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Conversation with Benjamin Li on eSports, STEM, International Chinese Students, and Overcoming the Fear of Failure: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (4)

November 1, 2020











Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 24.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Twenty)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: November 1, 2020

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 6,383

ISSN 2369-6885


Benjamin Li is a Member of the International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE). He discusses: “STEM jobs, chess grandmasters, professional eSports, and music composing”; high IQ individuals will do exceptionally poorly in tasks; core flavours of a city conducive to the flourishing of “outliers and outsiders”; other influences on city culture from Chinese culture; the feeling in the separation from the “international Chinese students”; the programming work alongside academic research; and the “fear of failure.”

Keywords: Benjamin Li, esports, fear, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry, IQ STEM.

Conversation with Benjamin Li on eSports, STEM, International Chinese Students, and Overcoming the Fear of Failure: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (4)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What examples come to mind in “STEM jobs, chess grandmasters, professional eSports, and music composing”?

Benjamin Li[1],[2]*: I mentioned some of these fields because some people with the highest cognitive ability exist in these domains. In some cases, the cognitive ability plus dedication required to reach the absolute top is pretty insane.

STEM refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. You don’t need extreme ability, of course, but most of these jobs are filled with individuals who are solely above average in IQ and mostly above the 80th percentile. Computer programmers, engineers, mathematicians, professors are all professional and well-respected jobs. It is already well known that Nobel Prize winners, particularly in physics, have extremely high IQs. The mathematical talent required to win a Fields Medal for mathematics is likely unmeasurable at the moment.

Chess and eSports would be making a career out of mental sports. Some examples of people who make a living of chess are Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov. Some who make it from the video game I specifically play is MkLeo (Leonardo Lopez) – a Mexican professional Smash Ultimate whom I have high regard for. Another player that caught my eye was Hungrybox, a player who has been able to be the best in Super Smash. Bros Melee while juggling an engineering degree and engineering job later on. If I recall correctly, Garry Kasparov was measured with an IQ of 135 using the WAIS, with his working memory as one of the highest, which is expected of a game that requires use of chunks to categorise chess positions. Judit Polgar, Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov were estimated or “reported” to have IQs of over 170, but I wish everyone knew that those figures were fake. For example, how was Judit Polgar’s IQ of 170 reported? Only hobby high-range tests have a ceiling higher than 160, and the name of test and standard deviation is not mentioned. Adult IQ scores are more reliable than childhood scores also. Garry Kasparov was estimated 190, but tested at 135. I am not always impressed with the IQ of mental athletes, but key aspects of performance long term relate more so to their mental fortitude, mental power and stamina, and specific cognitive abilities.

I am unsure what the IQ of professional gamers is (it depends on the type of game as different games will have different g-loadings and test different aspects of cognition), but I would guess most of them are between 115-140, with most of them having specific cognitive skills well above the 99th percentile. A select few professionals could actually also be at the highest, realistic IQ measurement of 160 sd 15. Unlike chess, many video games require fast reactions to perform at the highest level. IQ only helps an individual learn faster generally, but once you are at a high level, I’d assume IQ and performance is weakly correlated. A lack of IQ may not prevent you from learning chess or any video game, but a lack of cognitive ability (such as memory or reaction time) will certainly limit many players from advancing to the next level. It is also important to note that hand dexterity is not what is happening, because all hand motions are reliant on our brains. Video games are excellent tools to test for mental functioning. IQ is likely important here in general as most people typically have to balance regular life, alongside other activities, and so very few people take the risk to drop out of school just to devote fully to chess or esports. Both however, require the mental stamina to sit in front of a chess board, or screen constantly for long periods of time, and perhaps for an entire day. It typically takes a lot of cognitive ability and dedication to be just “good” at one of these things. I can’t imagine the intelligence, cognitive ability, mental fortitude, and grit required to manage top-level performance in more than one of these domains at the same time, or throughout life. What I mean is, the amount of mental resilience and power to spend hours competing in any of these activities, go home mentally and physically drained, and then have to work on STEM related subjects at a difficult university, or manage a difficult job on the weekdays after competing for an entire weekend, almost unfathomable to most people. I should also mention that it is a lot more impressive to reach high levels through self-learning rather than coaching. Indeed, most child prodigies who reach high levels do get extensive coaching from parents and professionals, but a true “genius” in these non-scientific fields would have been able to reach a high level by themselves through one’s own motivation to try new things.

