Who is the smartest person you know?
“And how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?” – Homer Simpson
Growing up, my father was the smartest person I knew. He taught physics and math in the Navy and always helped me with my homework assignments and school projects. One of my favorite stories to tell is how he encouraged me to sign up for an intro to calculus class during my last year in high school. I did, and after the first class, I was lost. I pulled out my books at the dining room table and looked at my dad for help. He gave me a sheepish look and said, “I don’t know calculus, you’re on your own.” I surpassed my father’s knowledge in mathematics that year and continued to do so during university as I went on to pursue a math minor to accompany my English major. Not only did I learn calculus, but I also learned statistics and for a short period wanted to be a statistician. Until my professor told me the demand for statisticians wasn’t as great as one would think.
I still maintain that my father is an extremely intelligent individual. So much so that I think it’s affected his socialization skills as an adult. Is he the smartest person I know? No, if only because somewhere along the way he stopped learning.
I have a smart husband however, and he’s (very) likely the smartest person I know. He has built a very solid and successful career on skills he either taught himself or learned from his father. He began playing on computers as a kid, was writing programs before he was a teen, had a job in the US as a software developer before he was 20. He started a company with his father in his early 20s which they then sold and his current job is with the same company that bought him and his dad out. He doesn’t have any university education.
He’s constantly learning, constantly reading things online that gives him either practical skills that he can apply to day to day things or makes him an articulate and educated conversationalist. I hate arguing with him mostly because he has an answer for everything. Like my father, he doesn’t have the best social skills and people sometimes offend easily in his presence. When (and if) possible, I try and soften the blow by explaining what he was trying to say. Because of this, people often describe him as arrogant. And he is; he doesn’t try and hide his intelligence when dealing with the average person. I don’t blame him either; and yet it can make things awkward when we meet new people.