How Do I Surround Myself with People Who Are Smarter Than Me?

Let’s break this down.  You want to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.  So there’s three categories here

  • Have.   You want to have a smarter network.

So what you’re trying to figure out is what you need to do to have this network.

  • Do.  What you need to do in order to have this so called network.  This is what you’re trying to figure out what to do.

Most people look at situations in these two steps.  They believe that if I do what it takes, I’ll have what I want.  That’s the fundamental philosophy of nearly every person out there.

However, if this is how your philosophy is set up, then you’re missing the most fundamental step of them all.

  • Be.  Before you do what it takes to surround yourself with people smarter than yourself, you must first become smart.

So, what do we need to do to surround ourselves with a network of people smarter than ourselves?

It’s broken down into these three fundamental steps.




So, let’s start at the beginning.

You’re probably wondering, what do you mean by be?

How in the world do I surround myself with people smarter than myself if I’m not that smart as it is?

The answer is simple.

First, you must become the smart person.

How do you do this?

Focus on doing what smart people do.

  • Read.
  • Learn how to build rapport.
  • Better your communication skills.
  • Dress better.
  • Study table manners.
  • Become eloquent.
  • Figure out what you’re passionate about.
  • Learn how to dictate your voice and pause at the proper moments.
  • Become well versed in a plethora of subjects.
  • Learn how to become a friend.
  • Start to see people eye to eye as equals, not as either superiors or beneath you.

You may be asking yourself, why in the world do I need all these traits?

Let me help break that down for you with this image:


There are three points on this triangle.

  • Affinity.  How much we like each other.
  • Reality.  Our perspectives on certain topics.
  • Communication.  How much we talk.

This triangle basically defines the underlying principles of communication between people.

When we communicate with others, our realities, or our perspectives on life need to be in sync.  If they’re in sync, then our affinity for each other increases. If our affinity for each other increases, then our communication level increases.  However, if our realities, or perspectives on something do not match, then our affinity for each other lowers, which causes us to communicate less.

This is why most people state that you shouldn’t talk about politics or religion.  Why?  Because the chance that your political or religious views match with the person you talk to are slim.  In case they don’t match up, then all affinity and communication goes out the window.  In some instances, you may get lucky, but it’s not that often.  I’d just suggest to stay away from the topics completely.

When communicating, it is better to go with facts as opposed to how we perceive things.  Some people may see a twenty foot tree as big, while others may see it as small.  Since it is so hard to understand how a person may see this specific tree, it is better to go with fact and state that the tree is twenty feet tall.

Basically, what this means is that you need to be extremely well versed.  When my mentor took me under his wing, he told me to eat everything I disliked until I acquired a taste for it, to travel, to have fun, basically to live life as an experience.

He told me that I needed to live life as an experience so I could have more points on where I could relate to others.  He told me that even if I hated sushi, I needed to acquire a taste for it, just in case I met other people who did enjoy sushi.  If they had decided to go on an outing and I refused to eat it, I could potentially miss out on a great opportunity.

But back to the triangle.  When our realities, or our perspectives are in sync, our liking for each other increases.  What that means is that if you become well versed in many topics, then the chances of seeing eye to eye on certain topics increase.  You’ll be able to start a conversation based off another person’s passion, because you have a general understanding of it.  Since your curiosity sparks them to talk about what they’re passionate about, your affinity, or liking of each other increases.  Then your communication follows.  However, if you’re talking about shoes and the other party has no interest in fashion at all, then you’ve completely lost them.  Their affinity for you lowers exponentially, which dramatically decreases your communication level, and can even bring it to a halt.

Now that you have that down, the next step is do.

This is where you do what it takes to find these smart people to add into your network.  However, you can’t just create smart people out of thin air.  This step takes a lot of research and development.

You need to study your area to find out where smart people hang out, what places they frequent, what they like.

Is it the local Barnes & Noble?

Is it Mauro’s Cafe, the celebrity hot spot in Fred Segal off Melrose & Crescent Heights?

Is it that cafe that no one knows about, yet always has the most prominent people sit for tea?  Is it Boa Steakhouse?  Is it that nightclub down the street Greystone Manor?

Then, after you start to understand where these people frequent, you have to locate what place is the least intrusive to introduce yourself at.

Usually, this happens to be book stores and cafes.

If you overhear a person talking about quantum mechanics, you probably found the person you’re looking for.  Attend that cafe daily and figure out their routines and their schedule of when they arrive.  See if they usually frequent with their friends or if they come alone.  After you determine their schedule, if they are ever alone one day, come up to them and ask them for a pen.  Or a piece of paper.  Or just say hello.  Start a conversation with them.  Connect with them because you already decided to take the time to be well versed and discuss what their mutual interests are.  Start to establish a casual conversation that will eventually lead to a friendship, or even an invitation into their inner circle.

Repeat these steps over and over, and you’ll eventually be surrounded with people smarter than yourself in all walks of life.

Or you can just do what I did and write about your life on Quora and they’ll come to you instead.  However, I have an unfair advantage in this setting because everyone is smarter than I am.

Originally posted on Quora.

Leonard Kim consults startups and writes books like The Etiquette of Social Media: How to Connect and Respond to Others in the World of Social Media

0 thoughts on “How Do I Surround Myself with People Who Are Smarter Than Me?”

  1. Very nice post. Communication is extremely important and it affects a lot the quality of the lifestyle we are able of accomplishing. People underestimate the power of having a real understanding of how communication works. Most people think they already know how to communicate effectively, but have no idea about how communication truly works.

    If I didn’t have studied this topic from a young age I would not have half of what I have today. In fact, just to mention an example, I had a mentor for 1 year (without paying a dime) which gave advice for Tony R. and Brian T. when working for McKinsey & Co., and also gave advice for multibillion-dollar companies. That is just an example of how much difference learning effective communication can make on the life of an individual.

    Great writing man, keep it up =).

  2. Hi,

    Like your article.

    I’ve been trying to find the cool, hidden cafes in my city where the smart and interesting might come in for a coffee and stay with their laptop, but can’t find yhe people. Since I go to lots of cafes, I’m pretty sure I covered a lot of bases. It is also difficult to “folow” someone’s routine. The chance to say hello usualy have minutes-long windows. In my city especially, people are quite unapproachable ( a well known fact about Toronto) and cafes are not frequented by persons un business mode that one would benefit from meeting. Instead, there is a “hot desk” model of renting out desks with wifi in hubs, at a steep price.

    Any advice in that situation? Thank you!

    • I live in Los Angeles. I’m not too familiar with the lay of the land in Toronto. I have found people in Toronto have been quite easy to talk to over the Internet though. What kind of people are you looking to surround yourself with?


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