Are You The Smartest Person in the Room?

Probably not. There is usually someone else who knows more about some particular facet of whatever the issue is than you do. Everyone is an expert in something, and if that something is the topic of the day, then that person’s the smart one. In some cases, it may be even more extreme: someone’s IQ is significantly higher than you — not only can she kick your ass in math, she can write 30 eloquent pages in the time it takes you to write a single paragraph.

And yet, that person isn’t as successful as you. How can that be?

After a certain baseline, raw intelligence just doesn’t impact success, in my opinion. The more successful person is the one who can facilitate the intelligence in the room (ever tried to get an all-star to work for an all-star? It’s tough). The more successful person can translate the intelligence — Malcolm Gladwell has become a rock star for essentially reading academic psychology papers and translating them for popular consumption.

Sure, there are some who posses extraordinary raw intelligence AND are amazingly successful because of great people skills to boot. But those are few and far between. I see far more brilliant hobbits.  Most amazingly successful people are called "brilliant" when in fact I think they’ve mastered the art of facilitating other people’s brains.

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