For video game performance, there are two articles I have read in peer-reviewed journals. Many video games act as useful resources to test an individual’s learning ability. A low IQ will not necessarily prevent anyone from becoming good at a game, mainly if one devotes their entire life to a particular domain.

1) Can we reliably measure the general factor of intelligence (g) through commercial video games? Yes, we can! Intelligence, Volume 53, November-December 2015, Pages 1-7 M.Angeles Quiroga, Sergio Escorial, Francisco J.Roman, Daniel Morillo, Andrea Jarabo, Jesus Privado, Miguel Hernandez, Borja Gallego, Roberto Colom.

– “Video games and intelligence tests measure the same high-order latent factor.”

2) Intelligence and video games: Beyond “brain games.” Intelligence, Volume 75, July-August 2019, Pages 85-94 M.A.Quiroga, A.Diaz, F.J.Roman, J.Privado, R.Colom.

– “Gaming performance was correlated with standard measures of fluid reasoning, visuospatial ability, and processing speed. Results revealed a correlation value of 0.79 between latent factors representing general intelligence (g) and video games general performance (gVG). This find leads to conclude that: (1) performance intelligence tests and video games is supported by shared cognitive processes and (2) brain-games are not the only genre able to produce performance measures comparable to intelligence standardized tests.”

3) The effects of video game playing on attention, memory, and executive control. Acta Psychologica, Volume 129, November 2008, Pages 387-398. Walter R.Boot, Arthur F.Kramer, Daniel J.Simons, Monica Fabiani, Gabriele Gratton.

– “Expert gamers and non-gamers differed on a number of basic cognitive skills: experts could track objects moving at greater speeds, better detected changes to objects stored in visual short-term memory, switched more quickly from one task to another, and mentally rotated objects more efficiently”

(Image taken from source #2)

Jacobsen: What are some examples in which “many high IQ individuals will do exceptionally poorly in tasks that correlate poorly with general intelligence”?

Li: Perhaps this is not representative of all high IQ individuals, but only those high IQ individuals with apparent idiosyncrasies such as myself. I should say that I likely exhibit Asperger syndrome. Aspergers, or other mental disorders, even more than IQ, may cause isolation and make one feel different from others. In a task that does not correlate at all, or correlates very little with intelligence, that means virtually everyone should be performing at a certain level. Perhaps those tasks are just too dull and repetitive for individuals who are outliers. Einstein’s proficiency and talents would have shown in a challenging field, such as physics, but he probably wouldn’t be famous for driving a car or making food. More so, as I said previously, I think in a culture obsessed with money and sex, high intelligence can be quite oddly shaped and combining that with a mental disorder such as Asperger’s, there is no doubt that individuals will have it quite rough in society. My Muslim friend from competitive gaming commented on how I looked like I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to hold a Shawarma (Middle Eastern Cuisine). Indeed, many times average individuals will wonder if I am mentally retarded, because I am not performing basic tasks usually. Doing complicated tasks makes people believe you are intelligent, and failing to perform basic functions at some level will make people think you’re disabled. It seems like I resembled both descriptions, so one of my friends once suggested I was a savant type individual with specific extreme cognitive talents only. He was joking but I did not see that at the time.

Jacobsen: What else seem like core flavours of a city conducive to the flourishing of “outliers and outsiders” who would “have ample opportunities to fit in and expand their intelligence and perhaps even creativity”?

