The Smartest Guy In The Room


Once upon a time, I was advising the board of a family-owned company to help figure out if a proposed acquisition was a good idea or a bad one.

The person who sourced the deal took it upon himself to do a LOT of the talking. He was well-informed and very articulate, but he held the all-too-common notion that whoever talks the loudest must be right.

... AND he wanted EVERYONE to know that HE was the smartest guy in the room.

I learned long ago that it's way better to absorb information than to scatter it around willy-nilly. Besides, if you're the smartest person in the room, who are you going to learn from?

At certain times in my career, I've been in rooms with some super-duper, high-powered people – the kind of people whose names regularly appear in publications like The Wall Street Journal and Forbes (really, no kidding) - as a young IB associate, my job was to keep my mouth shut and take notes.

Some things I noticed about these people:

  1. they listen intently,..
  2. they think very quickly but very deeply
  3. they ask the most brilliant questions.

To finish the story, the board decided against making the acquisition,

There were several reasons but I think it was mostly because another board member, who had sat there and listened attentively, said in a clear, calm voice:

"we haven't yet discussed the how this transaction takes us away from our core business and would require us to add resources that we don’t currently have.

She was absolutely right. Integrating the acquired company would have been a nightmare.

So it wasn’t about being the smartest; it was about absorbing information, thinking, and forming a cogent, thoughtful strategy.

And now some words of "wisdom" from people who aren't me:

  •  "You can observe a lot by watching"- Yogi Berra
  •  "Mediocrity can talk but it is for genius to observe."- Benjamin Disraeli


Thanks for reading.  Be good and be well.

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