Why Smart People Surround Themselves With Smarter People

UPDATED: July 19, 2016
PUBLISHED: July 19, 2016

Have you ever seen an award acceptance speech where the recipients didn’t give thanks to all the people who helped them get to the podium?

Whether a best actor, business legend or superstar athlete, winners know how to surround themselves with people who are smarter, more experienced or better connected than they are. Regardless of all your hard work, unique talent, good timing or good luck, success is largely a factor of the people you make a part of your journey.

When you first start, you pursue like-minded people in your social circle. But things change. You mature. Your circle widens as your interests shift from social to professional. Although you are initially drawn to people like yourself, now you start to gravitate to people who can offer alternative perspectives—the more unrelated and diverse the individuals, the more opportunity to fill in the gaps of your limited experience, which lowers your risk.

You must network, pay attention and seek out people who not only know more but are willing to challenge and push you. Because few things are as important as gaining new perspectives. It’s easy to get lost in your ideas. Alternate perspectives can eliminate the blind spots and bring you down from the clouds.

Related: 8 Ways to Expand Your Network Today

One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is believing they can be successful by themselves. We all need others to fill in the gaps. So be humble, be receptive and keep the following in mind as you reach out for support:

Anyone can be smart.

Smart is a tricky word. You can gain perspective from all kinds of people. People with diverse backgrounds—college graduates and high school dropouts, type-A executives and yoga instructors. I’ve even learned by observing my 5-year-old nephew discover and experiment with an iPad. In other words, a smarter person is one who makes you think about something in a new and unexpected way.

Success comes in all kinds of packages.

A six-figure income is only one measure of success. Successful people are also those who triumph after a defeat, devote themselves to public service or overcome tremendous odds to achieve a personal best.

Weaknesses aren’t a bad thing.

Recognize your shortcomings and what you need help with. Gain enough contextual knowledge to be credible and seek out others to fill in the gaps.

Patterns are the basis of truth.

Look for patterns in what you learn from people with diverse backgrounds and from different industries. These common denominators form the basic truths that will guide you throughout your career.

No matter the path you choose, it is a rare individual who becomes successful without help. Yes, it’s important to learn from our mistakes, but isn’t it far better to surround yourself with smart people, leverage their mistakes and learnings, and apply your own spin?

When you meet someone who is smarter than you, or someone you can learn from, protect and foster that relationship. Embrace others. Never burn bridges. Always help when you can. Ignite the energy of others, and the potential for your own success is limitless.

The following people truly stand apart in my life, having given me the perspective to be and become better:

Brian Wink, a business leader, has success in industries ranging from retail to software to financial services. An innovator, fueled by his passion to build something better, greatly impacted me. Learning from both his successes and setbacks, he has shown me how to identify hidden needs, lead and grow my business, and the value of risk taking, persistence and resilience.

Branko Palikuca is a successful restaurateur from Serbia who started as a dishwasher and now heads up several Chicago-area eateries. Branko taught me that attention to detail and implementing processes builds consistency, which is key when operating in a fast-paced environment. He also stressed the importance of trusting instincts as much as knowledge and experience.

Rodrigo Biscaya is a global entrepreneur with businesses ranging from soy beans in Guinea to natural stone in Brazil. Rodrigo believes in the importance of relationship building, particularly for younger, developing businesses. With the right relationships, resourcefulness and creativity, everything becomes possible.

Who are your Brians, Brankos and Rodrigos?

Related: 10 Ways to Find Your Ideal Mentor

David Jelinek

A modern entrepreneur, David Jelinek is equal parts strategist, innovator, marketer and technologist. David is the founder and CEO of Creatix, a digital product design and development firm he founded in 2005 at the age of 19. Leveraging a unique onshore/offshore model, the firm helps a growing number of organizations—from startups to Fortune 1000 companies—increase revenue, build market share and redefine customer experience. In his spare time, David loves to travel, eat and take pictures—usually all at the same time.