Li: I think society needs to allow everyone to pursue their interests, which would allow everything to happen naturally. A fair community that provides equality of opportunity allows everyone to flourish the best way they possibly can and pursue what they enjoy and excel best in and reach the highest level each person possibly can. I hope parents, peers, and teachers can respect all children for who they are and help them achieve whatever goal they have in life. I don’t enjoy seeing parents force their children into situations they feel like they don’t belong. Some parents take nurture way too far, and I think that could certainly negatively impact many children’s mental development. 

Jacobsen: What are some other influences on city culture from Chinese culture?
Also, what facets of “style, food, and language” seem particularly influential?

Li: I think society needs to allow everyone to pursue their interests, which would allow everything to happen naturally. A fair community that provides equality of opportunity allows everyone to flourish the best way they possibly can and pursue what they enjoy and excel best in and reach the highest level each person possibly can. I hope parents, peers, and teachers can respect all children for who they are and help them achieve whatever goal they have in life. I don’t enjoy seeing parents force their children into situations they feel like they don’t belong. Some parents take nurture way too far, and I think that could certainly negatively impact many children’s mental development. 

Jacobsen: What is the feeling in the separation from the “international Chinese students”?

Li: Nothing much. I don’t even consider my ethnicity as a noteworthy part of my identity or extended self. It doesn’t matter which culture, ethnic group, or country I was born into. I merely view myself as an outlier and outsider, no matter where I go. For many people, perhaps their ethnic heritage/culture/religion plays a considerable part in their metaphorical sense of self, but it never did for me even if I tried. Of course, so many problems arose for me because I never fit in, and had virtually no identity other than a couple of labels.

Jacobsen: Could you combine the programming work alongside academic research? Have you, especially if thinking of the long-term?

Li: Yes, that would be best. Academic research + programming skills are way too useful. I always forget how important programming skills are to the fields I intend to graduate with. I should focus on programming jobs solely to be honest. I did well in my first year of University, but I did not take my Computer Science classes seriously (was my lowest grade). It’s a long story of how my academic interests developed, and how I realized I should go back to my original intended career since I entered University.

I found programming work to be quite dull for me, and my parents tried to get me to do it, but I never recognized the motivation to learn it myself mostly. However, recently I believe that maybe it was the right career for me after all, rather than focusing on academic research at this time. Truthfully, I took my scientific interests too seriously, and fell behind my classmates in skills relating to programming (Java, C++, and R). I may be the worst among all my classmates at the moment because I never took these things seriously and wished I could avoid it, but since I decided to major in statistics and mathematics (though now I wish I was in the more prestigious/popular major Computer Science), I should take programming seriously, and forget about academic research. Recently, I haven’t had interest anymore in science as much ever since I realized it was affecting my current education. I may just give up on a career in science and focus on computer programming solely, which is what my parents intended I should study, and now I somehow think I am making the right choices. The truth is, I never really had the heart to spend over 10 years in the educational system but somehow my motivation to become a “genius” and to make contributions to various fields kept me going, even though now it holds no weight anymore ever since I decided to most past these labels. I think entering the workforce immediately after graduation will be great, and plus I’d have a lot more free time to pursue my other passions more seriously since there is a lot more free time once you work, as compared to being a university student. I will speak more on my academic choices and history later (really has been insane for me), but I think I’m making the right choice by focusing more on my current education, more than anything else. Long term, I’d hope I have a decent career, fall in love, pass on my genes, raise my kids to be happy adults, and live a happy life myself. I don’t need to change the world or reach the top of any career, nor am I obligated to, no matter my intelligence level.

Jacobsen: Why the “fear of failure” in a moment of life in which true challenge and competition of talents come forward?

