Geniuses vs. Smart People

Has anyone ever worked with a true genius? The data sample of people in finance and consulting obviously skews towards smart people, but have any of you really worked with someone whose brain functioned on a completely higher level? What were the noticeable differences with this? 

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Comments (38)

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Sep 8, 2021 - 2:17pm

One of my MDs is like this, likely falls in the genius category. His understanding of and views on his coverage landscape are absolutely incredible. I learn new things just by listening to him ramble. Not a salesy relationship kind of guy but is the first call for a small group of his core clients, even if just to talk shop.

Also an absolute mad man with a ton of quirks lol. 

- His office looks like a fucking warzone, literally pages of notes on every surface. Asked him for some guidance on an industry piece once and he dug out a page of his notes from the 90s from a teetering stack of paper up to my knees

- Walks around the office in his socks that usually don't match. Saw him walking around town one weekend with no shoes

- Refuses to have the broader team join any pitches as "you make me nervous". I'll have to get him up to speed on every piece of analysis so he can present it himself

- Client once asked for his thoughts on their M&A strategy. Called him a polite derivative of moron, shared his thoughts and we won the mandate

- Hates conflict. Some of the juniors try to take advantage of this by pushing back on reasonable deadlines or simple pieces of work. Just responds with "OK"

Absolute gem of a guy. Not a rainmaker but has a steady stable of really old relationships where he is always the first call.

Sep 8, 2021 - 3:25pm

Assburgers, calling it now. Ask him if he knows who Michael Burry is.

...and the Truth shall set you free
  • 1
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Sep 9, 2021 - 1:44pm

Sounds like Michael Burry 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 1
Sep 8, 2021 - 2:54pm

I can think of one guy I worked with who probably had a normal-ish IQ (in the 115 to 130 range) but was a true genius in his niche, which was real estate and its ancillary functions. He was such a nice guy, but his next level analysis and strategy and Excel skills and ability to understand maps and talk intelligently with $1,000/hour attorneys just made me feel like a complete moron. It's not like he had eons of experience--he was the head of a $1 billion asset family RE company at the age of 35. Some people just have the "it" factor.

His alma mater was a school so laughable that it wasn't even listed on his public linkedin profile. So, ya know, some genius develops later in life.


  • 5
Sep 9, 2021 - 5:56am

Good to see I'm not the only one doing this kind of stuff

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

  • 1
Sep 8, 2021 - 4:10pm

Genius or visionary?  This is the real question.  Most geniuses end up in hyper specialized areas of focus where their genius is never really discovered outside of the narrow niche.  

I would argue vissionaries are the people who actually change things, they come from both the genius and smart people category.  But the difference here is they have the tools to actually put their intelligence to work on changes that impact millions if not billions of people.

  • Associate 1 in HF - Other
Sep 9, 2021 - 12:16am

One of my close friends, learnt how to read by himself at 3 or 4. At top quant fund now (think Two Sigma, Citadel)

Well yeah he can be considered a genius. 

He learns everything much faster, can pick up abstract concepts quicker with little further explanation. He's a bit detached to others though, since he tends to get himself suck into intellectual avenues that others find obscure, the dude even spent his free time on astrophysics. Bit geeky but I guess that's who he is.

Doesn't care much about relationships even though he had a few girlfriends before. Once relationship drama ensued, he's out. Very low tolerance for dissonance and confrontation.  

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Sep 9, 2021 - 12:24am

are there any geniuses out there that are aggressive and proactive as well? (in a non socially austic way)

Sep 9, 2021 - 12:35am

Pretty good question actually. The differentiation varies quite a bit depending on the role. For example I have a good friend at Two Sigma who I'd consider a genius and is easily the smartest guy I know by a long shot but I wouldn't call him the smartest given I bucket being "smart" in a professional context as having both the brains but more importantly the social and political acumen required to succeed in your chosen field. Some roles require one more than the other but I would say that the intellectual skills my buddy at TS possesses would certainly behoove him well in banking to a degree but he wouldn't be the best or smartest given he isn't as socially adept as others who aren't as smart on an IQ level but crush it on the EQ stuff. 

  • 3
Sep 9, 2021 - 4:13am

when I was going through my bipolar manic episode I thought that I was a genius. I felt like a genius at least. I thought that I was thinking 100x faster than usual, like my mind was on hyperdrive. if I was like that 24/7 I feel like people would be calling me genius in a spiritual shaman oracle type of sense.

Sep 9, 2021 - 7:05am

One of my brothers is a genius. Displays some of the typical "absent minded" qualities you think of but it's just a matter of not being of interest vs. not knowing. He has a stunning breath of knowledge on anything he cares about. His unique ability is consuming, digesting, and internalizing  an enormous amount of material (both technical and non technical) quickly to the point where he is considered a topic expert. Then he can break it down to the laymen in fast order, almost immediately. He is both quant and non quant ( a scientist and a musician) so both sides of the brain are working full time. Capacity to plow through numerous projects simultaneously, while excelling at keynote speaking engagements and writing / performing the companies holiday jingles.

One attribute he possesses that sets genius' apart is his intellectual curiosity. He loves learning things just for the sake of gaining knowledge.

Sep 12, 2021 - 11:03am

Actually, my brother ( the genius) is a PhD in Neuro Science and an expert in human performance and factoring (delivers c-suite F500 keynote speeches, testifies at congressional hearings, and consults with the federal gov't on mission critical issues) would disagree with you. He has studied the nervous system ad nauseum and knows what fires what in the brain. Is published on that very topic. Of course there are lots of opposing views on many things. 

  • Associate 1 in IB - Cov
Sep 9, 2021 - 12:31pm

Yes a couple people at business school.  A lot of times people describe a genius then list all their eccentric qualities.  I don't think all geniuses are eccentric, and there are definitely people out there that are more or less normal but definitely see the world at a higher level.  You can see it in their eyes and expressions that their brain is functioning at a much higher level.  I'm completely serious btw.  

Sep 9, 2021 - 2:27pm


"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Sep 11, 2021 - 8:53am

Any recommendations for a good IQ test? Been thinking of taking one.


Sep 12, 2021 - 9:53am

But I was wondering you guys remember that thing about like you are smarter if you exercise and workout and etc to raise testosterone/hormone level? Why are some people "nerdy" and doesn't work out but their IQ is insane? Are they just built different?

Sep 10, 2021 - 12:14pm

Do you all think high finance attracts its share of geniuses? Really not sure of the answer as I have observed a significant percent of very bright candidates from schools such as UChicago, MiT, and Caltech (for example) seem to pursue other professional careers like computer science, mathematics, and engineering. 

By the way, some of the smartest people I know (or have met) are actually musicians!

  • PM in HF - Other
Sep 10, 2021 - 11:41pm

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Sep 12, 2021 - 10:04am

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