gregbo (gregbo) wrote,

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"If you're the smartest person where you work, quit"

This quote tends to pop up in some places, such as Paul Tyma's post on why he works at Google. An argument in favor of this is that you will generally learn more from people who are smarter than you. An argument to the contrary is that if you are the smartest person where you work, people are relying on you, and if you can get the job done, it is a form of job security.

Not that I was the smartest person at AV or even in my group, but there was a time early in 2001, not long after a big layoff, that I turned down an offer from another company. It was a very small startup. I rationalized my decision on the grounds that AV was in the process of trying to turn itself around (read: be "the search company" and abandon its portal ambitions), and that I "knew my job," so was unlikely to be laid off (as long as the company was not bought by another company with a better infrastructure for processing web traffic). At the time, I was pretty burned out, and unsure that I could handle the pressures of a new job, particularly doing something I hadn't done in a long time. (In fact, one of the AV VPs suggested that I not start up a new job right away due to burnout.) I didn't want to take the chance that I wouldn't do a good enough job, but couldn't return to AV because my position would have been filled, or they would have outsourced the work. I think some people would argue that I should have left, but I'm not sure that would have been a good decision.

If anything, here's what I would like to learn:

  • How the mind of a genius works (and how to make my mind do that)
  • How to recall quickly, and on command (such as at a test or on an interview), everything I ever learned

Seriously ... sometimes when I write about learning, problem solving, etc., I think I am writing about something else, like money. However, I don't (consciously) want to be wealthy. (I certainly don't act that way.) OTOH, sometimes I would like to be able to do things that some of the wealthy people I know are able to do. I would like to be able to afford good medical coverage when I'm no longer able to work. Also, I'd like to be able to have people over from my chorus for get-togethers, and if we ever do any more choral exchanges, to host people who've hosted me in the past. Both of those things take a lot of time and effort, so I also would like to be able to reserve enough time to do those things, but not be risking the ability to get the work done I need to get done (translated: make money?). It bothers me that I think about wealth, since I never used to until being unemployed. (In the past, such as around the time I started grad school, I perceived being smart as a means to get onto a better, more fun project, and had nothing to do with money.)
Tags: career, education
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