Li: I do not fear failure anymore, but this was a thing of the past. My insecurities alongside Chinese cultural attitudes made me feel like an underachiever. Even though I was brilliant, I was never perceived as the absolute brightest or praised for my achievements. My “underachievement” is all about me failing to be validated for so many of my achievements in multiple domains by parents, peers, and teachers. Because of this, I decided my achievements were nothing much and that I’d have to do much better. I mean getting into MIT instead of a top 40 school worldwide such as UBC, being a national level tennis player instead of a provincial level player, being the best in Canada in a video game instead of being in the top 15-20 in terms of skill. These things led to my entitlement and arrogance that I’d only be able to prove my genius-level intelligence if I currently was studying computer science at MIT with an A average while having achieved the national level title in tennis and chess, #1 in Canada in Smash, and while self-learning academic subjects, all at the same time or at least held by competence throughout life. This is truly impossible for anybody unless they had excellent support and resources, in addition to outrageous amounts of intelligence, specific abilities, dedication, mental fortitude, and more. I did believe in my ability to do this, but perhaps this was based on overconfidence and an overestimation of my abilities. I always felt like I haven’t achieved enough for no reason, and of course, I realize now I was wrong to be insecure. I realized that there are people more talented than I am, who may not have gotten the chance at all, and that I should not feel entitlement.

I was afraid of failing to meet the expectations of my parents in the past, but this hasn’t affected me at all in the past year. I was never, indeed, a failure. Most people would envy my achievements. However, I was only taught that education was the only important thing all my life, so all my other successes mean nothing. With this type of mindset alone, my estimated IQ correlated with an individual holding an IQ level of 125 (1 in 20 rarity). Besides, I saw myself as very little in the educational system because, in a group of 30 AP students, or gifted students, I wouldn’t have been identified by teachers as being near the top of a more selective group, but near the bottom. My underachievement would be failing to attend an Ivy League school. Of course, after high school, I could not achieve that because I never cared about attending prestigious universities, let alone deciding what to study. My condescending attitude near the end of high school made me believe that only the super-elite professions like medicine or law, or the most elite schools such as MIT or Harvard or Stanford, were worth it for me, nothing else.

If you watched a part of the Ivy Dreams documentary I had linked, my attitude was sort of similar to this one girl. Had I been brought up in her city and applied to the Ivy Leagues, I would have gotten rejected. Even with perfect SAT or ACT scores, and good grades, I would have failed the interview miserably and would have written a terrible arrogant essay. In the documentary, Sophie’s dad was always pressuring her. In her interview, her attitude was arrogant, as she was talking about how her high school was too easy for her and how Upenn would challenge her, thinking she was way smarter than everyone else perhaps. She got rejected from the Ivy Leagues and then got accepted to Washington and Lee University. Still, after she finished reading her acceptance letter out loud with a sad attitude, she threw the paper to the ground, with no respect for it at all because it wasn’t an Ivy League school. She had been told her whole life that getting into an Ivy League school was her only goal and since she had failed that, she felt worthless. I feel bad about her “failure,” but there is no doubt she deserved it. However, she has completed a master’s at Johns Hopkins in East Asian studies and is now working as a teacher. The other three individuals in the documentary are also doing quite well from what I have heard.

Throughout most of my life, I didn’t believe my intelligence was comparable to that of a “genius” or anything, so I didn’t think it was likely for me to be a highly successful scientist and win a Nobel Prize in Physics. However, I wanted to be one of the best in specific domains and win a Nobel prize or Fields Medal in mathematics if I were even to care in the first place. I think I took some security in the fact that I seemed to be a lot “dumber” (by academic standards only) than most of the overachieving Chinese and Indian students who would study all day. Later, I had assumed the students in advanced placement classes in high school were probably all somewhat brighter than I was. And so I was progressing through school where I wasn’t perceived to be as bright by parents, peers, and teachers. Perhaps my teachers and peers thought I was bright near the end, even though I didn’t feel it. So I would think that if I had to take any test of my academic aptitude, I wouldn’t do poorly, but certainly not exceptionally well. I couldn’t see myself being at the 1 in 1000 level, based on how others viewed me. I was more so someone who was considered “smart” but not anything extreme if you only knew I was studying a STEM degree at the University of British Columbia. I probably saw myself as someone with around a 125-135 IQ, even though 1 in 100 level seemed to be pushing it a bit, relative to the 500 students in my high school graduating class (the average IQ is around 108 however, not 100, due to selective immigration from China and India in particular).

