How Can You Be Intelligent if You Fail?

The 9 Intelligences of MI Theory

“There is No Such Thing as Failure. There is Only Results” - Tony Robbins

From birth we are learning the difference between right and wrong, good, bad and indifferent. Our parents, teachers, caregivers, and the world around us are instilling in us what is socially, societably acceptable, we are learning approval and disapproval. Depending on where we live in the world, our culture, our DNA, and our mental processing system depends on who we become and how we experience the world around us.

Depending on our conditioning depends on how we view failure and how it impacts our life throughout the development stages of our life. Life is not linear, it is ever changing and there are lots of variables, as we are intricate. So then if we fail, does this mean we are not intelligent? In this blog post we will build our understanding on intelligence, the role it plays in our life, and how to nourish our own intelligence.

Your Way or the Highway

Modeling, are our examples that we follow or imitate. Early on our role models are our parents and or caregivers, then our peers and the world around us.

Between two and three we are already wondering about autonomy, can I do things for myself or will I always have to rely on others. The goal during this developmental stage is to develop a sense of personal control over physical skills and a sense of independence. When successful it leads to a feeling of autonomy, and failure leads to feelings of shame and doubt.

By the development stage of three to five we are wondering if we are good enough. If allowed we start exerting power and control over our own environment. When successful there is a sense of purpose. Those that exert too much power experience disapproval, resulting in a sense of guilt. Conditioning at its finest.

Then with conditioning comes, what, who, and how we identify ourselves. It is interesting that when we learn healthy independence early on we feel a sense of autonomy, not threatened by others' differences. When we are not allowed to experience this independence in a healthy manner the conditioning is one that leads people to believe they are a failure, leading to doubt, fear and limits. The beauty about our dynamism is that our brains are elastic.

Brain is Elastic

The human brain functions with neuroplasticity, the elastic aspect of our minds that allows us to change, adapt and reorganize. During our lives, regardless of age, our brains create neurons and make fresh neural pathways as we experience things for the first time. Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset.

Based on the science behind our brain and its ability to grow is a growth mindset, meaning that we are all more than capable of changing. Versus a fixed mindset, implying that we are not able to change, we are stuck, and limited. Science does not support our brains being fixed or unchangeable. This throws out the idea that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Rather, that premise would be, the old dog would rather choose the outcome the way it is and call it failure, stuck, and limited.

Science does support that we all have nine intelligences.

9 MI Theory

Howard Earl Gardner is an American developmental psychologist and the Research Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. In his research he concludes that all humans have multiple intelligences, and they are known as the Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory.

Most people are familiar with either being a visual learner, kinesthetic learner or an auditory learner. For example, if you are exceptional at playing a sport you may believe that your dominant ability is your physical skills or kinesthetic skill. Or if you can see something done once and then can repeat and do it yourself after seeing it done once your dominant intelligence may be visual. In the meantime regardless of your dominant learning style or intelligence, you also have the additional eight.

The nine intelligences are; visual/spatial, intrapersonal, existentialist, musical/rhythmic, interpersonal, bodily/kinesthetic, logical/mathematical, verbal/linguistic, and naturalist. What do they all mean?

Visual Intelligence is the ability to think in images, and pictures to visualize accuracy and abstractly. You may be good at observations, drawing, sketching, illustrating, painting, inventing, and designing for example.

Intrapersonal Intelligence is the ability to be self-aware, intune with your inner feelings, values, beliefs, and thinking processes. You may be good at expressing yourself, promoter, advisor, encourager, evaluator, challenger, or judge to name a few.

Existential Intelligence is sensitivity and ability to tackle deep questions about human existence, like the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here. Areas of strength may be reflection, contemplation, deliberate, a ponder, summarizer, elaborate, a dreamer.

Musical Intelligence is the capability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch, and timber. Potential areas of strength are listen, hear, infer, audit, note, patterns, compose, repeat, reproduce and the list goes on.

