You’re Never The Dumbest Person In The Room

By Katie Bertrand, 27, a freelance fiction and narrative non-fiction writer. She lives in Caro, USA. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

“I’m applying a therapeutic ultrasound system, one that creates cavitation bubbles in the body that breaks down tumors, towards breaking open timber & other tough tissue to release DNA and enable endangered species screening tests. “

As this sentence rolled off my dear friends’ tongue, I stood there, drink in hand and mind in a whirl as I tried to comprehend what I’d just heard.

I was standing amongst several Biomedical Engineers, all of whom were around my same age. They were taking turns talking excitedly about things that were, for the most part, flying right over my head. I looked around and realized at that moment I was quite possibly the dumbest person in the room.

Three years ago, I wholeheartedly believed that thought. It was a humbling experience to say the least. I remember that feeling oh so well, and it wasn’t the first time I’d felt it, nor would it be the last. That dear friend of mine had invited my husband and I out that night to celebrate the coming of the New Year with a few of his classmates and colleagues. We’d all went to high school together, and he’d graduated as our valedictorian. From there he’d gone on to study at Michigan Tech, and he was, without a doubt, a genius by all educational standards.

Myself? Well, I’d graduated somewhere in the middle of the pack in high school, continued my education by earning my Bachelors in Product Development from Western Michigan University, and then found my way into an account manager role at a designer shoe company in Seattle. I loved writing, fashion, and healthy cooking. Who was I in the midst of these geniuses?

I’ll tell you who I wasn’t. I wasn’t a person who knew a single thing about Biomedical Engineering. I’d never studied it, I’d never read a single thing about it, and truthfully it sounded to me like a term that would be used in the latest Sci-Fi thriller. However, that didn’t make me the dumbest person in the room. That made me the least educated person in the room in that specific field of study.

In the company of these scientists, I was no match for their conversation in their specialty. Yet as I’ve grown a bit and experienced a little more of the world I’ve learned that so is the way of the world in what makes us a functioning society.

Just as my friend knew about DNA, a farmer knows the correct planting seasons and agricultural maintenance that goes into a successful harvest. A mechanic knows why your alignment may be off, or how much longer you can safely drive with a bent tire rim. A homemaker knows the secret to getting the toughest stains out, and the best way to feed a family of eight on a tight budget.

Each expertise requires its own “geniuses”, even if the person is only considered so in their trade.

My great grandmother used to tell my mom, “You don’t necessarily have to know everything about one thing, you just have to know enough about a lot of things”. She was advising my mother that knowledge is power. This tidbit of advice now also securely stays embedded in my own brain. Thanks mom.

In our day and age, this is a much easier thing to do than it was for my great grandmother’s generation. We have the opportunity for knowledge at our disposal. No matter what background you come from or your circumstances, it is as simple as ‘if there’s a will then there’s a way.’

Do you as an individual have the willpower to persevere when the going gets tough? When things look hopeless, will you find a light? When you come to a fork in the road about your future, will you recognize that you do have a choice? If you think you don’t, then here are a few statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Labor and Education to help put things in perspective:

·         75% of crimes in the U.S. are committed by high school dropouts

·         90% of American jobs are not open to high school dropouts

·         $200 more a week is made by high school graduates than dropouts

Some might say there are quite a few advantages to choosing education.    

We are in a time when you can learn how to change the oil in your car by watching a 5-minute YouTube video. Where you can search Google for what the best types of houseplants or greenery are to start your new indoor garden, and have pages of answers, pictures, and even “top 10 best indoor plants” lists at your fingertips. You can even get a college education from the comfort of your home, without having to change out of those oh so cozy favorite pajamas of yours. My oh my, how our world has changed. The excuse for ignorance is becoming harder and harder to justify.

“He who opens a school door closes a prison” – Victor Hugo stated the power of education so simply in the best way that he knew how; poetically. For he was a poet, a novelist, and by all measurable standards a scholar. Now he sure knew how to write a meaningful statement, but how much do you think he knew about Biomedical Engineering? About the initial process of production that goes into designing a shoe? Or even, how to follow a conversation between a few army buddies that’s 95% composed of ‘inside army’ lingo?… Speaking from personal experience here.

Playing into his own personal strengths Hugo flung open a school door for himself and slammed shut any sign of a prison. He empowered himself with knowledge.

