How To Be the Smartest Person on the Planet

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by James Altucher: Abolish
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I was the dumbest
person in my graduate school program which is part of the reason
I was thrown out. Stupidity plus immaturity and a willingness to
show off both qualities is a bad combination. I thought I was a
cowboy. I would show up to final exams having not attended a single
class, totally smashed from the night before and not having slept.
I had semesters where I failed every single class that semester.

I did everything
you could possibly do to piss off as many people as possible in
as short amount of time as possible
and eventually I got thrown
out. Well, I got “asked” to leave. I’m not defending
myself. I took bad advantage of a great situation I was in. They
paid me a stipend and I used it to do whatever I wanted to do.

Later, when
I had to move to the corporate world, I was the stupidest person
there as well. Probably because I failed to learn anything in graduate
school. I got the job for various reasons that had nothing to do
with my abilities and so they didn’t know what to do with me.
I was so impressed with everyone running around, knowing what to
do, knowing how to survive in the big city. I thought to myself,
“these are the real people and I’m faking it.”

On my second
day they gave me a computer to put on the Internet. They said, “you
know something about that internet stuff. Get this thing on the
internet. But be careful, we keep some email servers on this.”
I destroyed that computer so badly it had to be sent back to the
manufacturer (Silicon Graphics) and it never came back. I was wearing
a suit that didn’t fit me. I never wore suits. It was sunny
out. I went outside to use the payphone. No sense making a call
like this from my cubicle. I called my girlfriend in Pittsburgh
and told her I was about to be fired. She was pretty happy about
that. She wanted me back. Which, unfortunately, was my worst nightmare.

Jolie Hunt
at Reuters invited me to a dinner a few months ago. I was definitely
100 IQ points lower than anyone there. Tina Brown was sitting next
to me. Shawkut Azziz, the former prime minister of Pakistan was
across from me. Padma Lakshmi was next to him. I don’t even
know why I was invited. I concluded during the dinner that I must’ve
done a favor at some point for Jolie but I couldn’t remember
what it was. The list goes on of the people at this dinner. Everyone
had something to say. One of my favorite authors, Ken Auletta, was
drilling the former prime minister about how much Pakistan knew
about Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts. I was deathly afraid someone
would look at me and say, “well, what do you think about all
of this? What do you have to say for yourself?”

But after 40
years of being the least smart person in most situations that I’ve
been put in I’ve finally figured out how to be the smartest
person on the planet.

The KEY:
ALWAYS assume you are the least intelligent person in the room.
Always.

Do this in
every room, at every dinner, in every situation.

Several things
will happen:

A) you’ll
listen and learn from everyone around you.
They are all smarter
than you. Which means you have a lot to learn from them. Sergey
Brin has a trick when he interviews people for Google. He can tell
within seconds whether or not he is going to hire someone. If he’s
not going to hire them he knows he still has to suffer through
another twenty minutes with them. So he always makes it a point
to learn at least one thing from them so it’s not a total waste
of time. I do this with every person I meet ever. Because I happen
to know a secret about them: they are smarter than me.

Read
the rest of the article

September
9, 2011

The
Best of James Altucher

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