The Street Smart Law Blog

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  • Frederick L Shelton

People who are smarter than you, are only as valuable as your ego allows them to be


One of my greatest strengths is knowing what I don't know and not having to pretend like I'm an expert at every damn thing. For example, just some of the people who are helping me with The Law Conference:

Francois Modaresse knows more about cybersecurity than I ever will. The man is nothing less than a genius. Having him as a presenter adds immediate gravitas to the event.

There are few people in the world, with more expertise on virtual lawyering and law firm management than Chris Wilson. Kelly Rossi knows more about digital and social media marketing than anyone I know. She also knows how to effectively present her expertise - a rarity in that field. Larry Ladd knows more about running conferences and event planning than anyone in Las Vegas. And in this city, that's saying a lot.

Want to talk about networking? It took a year for me to find someone Joanna Marlowe didn't already know!

And a great visual example comes from Chris Dabek, who owns a modeling agency. Chris was with us at The Stirling Club when we were taking some photos for our website. The photo on top is the product of my "expertise" in taking photos. We're just

standing there. Ayven is off to the right. There's a sound board in the photo. We're kind of washed out in a sea of blue. Backlighting from the slit in the curtains, washes out Alan's face.

To be fair, that was a random photo, taken on a moment's notice, after I gave a speech

at a luncheon. But look at the photo on the bottom. Chris picked the area (both photos were taken at the same club) because of the feel, contrasting color (notice how we're not lost in blue as above?) and elegance. Two sitting, two standing on the outside, one in the center. Balance.

The two men in the back have their hands on the outside of the chairs. Erica has her

hands on both chairs, connecting us all from the center.

Things I would never have thought of. Because he's smarter than me, when it comes to such things!

He could take photos at a hot dog barbecue and by the time they were published, you would think it was a Royal Ball.

The Takeaway that business owners, entrepreneurs and attorneys need to realize: If I acted like I knew everything these people know, they wouldn't be helping me.

Nothing will turn off a professional more quickly, than a layman who tries to show they know more than the expert.

I know. I've had friends ask me for my help with marketing & branding everything from an accounting firm to a construction company. The moment I tried to help them, they "knew" that my cute little ideas about hiring someone to help with digital and social media marketing, would never work in their space. After all, they posted something on Facebook once and never got any clients from it! So I would always politely just stop talking and tell the friend who was desperately seeking a way to improve their position, that obviously they had it all handled and didn't need my help or anyone network.

Trying to help people with such egos is pointless. I know, that used to be me!

"Better to be silent and let others think you a fool, than to speak and confirm it"

When I was younger, I used to have such a fragile ego that no matter what the subject, I had to act like I knew all about it. I wanted to make sure people knew I was smart. Really smart. So that they would take me seriously. The result of that attitude, was the opposite of the goal.

They didn't take me seriously, specifically because I tried to show off how much I knew. Worse yet, by trying to be the expert in their field, I made them feel like I didn't appreciate their expertise or intellect. Without realizing it, I'd become condescending.

Needless to say, my network was not very valuable back then.

People who are smarter than you, are only as valuable as your ego allows them to be.

If you ask for help from an expert, the smartest thing you can do is acknowledge that they are smarter than you. Because in their field, that is the truth.

I acknowledge this with experts all the time. The irony is, instead of puffing their chest, they go out of their way to acknowledge how smart I am!

Because basic psychology says that once you acknowledge someone else, it is actually easier for them to reciprocate. Who knew?

So ask yourself:

Do I always have to show off how smart I am?

Do I use jargon, condescension or other means of talking down to people, to try to show them how much smarter I am than they are? (Lawyers, this is especially critical with your potential clients!)

Do I try to showcase my intellect and capabilities of others, before acknowledging these attributes in others?

If the answer to any of these questions is "Yes", it's time to reexamine your interactions with others.