Should you be the smartest one in the room?

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.”

Honestly, I don’t remember where I first saw this quote from.  It probably graced my Pinterest feed while I was searching for planner organization ideas or aztec-inspired H&M blouses.  But, unlike other motivational quotes, the words seemed to leap from my screen–probably because it contrasts so much of what we’re told that we should aspire to be.

“The first rule of magic is to be the smartest guy in the room.”

Okay, yes, this is a quote from a movie (and it’s a pretty great movie, if you haven’t seen it).  However, I think it displays an interesting dichotomy between the importance of being able to outwit your peers.

The general premise of Now You See Me is that a group of magicians can devise genius schemes to rectify for the victims the wrongdoings of higher ups.  It reminds me of a more enchanted version of Robin Hood.  The character depicted in the poster believes he is the most intellectually gifted individual in almost every room until the end of the movie.  And I think this is a dangerous trait.

In my opinion, you never want to be the smartest one in the room.  The most hard-working? Sure.  The most courageous? Certainly.  But the most intelligent?  Even if it was possible, which I don’t believe it is, I’m not sure it’d be that desirable of a characteristic.

I’m not certain that it’s possible to be the most intelligent person in the room because there are a variety of intelligences.  According to Wikipedia, the Theory of Multiple Intelligences states that an upwards of 9 specific intelligences exist: harmonic (musical), spatial (“visualizing with the mind’s eye”), verbal (linguistic), logical (mathematical), kinesthetic (physical activity), interpersonal (emotional + people skills), intrapersonal (self-awareness), naturalistic (hunting, farming + cooking), and spiritual (existential).  To excel in every area, while impressive, is considered to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

But, I digress.  Back to the point.

When you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re not learning anymore.  And learning is what drives our improvements as people.  Learning is what drives us to investigate brilliant scientific discoveries, create more beautiful art, and become more thoughtful, collaborative, and dynamic humans.  Stealing that away robs us of bettering ourselves.

In conclusion, I think that a beneficial conversation is one that someone has learned something from.  And when you’re the smartest person in the room, which implies that you know everything that everyone else does (+ then some), you’re no longer benefitting from the knowledge of your peers, and thus, not growing towards a more complete version of yourself.



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