Like Hugo, we are all able to sidestep the imaginary metal bars that our own doubts and fabricated capabilities can try to enclose us in. If we allow ourselves, that is.

To believe that you are powerless in changing your circumstance, or that you aren’t capable of becoming more is the same thing as locking yourself into that prison cell & throwing away the key. We are all capable, and we all have a school door open, even if when you open that door you find that you’re the only one in your class. Just ask Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, or J.K. Rowling, they seem to have done all right in their special fields of study.

To place limits on yourself is to imprison yourself. Be curious, pick up that book, watch that YouTube video, or Google search anything and everything to your heart’s desire.

Learn a skill, learn a trade, learn a passion, learn something. Let it drive you, let it intrigue you, and let it empower you to know that if you do, you will never be the dumbest person in the room.

39 comments on “You’re Never The Dumbest Person In The Room

  1. Liz Shanks on

    Many years on in life, after failures and successes, luck and some good decisions, we arrive at retirement and the senior years. There have been moments of feeling dumb and times of having confidence that we actually have some wisdom to offer our friends, children, acquaintances. Katie is right. Everyone has something they can do really well that they can share. Finding what that is can take awhile, but it’s something worth pursuing. Sometimes it takes a lifetime.

    Reply
    • Katie Bertrand on

      Thank you for the read and for the wise and true insight, Liz! I definitely agree that finding your specialty/trade/passion is worth pursuing, no matter what stage of life you’re at.

      Reply
  2. Bianca on

    More time than I can count I’ve felt like the dumbest person in the room. It’s so easy to bring yourself down with doubt based on others knowledge and expertise. Thank you for writing Katie.

    Reply
    • Katie Bertrand on

      It certainly is, how funny we can be so insightful on 1 thing and completely oblivious on another! Thank you for the read!

      Reply
  3. Uncle Rick on

    Great story Katie! Smart people don’t need to impress others with quasi intellectualism or gobbledygook. The smartest person in the room is usually the one listening to what’s going on.

    Years ago an old redneck car salesman told me this, “You know, there’s an ass for every seat”. That’s so true when you think about it, not everyone is going to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.. Some people are more than happy walking around with a leaf blower all day and some may one day be famous writers. I think you headed in that direction.

    Keep it up.

    Reply
    • Katie Bertrand on

      Thank you for the read Rick and I especially like that “gobbledygook” word, I might have to put that to use down the line! Ha! That redneck car salesman certainly had words of wisdom ‘in his own way’. By pursuing interests and listening to other’s perspectives and experiences we can learn so much from the world.

      Reply
  4. B's Aunt Rose on

    Thank you Katie. Very well stated. As one who has changed direction in her career several times, it was always my experiences and new knowledge that propelled me from fashion to admin to accounting. Nothing I learned was ever wasted. Like you said, knowing a little about a lot things is power. Well done.

    Reply
    • Katie Bertrand on

      I certainly agree that each tidbit of knowledge we learn, whether that be from experiences or different jobs is valuable. You never know when you’ll need to pull that knowledge out to put it to use! Thanks for the read!

      Reply
  5. B's Aunt Rose on

    Thank you Katie. Very well stated. As one who has changed direction in her career several times, it was always my experiences and new knowledge that propelled me forward from fashion to admin to accounting. Nothing I learned was ever wasted and so many unrelated topics became relevant in various situations. Like you said, knowing a little about a lot things is power. Well done.

    Reply
  6. Susan Reim on

    Interesting article with wisdom beyond 27 years of age. You are so right, Katie. No one person can know everything about everything, but each one of us is a specialist in something. I look forward to reading more of your articles, Katie.

    Reply
  7. Roxann on

    This is so very true and in my opinion accurate. I before have felt like “the dumbest person in the room ” but when by chance conversations turned to something I knew about then they were learning from them. We all bring something to the table of life some have bigger suitcases than others but they are never empty.

    Reply
    • Katie Bertrand on

      I love that last line you wrote Roxann, ‘some have bigger suitcases than others but they are never empty’. How true and wise that is. Thank you for sharing and for the read!

      Reply
  8. Brenda Somerville on

    Excellent ! Without the many different levels of abilities in all of us society would chase it’s own tail and never make progress. Wonderfully written .

