Don’t be the smartest

”If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.” — Confucius

John Maxwell, the leadership guru, was the first person to share this quote with me. I heard this wisdom again last month out of my son’s mouth. He was told this advice from a doctor who mentored him while he was in the Navy.

This Navy doctor and John Maxwell are successful men who have many credentials and accolades to prove their accomplishments. Chances are, it is common that they often are the smartest person in a room. Is this a physical goal or a mindset?

Recently, I was talking to a friend who shared with me that she does not have a mentor and she does not believe that she needs or wants one. Everyone is her peer. Other people rarely challenge or teach her. She has the answers that she needs.

During this 15 minute conversation, I felt my blood starting to boil. Her approach to life contradicts what I believe and what I encourage others to think and live. I believe when we think we have arrived, we might have the farthest to go. This protects us from a complacent spirit.

After reflecting on this conversation, I have realized two things:

• Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I do not want this friend to be in my top five (or 50) people. I do not want to adopt her mindset.

• I now realize how she sees people. She does not look for what she can learn from every person. This approach usually solicits a humble, curious attitude. Instead, she is looking for what she needs to give every person. She might come across as a know-it-all.

Many people in this world are extremely intelligent and their IQ is undoubtedly higher than mine. When I am in the same room as them, I am in the right room.

Then there is everyone else in the world who undoubtedly knows about something more than I do. Again, when I am in the same room as them, I am in the right room.

That is the key. I can learn something from everyone. I have received my biggest life revelations from people who are younger than me, people who are not in my line of work, people who are in my line of work with fewer years than me. I would not necessarily choose these people as my mentors. However, I am so thankful that I opened my ears to their wisdom.

Think about the last person you talked to in a meeting or ran into in the hallway. What did you learn from this person? Wouldn’t we all be better served if we approached conversations with an inquisitive mindset?

This way we can avoid looking foolish or being humiliated by moving into our next conversation curious about what they know and what we do not know. Be careful. You might not be the smartest person in the room and you don’t even know it.