Don’t Be the Smartest Person in the Room — Stand Next to Them

The fastest way to get what you want

Niklas Göke
4 min readJun 30, 2020


Photo by Marcus Platt on Unsplash

The fastest way to get what you want is to be around the people who already have it.

When you hang out with fit people, you’ll work out more. If you want to make a million-dollar deal, meet with people who make million-dollar deals. This may sound obvious and, yes, we’ve all heard the saying that “you are the average of the five people around you.”

Yet, in our quests for money, love, and happiness, we often spend most of our energy trying to change ourselves rather than our environment. We worry too much about the incremental changes we can make — and too little about how much the people in our proximity will rub off on us.

Take intelligence, for example. We all want to feel smart. We want confidence, respect from others, and, let’s be honest, the occasional smug face to indulge in. There are two common strategies we use to try and attain these feelings.

The first is to work really hard to improve whatever combination of natural giftedness and acquired knowledge you have. You can learn new things in your spare time, stay up to date on your industry, and play games that’ll keep your mind sharp.

While this is a good baseline, and we should exercise our wits regularly, it can also spiral into an obsession with being “the smartest person in the room.” But you’re just one person! Of course you have a limited perspective. We all do. We’ll never know everything, and it’s liberating to admit it.

The second strategy is to jump into cold water and surround yourself with people who’ll blow you out of it on a daily basis. This is the delayed-gratification version of the first strategy: You accept the discomfort of being below average for a while to emerge stronger later. “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room,” they say.

While this strategy acknowledges the influence others have on us and is a good addendum to learning as much as you can, it comes with its own flaws.

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Niklas Göke

I write for dreamers, doers, and unbroken optimists. Read my daily blog here: