Smart People Steal From Smart People

Take, adapt, and apply what you learn from smart people

Danny Forest
3 min readSep 23, 2020


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels (Adapted)

I used to be pretty dumb. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time. Sadly, like most people, I had to learn that in hindsight.

Why do I say I was dumb?

Mostly because I used to think that there were answers to everything. I was always seeking answers, and never asking the right questions. As I grow older, I realize that answers just aren’t as valuable as good questions.

Eventually, I became smarter.

It happened when I started hanging out with smarter people than me. I began to steal their thought process. I began to think as they think. I became more open to the possibility than my answers were just part of other plausible answers. I learned that there’s no black and white, only shades of grey.

I remember two particular times when I was speaking with friends who owned pretty successful businesses in the video games industry. One was the CEO of one company, and the other was the CTO of another one.

I knew these two guys well, and I knew for a fact that they were no smarter than me. Yet, somehow, they grew their businesses year over year while I was struggling with mine. They both told me their secret, and it was the same for both of them:

“I hire people smarter than me.” — Smart executives

They were right! When I looked at the people working for them, they were incredibly smart people. In the things they were hired for, they were indeed smarter than the people who hired them.

But why would smart people work for less smart people?

Simple! There are plenty of smart people not interested in leadership positions or higher management.

I was reminded of this concept of smart people stealing from smart people when I read Ryan Holiday’s 33 Things I Stole From People Smarter Than Me. In his article, he shares ideas he has taken from other people and how he applied them in his life.

Just by reading his headline, I was thinking: “isn’t Ryan Holiday already a smart guy?” And then it dawned on me — only smart people steal from smart people. Others are too busy thinking they are…



Danny Forest

Polymath. Life Optimizer. Learner. Entrepreneur. Engineer. Writer.