I decided to take standardized tests, but truthfully, at some point, I contemplated dropping out of university since I was having so much trouble figuring out what to study, and I had already failed my parent’s expectations to major in computer science, even though later they were cool with statistics and mathematics. It was all thanks to my interests in science and my incredibly high standardized and intelligence test scores that kept me going in this boring educational system. My aptitude needed to be much higher than everyone else’s if I was going to succeed because my work ethic and personality were all well below average (maybe the worst in the school?) regarding how it can help me succeed academically. I had taken the GRE and LSAT, for example, and was confident due to perfect SAT and ACT scores, and I ended up getting near-perfect scores on both the LSAT and the GRE. Even for a verbal reasoning test, which is lower than my spatial and mathematical aptitude, I reached the 99.9th percentile among test takers, which would be above the 99.9th percentile for the general population. My math scores were always higher on standardized tests in childhood, leading up to now. Still, I think reading a lot of books, and papers from scientific journals, in addition to taking my philosophy and English courses seriously, definitely got me in the right position to score high on verbal problems. My supervised test score (WAIS-IV) administered by a psychologist, was not a perfect score, but it was near the ceiling of the test (160 sd 15). Still, it is questionable how meaningful even a perfect score would be since high scores are less reliable. Later I got into hobby high-range tests, which are experimental, and easily scored in the 160s without much time commitment. I have taken a few numerical and one verbal reasoning test only, where my score on a pure verbal test for the first time was 154 SD 15, whereas my score on a pure numerical test was 166. I am currently taking a test by Paul Cooijmans, which is mixed with spatial, verbal, and numerical items, but I haven’t had the time to finish at all. I should be scoring between 150-160, but I wonder if I can reach the absolute top scorers (185+) with much more effort. Regardless, I don’t consider hobby tests accurate as I still believe 160 is the highest IQ we have confidence measuring regarding professional IQ tests. When you score higher than another person on a battery of high-range hobby tests, it means you are probably smarter because it’s hard to make a test that doesn’t test for intelligence. Still, I question the validity of high-range tests since they do not have large sample sizes. What I mean is, it doesn’t matter if you score 80 or 180; it only matters how you score relative to other intelligent people. I found pleasure from scoring higher than 160 and wanted to believe those tests could accurately measure above 160, but even someone like Rick Rosner, who consistently scores in the 190s, does not have an actual IQ of 192 (1 in 2 billion). His true IQ (g) is likely to be around 160-170, as his initial scores on high-end tests were in the 170s apparently. I don’t have time to waste on tests for now, but I did enjoy picking up high-range tests as a hobby since the pandemic prevented me from participating in my other hobbies for the most part. If I ever score in the 180s or 190s, I do not want to be known for having a “190 IQ” or “world’s highest IQ.” I want to be known as an individual who dispels IQ myths, particularly celebrity IQ scores, self-reported IQs of snobs, flawed comparisons of children to Einstein (he never took an IQ test), and different scales leading to inflation of IQ numbers. I also want to educate the general public and the high IQ community on IQ-related topics since they are mostly not taught in schools for various reasons. From my conversations with many people, they are clueless about such an important phenomenon. Lastly, suppose I participate in intelligence research. In that case, I want to be known for my confidence (not arrogance) regarding the environmentalist position on why human groups differ on average in intelligence test scores.

Ever since I learned that my “true IQ” or general intelligence (all IQ scores serve as a proxy for g) is almost sure to be near or possibly above the currently highest realistic measurement of 160 (SD=15) or 164 SD = 16 or 196 SD = 24, I realized that I didn’t need IQ tests to confirm my intelligence. There were so many things in my life that indicated my outlier high intelligence, but I had to confirm it because of my insecurity due to never being viewed as the brightest, or didn’t feel validation for my achievements, and my “underachievement” because I didn’t think going to a school like UBC was all that great. I take it all back now, and I am grateful for everything that happened to me. Let me rant a bit, and I apologize for my overt narcissism in any of this, but maybe it’s best to see my thought process.