Interpersonal Intelligence is the ability to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations, and desires of others. Strengths include, sharing, leader, guide, director, helper, mediate, collaborate, are a few.

Kinesthetic Intelligence capable of controlling one's body movements and handling objects skillfully. Strengths include but are not limited to building, constructing, manufacturing, play, perform, walk, jump, dance, gather, and collect.

Logical Intelligence is the ability to think conceptually, abstractly, and discern logical or numerical patterns. Problem solving, understanding symbols, questions, hypothesizing, theorizing, investigating, and experimenting are a few areas you may be dominant in your learning and experiences.

Verbal Intelligence is well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to sounds, meanings, and rhythms of words. Strengths are usually reading, writing, speaking, telling, asking, explaining, and informing to list a few.

Naturalist Intelligence is the ability to recognize and categorize plants, animals, and other objects in nature. Dominant learning and skills are sorting, organizing, comparing, contrasting, sequencing, details, aligning, ordering and differentiating to name a few.

This list is composed of the observable actions and characteristics of the nine intelligences. You may note that you are aware that you have many more than a few and that you may or may not be more dominant in one area over another.

Since the brain is elastic and capable of growing this means that of your nine intelligence you can enhance anyone you so desire. You are limitless and by your own natural design have the ability within you to grow and do anything you want. Knowing your primary way, or dominant way of learning is helpful in taking on new ideas.

For example if you want to learn music, and you are dominant in your verbal intelligence then reading about music, and all the intricacies of music will help you make sense of music. Then by knowing the nuances of music you can learn the skill and practice those skills, just like a muscle, it will strengthen and grow the musical intelligence with practice, use and exercise.

This is the natural process of learning, and there are no limits but those that we may impose on ourselves.

Whether young or old the function of the brain is the same, it is not fixed, it does grow. For adults living their bucket list, or taking on new adventures, or wanting to learn new subjects, your brain capacity is capable. For children that are told they are behind in math or reading, or they have a mental block that they think they are not able to reach the standard for reading and math or exceed it, that is contrary to the science of the brain.

Recall previously when the brain was discussed it stated that; regardless of age, our brains create neurons and make fresh neural pathways as we experience things for the first time.

The fact that the brain creates neurons and makes fresh neural pathways when we experience things for the first time is why there is no failure in life.

Rather the manner in which the process or experience of the perceived failure was experienced or used did not turn out the way intended only means that another way to achieve is necessary. Here is one of those advantages of tutoring for children or adults. The experience may expose you to a new way of doing what you are attempting to achieve. Now we know that when the brain is exposed to a new idea it has the ability to grow. Since we are created with free will this means we have options to go with our growth or choose to remain stuck or doing the same thing over and over again getting the same results.

Again life is not linear, it's not your way or the highway, meaning that there is only one way to do anything. Rather, life is all inclusive; (up, downs, ins, outs, over, above, below, under, through, around, and the list goes on), everything exists as you know it because it is, otherwise it would not exist. For example, a tree that falls in the forest can only be loud and noisy in its falling (heard) if there is an ear present to hear it fall. If there are no ears present to hear whether or not the tree made a noise when it fell, how does one know if it was loud, or quiet.

Limits are only the limits that we place on ourselves and our experiences. So then if we fail, does this mean we are not intelligent? I would beg to differ, I would contend that failure is the opportunity to find more absolutely fascinating ways to experience life. Having multiple options in my opinion is more life stimulating than being limited by a contradiction to science about the brain's ability.


Here we learned that our early development shapes our world and it starts early on. Then we learned that the brain has the ability to grow and it is not fixed according to science. Life is not linear and there is more than one way to achieve anything that we would like to achieve. We are not confined to the conditionings of our past or the identities that we may have or do identify with, as they are all capable of change by way of new exposers for new experiences and ideas. Failure is only failure if allowed to be limiting, stuck, fearful, and doubtful. Otherwise there is no such thing as failure, there are only results, you get to decide!