Remember. Smart people are smart and sometimes they have different rules.

I had the brief pleasure to cross paths at a job with one of the greatest minds in marketing. A brilliantly eclectic guy named Tony Wainwright. Given my role – I was in middle management at the time – I was a little unclear on his place in the agency. Full time employee?  Part time? Consultant?  He was kind of mysterious (I believe most larger companies have those people).

Every once in awhile I would get a 6 word memo, signed Tony, either asking or telling me something (he was the Zen master of brevity). And every once in awhile he would appear in an internal meeting.

It was in one of those meetings that I came to understand smart people sometimes work under a different set of rules.

I had a couple clients in the meeting. Not most senior. Not most junior. But it was a fairly important set up strategy meeting with some long term implications.

So Tony sits himself in a corner and listens. And then pretty much fell asleep. I don’t know if I was more pissed or mortified. The head of my department was also there (being his quiet brilliant self effacing self – I will write about him another day). And he was pretty much indifferent to Tony’s dozing. (This despite all the mental harpoons I was sending his way).

To be fair. I believe Tony had a recurring illness that would challenge him physically on certain days.  (but in that time and place I kinda wasn’t thinking about that).

Anyway. Towards the end of the meeting Tony kind of stirs a little. Makes a little noise so that everyone turns and looks at him and he says:

“So, if I understand it, here is the decision we need to make. It seems to me we should do ‘this’.”

He then said maybe one more sentence to explain but that is what was indelibly stamped in my brain. Brevity. The man was all about brevity.

Within a less than 5 minute window he isolated the issue and crystallized a solution. That is a gift.

(and when you find someone like that treat them as if they are the last drop of water you have to drink each day)smart person test 72

It would have been easy for everyone to walk out of that meeting and focus on the fact he dozed 95% of his time in the meeting (and I would say 95% of the people did). Yeah. I did walk out a little pissed myself. The head of my department, while chuckling a little, did happen to point out to me that Tony’s 25 words or so did provide a clear solution and probably saved me a lot of work and we were moving forward aligned on a direction. (I told you that guy was a brilliantly self effacing guy)

I am not sure this one meeting truly clarified these following things for me at that time but it certainly helped me along the way:

–          Don’t take silence for stupidity or indifference.

–          It ain’t about the number of words it’s all about the words you use.

It sucks to us nonsmart (less smart) people but it pays to put smart people in situations to be smart and let them do it their way. Your rules don’t apply to these people. Let me repeat that. Your rules don’t apply to these people. It may piss you off but in the end you are simply being immature (unless you believe you could produce as well as they could without the rules).

Look. Sports teams do it all the time (hence the reason a quarterback can call an audible).

Businesses should also.

But I guess my point here is that we can all get caught up in our pettiness on occasion. And we can all believe that everyone should be treated the same way. Well. Maybe in utopia (which was a Todd Rundgren album but that is a different post).

The reality is rules are different for smart people. And the sooner you recognize that and either get out of their way with your “way to do things” or even better figure out how to set up a situation for the way “they play the game” the sooner you yourself will do better.

And, who knows, along the way you may learn something new.

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Written by Bruce