Like many, from time to time, I’ve had the distinction of being “the smartest person in the room”. (Often that’s when I’m the only guy in the room, but that’s just a minor detail.)
This past weekend though, I had the pleasure of being in a room full of people where I was definitely not the smartest guy in the room. One of my side activities is working with the Educational Committee of the National Cave Rescue Commission. This entails, among other things, having face to face meetings once or twice a year. During this time we work on the curriculum, trying to improve it every year. This weekend’s meeting had 8 people (including myself) in attendance. The people there bring an extremely wide degree of skills to the table, ranging from medical experience, SRT experience, grammar experience, experience about ropes and devices, rescue experience and more.
With such a diverse background, there are times when not everyone is in agreement on various teaching points. But, while there may be spirited debate at times, everyone still keeps the end goal in mind: developing the best possible curriculum for cave rescue.
However, one has to be careful about “the smartest guy in the room.” There is an old joke about a plane about to crash. It has 3 passengers, a Boy Scout, a priest, and a Nobel Prize winner and 2 parachutes.
The Nobel Prize winner grabs a pack shouts, “My discoveries will save the world, I deserve to live” and jumps out of the plane.
The priest tells the Boy Scout, “Son, please take the last parachute. I have lived a good life and I am prepared to meet the Lord”.
The Boy Scout turns to the priest, “Don’t worry Father, the smartest guy in the world just grabbed my backpack and jumped out of the plane.”
Being smart doesn’t make one immune from error. But surrounding oneself with smart people can often lead to better solutions.
You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but you should at least try to surround yourself with them.