when being brilliant is not good enough...


Do you think you are smart, but stuck?


Do you know someone who seems to be smart, but stuck?


Are you leading or managing a team of smart people and want to make them even more smarter?

If yes, you may be interested in what I have to share...

Before we go any further on being smart, but stuck, remember one thing – you are not alone.

I was there. Not once, but many times. I camped in that space for prolonged periods of time before I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I know the feeling. And, I thought I was an exception.

When I talked to the other smart people, I was expecting to hear that they rarely get stuck.

Boy, was I wrong…

Every smart person I met had multiple stories of being smart, but stuck.

In some sense, I was relieved that I was not an exception, but the rule when it came to being smart, but stuck.

Foreword by Harry Beckwith, author of Selling the Invisible

Harry Beckwith III

Partner, Beckwith Partners

In another sense, I was puzzled.

I wanted to find the answer to the question: “Why do smart people get stuck?”

Upon reflecting a bit, I thought I should be able to find a reasonably good answer to the above question in less than six months. I began my research somewhere in 2010. I was enthusiastic about the project. My research in no way was scientific – mainly involved reading and talking to a few hundred super smart people that I was connected to.

Six months passed by.

There was not even a sign of the kind of answer I was looking for.

I was wrong..again.

A few more months passed by.

I came to a hard realization that there was no single answer for the question.

Long story short – I continued my research in my own way – but this time I broke down the problem into more than two dozen small, but important problems.

The questions that I asked included, but not limited to:

Why smart people don’t take action that they know they should take?

Why is change hard for smart people?

Why many smart people can’t get buy-in for their ideas?

I shared my findings along the way – on my own blog and several other media outlets starting 2010. The articles in the series are the most popular among the 1950+ blog posts here. So, I know the message resonates with people.

The last step was to find the right timing to bring this out as a book.

As we head towards singularity, we are experiencing an unprecedented change at a breathtaking speed. If there is no proactive intervention, we all will experience a rude shock in our work and life. More smart people will get more stuck in more ways than ever before.

The book “Smart, but Stuck” is that proactive intervention.

The goal of the book is simple – to take you from being “smart, but stuck” to being “smart and unstuck”

Advance Praise for the Book

What is holding you back...

“I run a popular program called Creativity and Personal Mastery and have a bunch of questions/statements that a prospect has to examine to determine if it is appropriate for them. The overwhelming majority resonate with the statement ‘Do you have a nagging sense that time is slipping by and you have accomplished only a fraction of what you are capable?’ In other words, Are You Stuck? We all are but we are frequently blind to how and where we are stuck and what to do about it.

Setty is a serial entrepreneur and has keen observation. Read this book to gain deep insights into what is holding you back. These can range from your faulty perspectives to expectations of others. In the final section he invites you to commit to getting unstuck as the first important step. Do so. This is book to buy and read – not to keep on a shelf for ‘some day’.”

SRIKUMAR RAO  //  TED Speaker I Professor I Author of “Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated and Successful – No Matter What”

Being smart wont save you...

“Being smart won’t save you from the frustration of getting stuck, but this book will…”

DAN WALDSCHMIDT  //  best-selling author of EDGY Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success

Insights both playful and practical...

"Rajesh has brought insights both playful and practical to the very real challenges we all face in creating great work. His thoughts are clear and kind.”

TOM CHI  //  Founding Team Member of Google X

Focus of the Book

Moving you from the Yellow Zone (Work In Progress) to the Green Zone (Zone of Greatness!)

Table of Contents


Being Stuck  

  • Gradually...then suddenly
  • Seven Kinds of Getting Stuck (including one that's good)
  • Smart special: The "Quick-Fix" Trap
  • The Impact Challenge



Getting Unstuck

  • Breakdowns with Perspective
    • 9 Reasons smart people may be going nowhere
    • Is this called Mid-life crisis?
    • Why many smart people fail to make the most of their biggest strengths
    • A FoolProof [Re]Starter Plan
    • The Impact Challenge #1: Harness The Power of Reflection
  • Breakdowns at Workplace
    • Why many smart people are not appreciated for their work.
    • Why many smart people are taken for granted (if you let them)
    • Why many smart people think they deserve a better position at workplace
    • The Impact Challenge #2: Revisit Your Relationship with Time and Money
  • Breakdowns Due to Expectations of Others
    • Why many smart people don’t help enough.
    • Three things to consider before making request for intros
    • Why many smart people don’t share enough.
    • Why many smart people are not very social.
    • The Impact Challenge #3: Activate the “Gifting” Mindset
  • Breakdowns with Communication
    • 7 Reasons why smart people criticize others
    • Unable to handle criticism?
    • 7 reasons why many smart people have trouble communicating well.
    • Why many smart people won’t get buy-in for their ideas
    • Why many smart people may not be getting ongoing support
    • The Impact Challenge #4: Embrace Grace
  • Breakdowns while Solving Problems
    • Why many smart people are oblivious to their stupid actions
    • Why many smart people aggressively defend their actions
    • Why many smart people are NOT solving their REAL problems?
    • Why most smart people aind it easier to solve others’ problems
    • The Impact Challenge #5: Make an Appointment to Think
  • Breakdowns with Change
    • The Magic is at the Edges
    • Why many smart people won’t take action
    • Why smart people have trouble making change
    • Warning: It’s tempting to take a shortcut
    • The Impact Challenge #6: Revisit “One Hundred Percent”
  • Breakdowns while Dealing with People
    • Why some smart people give bad advice
    • Why many smart people may not make a good first impression
    • Why many smart people fail to lead
    • How can good bosses help smart people even more smarter
    • The Impact Challenge #7: Extend the Canvas
  • Breakdowns while Pursuing Opportunities
    • Why many smart people miss seeing future opportunities
    • Why many smart people avoid taking risks
    • Why many smart people come across as selfish
    • Why many smart people won’t do anything with good advice
    • Why many smart people make bad decisions
    • The Impact Challenge #8: Harness the power of a simple challenge


Beyond Getting Unstuck

  • Get Ready
    • Harness the power of silence
    • (Re)Positioning is Yours; Perception is Theirs
    • You don’t have to go alone
    • Decode the Secret Advantage
    • The Impact Challenge #9: Make the Case to Make the Case
  • Unleash the Force (4CE)
    • Commit
    • Care
    • Connect
    • Communicate
    • Expand Capacity
  • Seize the Day!
    • You may not belong to the club, but...
    • The moment is here and now!
    • The Impact Challenge #10: Say “Yes” to Something New


Closing Thoughts

  • Know why smart people might fail hard from the top
  • Be aware of your potential blind spots
  • Don't overwork your network
  • Create the Ultimate Lasting Impression
  • Celebrate!



Rajesh “Raj” Setty is a serial entrepreneur, author and teacher based in Silicon Valley. Raj has co-founded multiple technology and publishing firms since 2000, the latest being Audvisor (, a push-button learning platform for professional growth.

Raj has written and published sixteen books the first one being published at the age of thirteen. He maintains a blog (at with close to 2,000 blog posts… Know More


Rajesh Setty

If you want to take a deeper dive into the book, here is a talk where I have covered part of the book in detail:

Copyright 2018 I Rajesh Setty