I was interested in the idea of “overall intellectual production throughout life” as a reasonable estimate of someone’s general intelligence. Most people judge others based on their education, grades, occupation, and income, which all have correlations between .4-.6 with IQ scores; however, no single factor cannot tell you the full story of any individual. Because achievement is never close to perfect, I hypothesized that looking at other variables would make it more accurate to estimate someone’s IQ, which would allow high IQ “underachievers” such as myself to feel good about myself. I suppose this is a way to cope with my “underachievement” and with the fact that I’m not studying at MIT in a STEM field (average IQ of STEM students at MIT is likely around 140) with a 4.0 GPA. I wanted to theorize how I may create a formula to estimate someone’s overall intellectual prowess from everything that occurs in an individual’s life (educational and occupational achievement, activities throughout life, and how far they have reached in these events). Being a national level chess player, while being a university graduate, would be more of an achievement overall than someone with just a university degree. This will be entirely subjective, but if anything, it is based on the best estimate of the average IQ of individuals in a particular activity who have achieved at a certain level. For example, the average math Ph.D. graduate has an IQ around 140, but at an elite university, it is perhaps 145-150. Still, those who can juggle a strenuous activity throughout life at a high level would likely be higher than 150. In contrast, an average performer as a math Ph.D. graduate, while having nothing else, would be estimated to be 140-145. There are a lot of students who only have their educational achievements and nothing else. Since we know that individuals with higher IQs tend to have a more significant number of interests and skills (held by competence), those with unique talents (in anything, but some things deserve more “points”) are mostly all above 145 (among math PhDs) I’d argue. It is almost worth noting that it depends on the activity as well. STEM students tend to engage in more complex activities. What I mean is that business and life science students tend to have much more impressive CV’s but are far less likely to take on intellectual domains such as the ones I have mentioned (video games, music, chess, and the like) and reach high levels, or hold these things throughout life through competence. I consider most types of work and volunteering only slightly relevant in my hypothetical formula. Even though they take time, you can not rank people by how well they volunteer. Success as a volunteer isn’t likely to depend on intelligence (though there could be exceptions). Even if an individual was objectively in the top 1% of volunteers in terms of skill, it is not much an intellectual achievement given that it is unlikely to correlate positively with IQ, unlike in an intellectual domain such as chess, and because most people do not hold “volunteering” or managing some club throughout their life.

If educational achievement (years of study, grades, the difficulty of major, rank of institution) had a perfect correlation with educational achievement as defined here, my achievement would have been around the 1 in 100 level. Let’s assume IQ scores are irrelevant, and no one can claim any IQ, so all you had to do was guess someone’s IQ based on their accomplishments. My IQ predicted by a least-squares prediction would have been 135, but since the correlation is not perfect, the average IQ of STEM students at UBC is around 125. In reality, I’m an above-average student, but certainly not at the absolute top of my class, but let’s assume you only knew I was a student at UBC in a STEM field, and that, therefore, would correlate with an IQ of 125. However, whether you judge me to be above average, average, or below average depends on other aspects of my life. If you look at other aspects of my life alongside my education (autodidactism, self-learning a sport and reaching a provincial level (held by competence), national-level eSports athlete (held by competence), and many smaller achievements not held anymore, then I would not be an “underachiever.” Also, I had no little support and resources, except my education was provided for me, and I somehow managed to do everything. If this sounds stupid and selfish, please go ahead and laugh. Still, even though this hypothetical formula was only based on my insecurities and lack of validated achievement, I think this formula could be useful someday if formed.

