did a good job, take credit for it, you deserve it. Humility isn’t about playing down your strengths, it’s about admitting both your strengths and your weaknesses in balance.


Yes, it can be argued that rules are there for a reason. But sometimes, you have to break the rules. That’s why I love House (the TV show). House, the doctor, often breaks the rules. He goes with what he believes is right, even if it’s against normal procedure. He takes risks, and it’s those risks that saves lives and makes him such a good doctor. To take a quote from the show, “the rules exist because 95% of the time for 95% of the people, they’re the right thing to do.” That doesn’t mean that it’s always the right thing to do. There are times when you have to break the rules – or at the very least, you should be thinking about the rules and willing to break them.


Before you start jumping on my back, let me clarify this. Persistence is good, in some cases. It’s good when you know what you’re doing, when you believe firmly in it, when you know why you’re persisting. But persisting for the sake of it, just because you don’t want to quit, is not a good idea, and it’s something that too many people do. In some cases, it’s better to quit. Sometimes, you hit a dead end, what you’re doing doesn’t work anymore, and the best thing you can do is quit (for more information on this, read The Dip by Seth Godin). The trick is knowing when to quit, and when to persist.

There are probably more that I can think of, but those are 5 of the most over-rated traits, in my opinion, at least. Do you agree? Why (or why not)?

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