    Reply
  9. Rachael Cain on

    Beautifully written. About 9 years ago, my daughter was graduating from Alma College. For graduation, the seniors had to present their projects. I went and listened to hers and understood what was being said, because she has talked about this project for months.

    One of her classmates didn’t have a parent there for her presentation so she ask me to come. Of course, I said ,”yes.” As she explained the DNA fusion project of some sort, I knew I was over my head. So, I watched how she talked to the crowd, how she spoke and explained to others in the room that had more knowledge than I. When she finished, she asked how it was. My answer. “I didn’t truly understand all of the information that you presented but you talked to the crowd, made eye contact with the audience and spoke with passion.” This was exactly what she needed. She only needed someone to listen and acknowledge that she presented her project with knowledge and wisdom.

    Reply
    • Katie Bertrand on

      You sound like you were right on and great support, Rachael! It’s impossible for us to think we can know everything about, well, everything! But as long as we’re willing to listen with interest to other’s passions & engage in the way we can, then I think we’re doing just great. Thank you for the read!

      Reply
  10. Tina Celentano on

    Hi Katie, this is such a thoughtful, beautifully written piece that has so much truth! Thanks for reminding us that we all have areas of expertise we need to embrace and celebrate. I hope all is well with you and Caleb!

    Reply
    • Katie Bertrand on

      Thank you so much, Tina, that is so kind! I definitely do believe that we’re all bound to be experts in something, as long as we keep striving for whatever that ‘something’ may be. Hope all is well with you and your wonderful family!

      Reply
  11. Berna Halac-Freeman on

    Very well written. I think in this world of everyone wildly sharing their lives on social media, young people feel overwhelmed comparing themselves to the larger-than-life images of their friends.

    Reply
    • Katie Bertrand on

      I certainly agree, Berna! It’s easy for my generation and all of us to get in the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ mentality. Thank you for the insight and read!

      Reply
  12. Jackie Barrows on

    Hi Katie! Great work on this piece! Constant comparison of one’s self to what others are doing is usually the main reason why most people choose not to learn something new. Your article is a great encouragement for folks to keep going! Best wishes!

    Reply
    • Katie Bertrand on

      Hi Jackie, I completely agree! It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you might ‘fail’ in comparison, but within every attempt, there’s an opportunity to learn & improve your own strengths. Thanks for the read and insight!

      Reply
  13. Uncle Pat on

    Well written article! Genuine and to the point. I enjoyed it very much! The least intelligent person in the room is usually the one talking too much.
    Maybe they have something to prove!
    “Passion drives Attention, Attention drives Learning!”

    Reply
  14. Christine Drake on

    I feel like this often around my husband when we go to his work events or spend time with his friends/coworkers. Thank you for this insight, i enjoyed reading it and i am glad i am not the only one who has felt this way.

    Reply
    • Katie Bertrand on

      Christine, I hear ya! When I’ve been around my husband and his coworkers and they started using work terms only they would know…I was lost. But then again, he’s felt the same way before when he’s been around my coworkers. It’s all about what you’re familiar with and what you know!

      Reply
  15. Mark Bales on

    Kaitlyn, that is a wonderfully written and very astute opinion on the advantages of being educated. Especially speaking to being educated in areas that a one is particularly skilled at or interested in. For you to then extrapolate for the reader and provide insight and guidance so that the insecurities imposed, whether intentional or not, by those more educated in other areas in order to provide comfort and confidence when those insecurities might become intimidating is just a wonderful service and advice that you’ve provided to humanity. Very proud of you and this article, and you provide evidence to the world that there is still kindness and goodness in the world, and the world is a better place with you in it. Thank you,,,,MARK

    Reply
  16. Katie Bertrand on

    I am so appreciative of this comment & the compliment, Mark. Thank you for the kind words and taking the time to read & reflect on my article!

    Reply
  17. Sharon Stolz on

    I truly enjoyed reading this article. I remember when I first started working in a law office feeling that I was intellectually less than. I soon learned that I had something to offer that can’t be taught. This was well written and thought provoking. I hope that this article will cause dialogue that will
    lead to more appreciation of individuals and their diverse talents and gifts. Great job Katie.

    Reply
    • Katie Bertrand on

      Thank you for the feedback! Going into a new job can be such an intimidating experience, but right on that they hired YOU for a reason. There are so many different talents out there that individuals can offer, just one of the things that makes people so interesting.

      Reply

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