What is it like to be the smartest person in the room?

It sucks. It means you’re in the wrong room.

Reminds me of a quote from the beginning lines of the movie Rounders

“Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.”

It’s nerve-wracking. Ask any elementary teacher…

One of the problems with being the smartest person in the room, is that things are never ever going to happen at a speed which is comfortable for you. This means the primary challenge for the smartest person in the room is to figure out how to communicate what you understand, to a room full of people who, through no fault of their own, can’t understand what seemed an obvious conclusion. This can be a deeply frustrating experience. It is a situation I see a lot of smart people struggle with, simply because understanding something and explaining it are two different processes.

The other problem, is that people tend to resent and feel threatened by the smartest person in the room. So, rather than appreciating their intelligence, they accuse them of being arrogant or full of themselves. Smart people often find this experience deeply disturbing and upsetting. Which is why you often find very smart people tend to develop either a tendency to quietness to avoid any unpleasantness or a brashness.

All in all, being the smartest person in the room is generally harder work than it needs to be. It isn’t enough that you are smart, because you also have to be an articulate educator, emotionally intelligent and sensitive to other people feelings. A trait, I have observed, that is rarely reciprocated.

Have kids. You will soon understand it’s irrelevant.

Sun Tzu said, when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

I think it pretty much means, pretend to be the sucker when you’re the smartest person in the room

It’s exhausting. :)

I do agree with Erica Friedman that when you’re the ‘maven’ in the room on a particular topic, you’re always working and never get a chance to relax.That’s why when work is done, I’m happy to find another room where I can be the student and someone else can be the maven.

To me the smartest person in the room is the one who can foster engagement and satisfaction with the whole group. It’s not about knowing the most or telling everyone else how smart you are. Everyone has something to offer – and truly the dumbest person in the room is the one who thinks what they can offer eclipses everyone else’s potential contributions.

I’m sure Oscar Wilde was the smartest person in the room, so I looked to him for an answer to this question, and here it is: “I like talking to a brick wall, I find it is the only thing that never contradicts me.”

At some point in our lives, we will all be the smartest and dumbest person in the room. Sometimes, on the same night in the same room.

What’s really cool is to be in a room with a bunch of people who are smart on a wide variety of disciplines who are all focussed on doing the one thing that can provide lasting value for the rest of us dolts out there. Better still is to be able to trust people in that same room! The cynics may refrain, “trust no one” but that is a lonely road indeed.

What’s the old saying? When a fool meets a wise man, it is the wise man who comes away having learnt something.

Depends upon the context. When I am mentoring eager, younger people it is invigorating. When I’m surrounded by closed minded bigots, it’s infuriating. When I’m at TED and not the smartest in the room, I’m thrilled.

It’s almost almost *exactly* like always being the dumbest person in the room, except they’re usually nice. Being smart just gives one many more clever ways to make or explain away mistakes.

From the Quora question:

What is it like to always be the smartest person in the room?

2 thoughts on “What is it like to be the smartest person in the room?

    1. @S – to accomplish anything in life you must build something. Spend time on it, work hard, and stay committed. Being smart allows you to do anything you want, so what are you going to do?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>