Nobody Likes a Smart Ass

Be smart, but don’t act like one.

We all have heard the ‘old-is-gold’ saying,

If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.

Turns out that it is true. A smart person knows his value and that’s why he is smart. He knows the consequences of making others feel inferior. Trouble will find that ostentatious fool to dig his own grave. Always make the other person feel more smart and superior, you may even wanna look like a moron on times. It will deviate any suspicions on you.

Let’s start by using an example from a movie.

The Neon Demon

If you have watched this movie ‘The Neon Demon’, you will get my point easily. But if you haven’t, don’t despair. Let me spread it out for you. It is a masterpiece. A psychological horror movie showing the dark side of modelling and how the protagonist Jesse (Elle Fanning) starts her career from nothing to a big success. Quickly rising to the top with her innocent and amazing beauty she makes out enemies very soon in the industry.

Such was her influence on people that it was almost impossible for anyone to resist her. She rises to fame faster than those who had years of experience. This made many people jealous around her. And before she knew her own friends turned against her. Not having friends did cost her in the end.

Not consciously, but she was the odd one out in the crowd. She was different than others and although it is good to be one, she was still a naive model on the start of her brilliant career. Not aware of the politics and how to stay on top in the competition she trusted snakes pretending to be her friends. As the former Russian model Arina says, to survive in the modelling business you need to have both — beauty as well as brains. Right as rain she is.

If you do plan on watching the movie I won’t reveal any plot, but I surely recommend it as a must-watch.

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Such a similar principle is preached by ‘Robert Greene’ in his book ‘The 48 Laws of Power’. The law that relates is:

Law 21: Play a sucker to catch a sucker — seem dumber than your mark

Being smart is not a crime but if you act as one, it surely will get you in trouble. People will turn against you. There will be plots and plans against you. In your face praises and smiles but behind your back it will be another story. That’s why Robert Greene suggests to play a sucker to catch the sucker. Pretend to be less smart. Raise other person on the pedestal.

A learning experience — example

In the winter of 1872, the U.S. financier Asbury Harpending was visiting London when he received a cable: A diamond mine has been discovered in the American West. The cable was from a reliable source — William Ralston, owner of the Bank Of California — but Harpending nevertheless took it as a practical joke. He showed the cable to his fellow financier Baron Rothschild (one of the richest men in the world), saying it must be a joke.

Rothschild suggests not to take it as a joke and that he should take a look. Two crusty prospectors named Philip Arnold and John Slack had been the ones to discover the mine. Once there the expert took samples back to California to estimate their worth at $1.5 million. Ralston asks them to accompany them to the city to get its actual worth and pays $100,000 upfront. As the worth of the jewels was verified many big tycoons came in to invest their money.

They insisted Arnold and Slack for another verification by one of their experts. They reluctantly agreed. Several weeks later, a man named Louis Janin, the best mining expert in the country, verifies about the diamonds in the mine. Ralston, Harpending and the company acted fast to form a $10 million private investment corporation. They scare the prospectors by saying that the investors will through them out of their own discovery and offered them a final sum of $700,000 to put their greed aside. The prospectors agree and leave.

A few weeks later, on their first trip back to the site, they learned the hard truth: Not a single Ruby or Diamond was to be found. It was all fake. Harpending had unwittingly lured the richest men in the world into the biggest scam in the whole world.

Arnold and Slack pulled off the biggest con not by a fake engineer or bribing anybody. All the experts were real. Before the discovery of the mine reached Harpending’s ears, Arnold and Slack had bought a few gems and planted them in the mine. In California, the two prospectors bought some uncut gems to fool the best expert Louis Janin in believing the site to be real. Among the big tycoons, they acted as incredulous to the big city. Nobody thought that these two would be able to pull off any kind of con as big as this.

Harpending lost his reputation, Rothschild learned the lesson of his life and never fell for another con. Arnold and Slack disappeared living their lives with the money.

Some tips and points to keep in mind:

  • Let them make fun of you in the beginning, it is you who will be laughing in the end.
  • Make them feel better about themselves — they will always keep you by their side and easier it will be to deceive them.
  • As you appear to be less intelligent you will not have any problem from your superiors. They like to be more smart and knowing. You may even get a promotion because they feel secure near you.
  • He who poses a fool is not a fool. — Baltasar Gracián


Sometimes it may be better to be the intellectual one among the crowd because people will listen to you. You have the knowledge and experience and that’s why your say matters. It may not be wise to announce publicly your smartness but you sure can give hints to your boss that you are better than Bob for this project or promotion. It’s a cruel world out there and like Jesse, you won’t know when your friend Bob becomes an Arnold or a Slack.

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