What made me stand out relative to my peers was not only my exceptional intelligence or level of condescendence but my breadth of intellectual achievements throughout life and determination to be the best in everything I touched, despite lack of support and resources. Even though from validated or semi-validated IQ tests, my true IQ (psychometric g), would have been estimated to be near or above the current highest realistic ceiling of 160 SD=15, I wanted to be prideful of my achievements rather than my ability, as if my achievements did not reflect my 1 in 10,000 (or maybe rarer) level of intelligence, I wouldn’t have felt accomplished. A very high IQ score itself won’t impress anybody, but combined with exceptional achievement, it proves that ability without a reasonable doubt, beyond any imposter syndrome I may have suffered. I never wanted to rely on IQ scores to prove my intelligence, but they did serve as a confirmation, after all my insecurities. Let’s say my true IQ is 160 (1 in 30,000 rarity), then what kind of achievement would I have been satisfied with? If the average IQ of UBC STEM students is 125, and the average IQ of top 10 players in a province in a video game is also around 125, then someone who can juggle both, maybe certainly above 140 given that both activities require a lot of mental ability and correlate with IQ reasonably well, but juggling both throughout life is a bit insane. As far as I’m aware, an individual with a STEM Ph.D. and while being a national level ranked player, has been unheard of in the competitive eSports community, and because the average IQ of STEM Ph.D. graduates on average is 140, and at elite universities even higher still, someone who can juggle all of that, with top-level performance in eSports, would equate to achievement at the 1 in 200 million level, which would be satisfying for someone with an IQ of 160 (1 in 30,000). Considering that I am holding some other skills such as autodidacticism and tennis intact, all of these combined would have satisfied my need for achievement, or “genius-level accomplishment.” If someone had Garry Kasparov’s level of chess skill, while at the same time being a math professor at a top 12 university, this would be by itself and including no other achievements, already capable of being called the highest intellectual achiever in the world from my hypothetical formula. It could be arguably greater as a “genius-level accomplishment” than the true geniuses such as Darwin and Einstein, but this is subjective. Let’s assume winning a Nobel Prize in physics is a 1 in 5 million intellectual achievement (an IQ of 176 is around 1 in 5 million level). Of course, the question is, what mix of intellectual achievements would be equivalent to winning a Nobel Prize by itself and no other achievement? If winning a Nobel Prize in Physics is 1 in 5 million achievement by itself with no other achievements, according to my formula, and assuming a correlation of .75 with general intelligence, then the average Nobel Laureate in physics would be 76 x 0.75 + 100= 157 IQ! I was quite obsessed with this question of what type of intellectual accomplishment combined throughout life could be viewed as more impressive than what a Nobel Laureate in Physics has achieved by itself. Suppose some people estimate Garry Kasparov’s IQ at 190 (which is false). In that case, it is unfathomable to imagine who can achieve and maintain world-class level chess skills and achievement throughout life while being just an average mathematician at an elite university. This achievement could be said to be at the 1 in 5 million level (just a guess), which would regress to an IQ of 157 again. An individual capable of having an accomplishment at the 1 in 20 million level, and predicted IQ at the 1 in 100,000 level (on average), would certainly be a “genius” and have other genius-level characteristics such as extreme productivity, grit, creativity, and dedication. So, in this case, I would argue this hypothetical individual with professional level chess skill and achievement held throughout life, while being a math professor at a top 12 university, is an achievement equivalent to winning a Nobel Prize in physics based on my hypothetical formula (though subjective). Hou Yifan, a Chinese Chess grandmaster, serves as an example here, as she was able to be the best female chess player while juggling an international relations degree at Peking University, and then ended up being a professor at the School of Physical Education of Shenzhen University’s Faculty of Education. Her level of achievements likely indicates an IQ of over 145, whereas if she only had one of these achievements alone, she may be estimated to be 135 instead. I cannot begin to imagine the amount of intelligence, cognition, grit, dedication, mental fortitude required, on top of having the right resources and support to achieve these things. She could have made it further if she devoted to one field only.

