Tag Archives: intelligence

The Smartest Person In The Room

“There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance. It’s called humility.
Confidence smiles. Arrogance smirks.”

I was watching an old episode of Shark Tank last week during my holiday break from blogging and there was this relatively young guy pitching his business idea to the sharks. The interesting thing about this particular show is that several investors made an offer for his business but no one wanted him to be part of it. Why? Because they thought he was a detriment to his own business and it/they would never be successful if he came along for the ride. Instead, they would essentially pay him to go away.

The other interesting part of this show is that this guy couldn’t understand why they wanted him to leave, even after the sharks tried to explain their reasoning to him. He had this bewildered look on his face, thinking that maybe he wasn’t hearing things correctly. You see, in a room filled with intelligent and very successful people, he thought he was the smartest guy in the room and had difficulty accepting anything less than his truth.

Unfortunately, we all probably know people who are affected with this smartest person in the room disorder. If you’ve ever lived with a teenager, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Luckily, most of them realize, at some point in their lives, they were wrong. The problem is, some never do. They turn into adults who believe they are the smartest person in the room because they possess a fair degree of knowledge about certain subject matters or can answer some obscure question.

Of course not every intelligent person feels or behaves this way. Most are sensitive, caring individuals who never flaunt their knowledge like some two dollar lottery winner who behaves like a wannabe genius investor. Most intelligent people understand that in a rush to be right and prove themselves to be the best, they would miss subtleties and human motivation. Because if you can understand people and give them the common courtesy of your attention instead of turning your head when they speak, you will transcend any degree of intelligence you think you might possess.

Effective problem solving requires that an individual understand people and respect their positions and opinions. If you’re so locked into your own sense of truth, you will never see that the opposite of what you believe to be true may also be true. MIss that and you miss endless  opportunities.


Ultimately, this disorder is more about winning or being right, than being smart and that, in itself, carries a heavy burden. You don’t really notice the truly intelligent people. Their egos are not obvious. Their walk is not a strut. Their smile is not a smirk. They don’t feel a need to shine a spotlight on themselves. They respect the opinion of others. They are smart enough to understand that losses always turn into wins and that everyone you meet or deal with on a daily basis has something to say that has value. The truly smart person understands that you never really learn much from hearing yourself speak.

Ignorant people with knowledge miss those little facts.

The guy on Shark Tank didn’t realize that it’s not about smarts, it’s about an inability or unwillingness to learn, to believe he may have made some mistakes along the way that not only affected his life but those around him, including his family.

The smartest guy in the room never realizes that he isn’t, even when it’s obvious to everyone around him. That’s real arrogance.

But as someone once said, arrogance is just insecurities playing dress up. 

I couldn’t agree more.

Why Do We Ignore The Smartest People We Know?

The answer to this question is simple; we feel they’re too young to know any better or too old to be relevant.

Like most of you, I’ve worked with or have known some pretty bright people. They can analyze, revise, sell, market, teach, calculate, propose, create, design, and manufacture with the best minds out there.

But they’re not as smart as a five-year old, and they don’t have near the common sense or understanding of an eighty year old.


And yet we ignore them both. We push one age group aside because they can’t possibly teach us anything at their young age and the other aside because the general feeling is they’ve used up their usefulness to society and are now nothing more than a financial drain or burden.

How sad is that?

A five-year old’s intuition is never even considered, and yet they can tell us things about people we never see. Each day they teach us the importance of innocence, the ability to learn, explore and communicate in ways we don’t understand or pay attention to closely enough. A five-year old child lives in the moment and understands how important that moment is to the rest of his or her life.
The first post I ever wrote on this blog was about a morning I spent playing soccer with my grandson. We were leaving the field and I was walking ahead of him. I turned and asked him why he was dragging behind. He told me he enjoyed taking his time because if he saw something he liked, he wanted to be able look at it again. He said that’s why he doesn’t mind sitting in traffic; he gets to look at things a second time.

The difference between looking and seeing. 

We love our children and we do all that we can for them. We try to teach them how to behave, the difference between right and wrong, encourage them and provide for them. But do we ever really listen closely enough to learn and modify our own lives?

When I was a young teenager, I worked in the kitchen of a nursing home. One of my jobs was to bring the patients their meals. I remember how much they enjoyed that little visit. I would always speak with them when I put down their trays and after I was done I would go back and talk with some of them. Actually, it was more listening than talking. But I learned more about life in a ten minute conversation than anyone could ever teach me. Our elders have been there….and back. They have experienced life in ways we’ve yet to know. They understand and live mortality every day, in ways we only talk about as a “one day” conversation. They break down problems using a common sense approach, understanding what really matters in the time each of us have left. And yet, we think nothing of dismissing them. Our arrogance of how much we think we know is such that we can’t conceive of someone who moves or speaks slowly, knowing more than us.

How sad is that?

The smartest people I ever met are shorter than me, older than me, faster than me, slower than me, struggle with words, need help to get through the day and will spend as much time with you as you are willing to give in return.

You should really get to know them, too.  And listen closely. You might learn something you never knew.