My Friends are Way Smarter than Me

I recently gave an interview on how to make better decisions for the Metalearn podcast.

I wanted to share with you an interesting part on the people I hang out with that I think you’ll enjoy.


One thing I picked up on there was you talking about almost having a system of checks and balances in place and not making some of the stupid mistakes or errors of misjudgment that you might have done before as a result of getting deeply into this stuff. Another great way that I’ve found and I’m sure you have as well is making sure that your decisions are properly questioned or scrutinized by others. Do you have almost an internal board of directors or a group of people that you respect, who you’ll go to to use as a sounding board when you’re making important decisions?


Totally. I am blessed. I’m surrounded by people who are way more competent than I am in almost every way. My group of friends is amazing. We e-mail hundreds of times a week often. Just little things from “here’s an article I thought was interesting” to “here’s a problem I’m struggling with”. Being open and honest and even vulnerable to a large extent about those problems means that we’re all getting better and we’re all learning from each other.

One of the things that I recognized early on is that I spent a lot of time in an organization and I (individuals spend a lot of time in organizations where they) didn’t really learn a lot in terms of other people and how they make decisions, so I wasn’t learning from them.

This is why I think a lot of organizations are doomed to repeat the same mistakes, because they’re not really encouraging their employees to learn.

It’s more like a coin toss and certain people get ahead, whether it’s a meritocracy or not.

I’m not learning from the person next to me and if we don’t have a structured process, it doesn’t have to be formal, but it has to be “what is the information I need to get from you to learn about your domain of expertise so that I can increase my competence in that?”

I might never be an expert in that domain, but by and large I can learn from you and be better than I was before.

I think with my close friends and the people that I spend a lot of time with, I learn something different from each of them constantly. (You need to surround yourself with people smarter than you—even if you’re making friends with the eminent dead.)


You’re very much a believer in the idea of surrounding yourself and being the average of the five people you spend around most with them?


Oh, I’m below average. I bring the average down amongst the people I hang around with most often.

Part of it is that, but part of it is also you need to take what other people do and chew on it and make it your own, and I think that’s where a lot of people fall down.

It’s not about copying other people, it’s not about coming up with a process that works for somebody else. It’s about what process works for me?

In some cases that process is almost like a mental checklist, in some cases it’s a conversation. Any issues to deal with people, I want to have a conversation on, I don’t really want to have a mental checklist on. (When it comes to investing or companies that we operate or anything like that, then I want to have a more structured approach to those decisions and be less ad hoc with them.)

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You can follow Shane on Twitter and Facebook.

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Farnam Street (Shane Parrish)

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Understand how the world works | @farnamstreet | The Knowledge Project Podcast

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

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