Surround yourself with people smarter than you are

steve jobs smart people

Most of you will know this quote from Steve Jobs, one of several respected business leaders who will give advice along the lines of:

Surround yourself with people smarter than you are

Today though, let me link this to the idea of giving and receiving advice.

Recently I started on a theme in some posts around giving less advice, including yesterday in “Turn the coin over“.

One of these came from some wisdom (or was it, hmm, advice ?!), the sage Bruce Peters to go further, which I wrote about in: “Wise advice – on giving no advice”.

Today sharing a post from the Thayer Institute that Bruce (again) shared with me.

To me, this whole theme also links back to key attributes of leaders I love to work with. From the #BeMoreYou page on this site, those are to Be:

  • Hungry
  • Humble
  • Brave
  • Open

All four of these characteristics are reflected and also necessary to take on board what this post suggests, nay advises. The paragraph in bold is my highlight, the focus on self-responsibility is, to me, absolutely key.

Getting and giving advice.

Your communication environment will be polluted with advice. No matter whether you ask for it or not, there will always be the promise of more advice than you need or could ever use.

The human world today is overflowing with advice – whether from associates, self-styled experts, gurus, or friends – both directly and via cell phones, conferences, television, radio, books or newspapers.

Getting what you need is like the search for the Holy Grail. There is so much filler it is difficult to sort out what might be nutritious.

People who don’t know what they want to be when they “grow up” will forever be victims of the flotsam and jetsam of the influences they happen to be the targets of.

Given that you do know, here’s the rule of thumb:

Surround yourself communicatively with people who are smarter than you are – people who will tell you
what they think without regard for offending your sensibilities or treasured opinions. Be proactive. Seek them out, whatever their expertise. Ask them.

Ask them. But never hold them responsible. You must seek out the advice you want and need. When you acquire it, it belongs to you. YOU are responsible for what you think and what you do about it – whatever the source.

For example, read some good books you won’t agree with – IF they are written by people you ought to be listening to for your own good. Make sure they are good writers. That way you will learn how to better communicate even if you don’t (or can’t) accept their wisdom.

It has often been observed: Wisdom is not communicable. It all hinges on the curiosity and the mental capabilities of the receiver.

Make yourself mentally available to those who are wiser than you. Make

yourself capable of receiving wisdom and it will come your way.

About giving advice: Do not.

If people beg you for your advice: Absolutely do not.

If you believe you know better than other people what they seem to need to know, do not tell them. Ask the kinds of questions that lead them to insights into what they need to know.

They won’t thank you for doing it that way. But if they can’t implement their own decisions, at least they can’t blame you for them.

-Lee Thayer

Also published on Medium.