My point is, if you were to estimate a famous person’s IQ, you wouldn’t just look at their peak performance in their career, but look at everything about their lives in full detail. I know this is controversial, but if I genuinely held a STEM career at MIT while being the best player at a tennis club, top 10 in the world in a video game, while conducting solid research, I truly believe I would have been satisfied and would have seen myself having fulfilled what I needed given my level of intelligence, through a genius-level accomplishment (overall intellectual production at the 1 in a 5 million level).

To grow, I need to move past these artificial labels, find out who I am, and not obsess over trivial things. The labels of “genius,” “prodigy,” and “gifted” don’t mean anything to me anymore. Only through hard work, respect, goodness in my heart, and an appropriate attitude will I achieve anything. I have nothing to prove anymore, and I am genuinely proud of how far I have come and grown no matter what I end up doing in life. I want to live a happy life without having to feel like I need to prove anything.

I learned a lot recently and hope to continue to grow as an individual throughout time. Here is what I have learned.

1) Life is hard sometimes. There are things in life that don’t work out. My problems and insecurities exist, but I realized I don’t need validation from others regarding my achievements or intelligence. The only person I need is me. I’m strong by myself and have to accept who I am without narcissism and condescendence. I don’t need validation from anyone else but myself, and I’m proud of how much I have grown.

2) This has been a challenging process for me, but I learned that you can’t always get what you want. I always wanted to be recognized for my intelligence and validated for the effort I put in, despite lack of support, resources, and recognition, but in the end, I realized my validation didn’t have to come from my intelligence or my achievements. When you work hard for something you want and fail to get recognized, it hurts, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be happy or successful. In the end, I realized my validation or happiness doesn’t have to come out of how others perceive my intelligence or my achievements. I do not have to produce genius-level accomplishments or rely on my breadth of intellectual achievements as comfort. Even if I can’t be a genius (by accomplishments scientific or nonscientific), and even if my intelligence isn’t recognized, it doesn’t mean I can’t be successful, nor should it take my happiness away.

3) Having empathy is essential. I won’t like every person I meet, but learning how to emphasize with others is vital to me to gain long-lasting friends through mutual respect.

4) I must be resilient. No matter the obstacle that comes in my way, I can grow from my experience.

I apologize for my overt narcissism in any part of the interview. I promise to do my best to make the world a better place and contribute meaningfully to society, no matter what I end up pursuing as my profession or how far I go in anything I decide to take up. I do not fear failure anymore.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE); Member, Torr; Member, Profundus High I.Q. Society; Member, Global Genius Generation Group.

[2] Individual Publication Date: November 1, 2020:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2021:

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Benjamin Li on eSports, STEM, International Chinese Students, and Overcoming the Fear of Failure: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (4) [Online].November 2020; 24(A). Available from:

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2020, November 1). Conversation with Benjamin Li on eSports, STEM, International Chinese Students, and Overcoming the Fear of Failure: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (4). Retrieved from

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Benjamin Li on eSports, STEM, International Chinese Students, and Overcoming the Fear of Failure: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (4). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 24.A, November. 2020. <>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2020.  Conversation with Benjamin Li on eSports, STEM, International Chinese Students, and Overcoming the Fear of Failure: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (4).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 24.A.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott Conversation with Benjamin Li on eSports, STEM, International Chinese Students, and Overcoming the Fear of Failure: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (4).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 24.A (November 2020).

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2020, ‘Conversation with Benjamin Li on eSports, STEM, International Chinese Students, and Overcoming the Fear of Failure: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (4)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 24.A. Available from: <>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2020, ‘Conversation with Benjamin Li on eSports, STEM, International Chinese Students, and Overcoming the Fear of Failure: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (4)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 24.A.,

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Benjamin Li on eSports, STEM, International Chinese Students, and Overcoming the Fear of Failure: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (4).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 24.A (2020):November. 2020. Web. <>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Benjamin Li on eSports, STEM, International Chinese Students, and Overcoming the Fear of Failure: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (4)[Internet]. (2020, November 24(A). Available from:

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