I always try to surround myself with people who are better than me.

Better could mean so many things: smarter, more athletic, a better developer, designer, salesperson, more successful, more connected, talented, generous, kind, caring, loving, sympathetic, entertaining, outgoing, competitive, adventurous. Essentially, better than me in things I want to improve.

Using the sports example, if you are always practicing with people who are less talented than yourself, you are never going to take your game to the next level. The best way to learn and improve is to surround yourself with people that are better than you.

So when I came across this question on Quora, I was intrigued: How can you tell whether someone is smarter than you?

When I found James Gardener’s answer, I felt compelled to share it with all of you, not because I think I am smarter than you but because I think it is important to recognize and learn from people who are smarter than you. (This answer is based on his blog post which can be found here: 10 ways you know you’re with smart people)

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James Gardner’s answer to: How can you tell whether someone is smarter than you?

  1. They don’t talk as much as you, because they know they got smart by listening.
  2. They know lots of things other than what they’re specialised in. Theirs is the gift of a broad mind, constantly fed with the stimulant of being interested in what everyone else is doing.
  3. They juggle home, work and personal interests with dexterity and never fall back on the tired old refrain about “work life balance”. And when they’re juggling, they somehow manage to seem 100% engaged with what they’re doing, on all fronts simultaneously, even though you know they’re taking appropriate steps behind the scenes to make sure their lives are perfectly, serenely balanced.
  4. They probably do social media. Not always, but probably. It is not only another chance to listen, but one they use to ensure they can feed their brains with things they otherwise wouldn’t have come across.
  5. Even when things go very badly wrong, they’ll be smiling. Smart people never get ruffled because their smart brains present them with alternatives faster than the bad stuff can happen.
  6. They know they are usually the smartest person in the room, but they don’t spend their time dwelling on that. Instead, they take it as a personal challenge to see if they can make everyone else the smartest person in the room too.
  7. If they are managers, they will make every effort to get people smarter, more connected and more popular than them in their teams. They’re not threatened because they know that smartness is synergistic. They also make sure that their smart people get to look smarter than them for the same reason.
  8. They have hidden skills that never get rolled out until they’re needed. They don’t have any need to show their full capabilities for reasons of proving they’re better than others.
  9. They may or may not have expensive educations. You’d never know, just by being with them unless you had their CV in front of you.
  10. They never, ever, under any circumstances, make you look stupid, even though it would be easy to do so. They’ve learnt through bitter experience that the only thing that happens when you make someone look bad is you look bad yourself.