A simple way to reflect on what you’re doing or what the people around you are doing is to imagine a graph with four quadrants.

On the X-axis is whether or not your actions benefit you in some way.

On the y-axis is whether or not your actions benefit others in some way.

If your actions help you and help others (aggregated) you’d be labelled with I, standing for intelligent.

If your actions discount you but help others, you’d be in the H section, helpless.

If your actions benefit you but take away from others (net-neutral), you get B for bandit.

And if your actions take away from others as well as yourself, you’re in the S zone, S standing for stupid. If this is you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The S zone is the underestimated population of the whole graph. Because everyone looks at it and says, “that’s not me.”

The good news is, once you know about the graph, you can start to think about where you fall and the same the people you spend the most time around.

A good activity is to think about where your peers might place you.

An even better idea is to do things worthy of earning a spot in the top right quadrant.

[Further reading: The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity by Carlo Cipolla]