It’s About Sharing Experiences (Not Finding People Smarter Than You) #5022

As Leo Bottary’s podcast (and upcoming book) declares, “Who you surround yourself with matters!”

Unfortunately, too many people mistakingly feel they can only learn from people as smart, or smarter than them. “Why would I want to hear anything from that guy?” may be an unspoken refrain. Or not. Sometimes people say it. Most often they’re referring to somebody who they feel is inferior to their lot in life. For instance, the CEO of a $2B company thinks the CEO of a $200M startup has nothing to offer her. The business owner with a Harvard MBA thinks the college dropout business owner can’t possibly teach them anything. That’s how people get stuck and stay stuck. They think they have to be the smartest person in every situation. And they feel they have to constantly be on the prowl for people who may (operative word here MAY) be smarter than them. Over time, their arrogance drives them to feel like they’re unicorn hunting because…well, nobody is smarter than them. And searching for such people can be exhausting when you’re so brilliant. 

Missing The Point

For starters, finding people as smart or smarter than you isn’t that hard. Seeing them, though, can be almost impossible when you’re not looking. Or seeing clearly. 

Your smartness does have a big part to play in all this. Let’s not discount your brilliance. It has served you well (let’s hope), and it can continue to serve you well. Just not in the ways you may think. At least, not exactly. 

Smart people – people like you – are able to distill information and gain from it what you will. That is, you can read things, hear things, see things and figure out some things based on all that input. That’s why you may read. And look at financials. Or listen to podcasts. And talk with your direct reports. You connect dots after you feel like you’re seeing the problem and the potential solutions. That’s where your smartness comes into play. 

Your smartness does NOT come into play when you isolate yourself, refusing to listen to people you deem as intellectually inferior. It’s not about that. It’s about have people in your life willing to not be fooled by your bravado, or intimidated by your credentials or success — people who are willing to serve you by sharing their experiences, which are bound to be very different from yours.

Have you ever had a conversation with a child? Or a person of the opposite sex? Or somebody younger? Or somebody older? Or somebody who has never lived where you do? 

Why did you do that? Those people can’t possibly teach you anything. They don’t share enough in common with you, right? And we’re not even talking about how smart they are compared to you. 

How smart are you? Well, I know you’re smart enough to hear the snarkiness and understand the point. People who are very different have quite a lot to offer us if we’ll just stop long enough to give them some respect, and to listen. 

My wife doesn’t have the business experience I do. She’s never run a company with employees or millions in sales and budgets. Like I have. But she doesn’t have the head trash that goes along with my years of experience either. Or the tendency to overthink things. So she sees some things quite obviously and clearly that I may not see at all because I’m just not looking at it correctly. Her perspective has value. It has value because it’s so different from my own! 

Different Points of View, Different Experiences

You see, finding people who can help you grow, improve and transform isn’t about finding people smarter than you. Some of us don’t find that quite as challenging as others. But thankfully, we don’t have to walk around giving folks an IQ test, or some other assessment, to find out if they’re smart enough to help us. We just need to find people willing to help us do the work of G.I.T. (growth, improvement, transformation). People who have a perspective that may be different from our own. People who haven’t lived exactly as we have. 

Variety is the spice of life, but it’s also the value of personal growth as a business owner or leader. 

Common Ground, Common Purpose

What binds us to people? Something in common. It could be that we’ve got kids who attend the same school. Or kids who play on the same sports team. Maybe it’s people who attended the same college we did. Or people who attend the same church. Something ties us to others. Something in common. Maybe it’s one thing. Maybe it’s many things. 

For business owners, it’s business ownership. Business owners can easily relate to other people who also own a business. It’s a universal bond where we intuitively know, “They understand.” Business owners of all shapes and sizes can relate to other business owners. It’s common ground.

Inside The Peer Advantage (a new virtual peer advisory board of business owners from around America) are going to be 7 business owners who can look around the room and see people occupying positions of responsibility similar to their own. Everybody is a business owner. But there has to be another element – a common purpose. A common reason why we’re together. 

To help and to be helped.

Sharing experiences is how we get G.I.T. (growth, improvement, transformation). Willingness to share experiences. Willingness to listen. Willingness to serve. Willingness to be served. These are the ties that bind when high performing business owners assemble with a purpose. Personal growth. Professional growth. Granted, it’s a tall purpose. But high achievers are attracted to big goals and big objectives. They are not drawn to surround themselves with people who want to impose on them, or tell them what to do. That’s why they own their own businesses. They want to follow their own dreams and make their own path. It doesn’t mean others can’t help them achieve more and make the path smoother. They can. 

Business owners just have to make a basic, but powerful shift in their thinking – it’s not about surrounding yourself with people smarter than you. It’s about surrounding yourself with people different from you, but people who share two powerful traits with you: a) they own their own business and b) they’re willing to help other business owners and they’re willing to be helped by other business owners! Visit to learn more.

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Grow Great a public sector leadership podcastAbout the hosts: Randy Cantrell brings over 4 decades of experience as a business leader and organization builder. Lisa Norris brings almost 3 decades of experience in HR and all things "people." Their shared passion for leadership and developing high-performing cultures provoked them to focus the Grow Great podcast on city government leadership.

The work is about achieving unprecedented success through accelerated learning in helping leaders and executives "figure it out." 

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