Are You in the Wrong Room?

Ever heard the phrase, “the smartest guy in the room”?

I’m not sure where I heard it first or who it was intended to identify, but I definitely remember the 2005 documentary film titled “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.”

You remember Enron — the Houston energy company that everyone thought was so successful and innovative, but which was really just a lot of smoke and mirrors that covered up accounting fraud. Those “smartest guys in the room” were crooks who destroyed lives.

I’m not talking about them.

I’m talking about you.

The fishing tackle industry has some smart guys (smart women, too — “guy” refers to men and women here). They’re usually pretty easy to spot. They’re successful, present themselves well, listen when it’s the right thing to do, speak when they have something to contribute (but only in the right context) and leave when it’s time to go.

Like most of you, I’ve spent time around smart guys. There were a few in high school, more in college, and I was surrounded by them in law school. Since then, they’ve been scattered here and there.

At FTR, I’m lucky to work for and with a bunch of smart guys.

It hasn’t always been that way.

I’ve made it a goal to find the smartest guy in the room when I’m around industry people. Sometimes they’re easy to spot … sometimes not.

Rarely does the smartest guy in the room have the biggest job title.

Quite often, the smartest guy in the room knows the most people there.

You can usually find the smartest guy in the room hanging around other smart people. You will not find him spending much time with anyone who wastes his time.

The smartest guy in the room rarely does the most talking. In fact, when he’s surrounded by the “wrong” people, he may do the least talking. He’ll listen in this group, but only to be polite. And he won’t be there long.

When he finds the “right” people, he’ll listen more than he talks and talk to make a contribution rather than to show off.

The smartest guy in the room is a problem solver and a contributor. He’s not a show off.

And once the smartest guy in the room realizes he’s the smartest guy in the room, he starts looking for another room.

If you’re ever the smartest guy in the room — not counting the time you spend alone — what are you doing to surround yourself with other smart guys? There’s little point in getting advice or “insight” from anyone else.

Maybe you need to step up the circles you move in and the counsel you keep.

After all, if you look around the room and realize you’re the smartest guy in it, you’re probably in the wrong room.