You hustled hard to get here, and now you’ve finally made it. Your teammates all adore you. Your peers all look up to you. You are your team’s Kobe Bryant; you are the all-star. Sounds like good living, right?

Would you believe it if someone told you that you were on the wrong team?

There’s this well-spread piece of wisdom which suggests that, “You should be the dumbest person in the room.” However, this can be an extremely uncomfortable environment to explore. Wouldn’t people think you’re a liability? Or would others people perceive you to be less intelligent?

Noah Callahan-Bever, editor-in-chief of Complex Magazine, thinks the opposite is usually true:

If you surround yourself with the smartest people you can find, people will think you’re a lot smarter than you are. Only insecure people think this works the other way.”

When given a choice, surround yourself with people smarter than you. Not only will you learn at an accelerated rate and be more energized by the knowledge gap, you’ll also appear smarter.

  • Herbert Lui

    Good observation, Brittany. I agree — but I think it’s because the startup world has a norm built-in where people are willing and happy to work hard, whereas corporations are much more routine and saturated with a different kind of worker. Also, it sounds like you’re poised for accelerated learning…have fun! 🙂

  • Ani Remme

    It depends on why you are doing the ‘looking smart’ thing! Pretense is dangerous! Eventually, you will be found out to be a phony if you were hoping that the group would cover your weaknesses. Instead, hang out with the intelligent people for your love of knowledge and the joy of hearing a well thought out observation or comment!! The joy is in the experience of learning, it is rarely found in an inaccurate label or assumption! : )

    • Herbert Lui

      Something helpful for us (or just me!) to remember in times of anxiety or insecurity, I think. Thanks Ani.

  • Doug Smith

    Love this post! Thanks for sharing! It’s easy to get comfortable in the environment we’re in and waste years!

    • Herbert Lui

      Thanks for the kind words, Doug.

  • MIcah

    Where da smart peeple at?

    • Herbert Lui

      Look over their.

    • Mary-Margaret Walker

      This is the most incredible low brow & intelligent statement that could be made to this article! I just love it! 🙂

  • Adam Vaughan

    this shouldn’t be too hard!

  • KathyP

    When at the bottom of the “dumb” pile, one needs to REALLY concentrate on what others are saying, and that’s where outrageous ideas come from. Listening to the smarter people in the group gives the “less advantaged” more time to hear all concepts and come up with solutions that might be missed otherwise. It’s like looking through a child’s eyes…

  • Mary-Margaret Walker

    In order to play this role well you must be a good listener, If you like listening to yourself talk and you can’t shut up (I don’t know anyone like that at all and it’s certainly not me) then you won’t learn very much. And you will OUT yourself as the dumbest person in the room. This is a great recipe but it require finesse!!

  • picked_a_name

    thumbs up for appearing to be ‘what youre not’

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