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Good writing and ok advice for someone who wants to run a grocery business. But it is absolutely untrue that "brilliant" men cannot also be careful, detail-oriented and have good business sense and skills. And certainly innovation and risk taking can be just as critical in business as following proven formulas and paying close attention to the bottom line. It depends on the business and circumstance. Overall I think in the context of high technology, the article is dated.



While this article can be seen as dated in regards to the definition of success that the author posits (making himself and 20 men rich by the standards of the locality), I think that the path the author lays out to achieving that success is still very relevant to this day.

The author was not denigrating "brilliant" men; instead he was explaining a type of "brilliant" person that focuses their energy on coming up with brilliant ideas, but will not stay focused long enough to see it through to finish. Imagine if you are reliant on a co-founder who wants to be pivot every 6 months simply because all of the challenges of the first brilliant idea are solved, and all that remains is the hard work and execution?

The outcome of that scenario would likely be the outcome he experienced in his first business venture with his college friend, "[Carroll] is a bad employer for himself, but he could put a lot of ginger into somebody else's business. . ."


I think the point he was trying to make was brilliant men arent exactly:

>careful, detail-oriented and have good business sense and skills.

He was referring to the brilliant man who dress flashy, go to the hottest clubs, befriend people in higher stature, and dont really contribute to goals. They just have flashy ideas and move on to the next without realizing the goals of the first idea.


A lot of Silicon Valley, then.


I think you are interpretating the text a little too literally. I think the author is very much aware that the “brilliant” men he describes, are in fact only so in their own minds. The text is a cautionary tale that warns about being too impressed with someone just because they act self confidently.


His use of "brilliant" has little to do with IQ. It's a conflation of (a) creativity (which correlates, as he observes, with manic-depressive patterns and unreasonable expectations of others) and (b) superficial charisma (which correlates with narcissism and substance abuse). Those are two types of "flashiness" that he makes the mistake of conflating.

I'm category (a): creative, prone to mood swings, basically reliable but bad at the superficial reliability contests that determine advancement in most organizations. Yes, someone like me can be detail-oriented and show business acumen. We can be reliable. We're just not as competitive at being reliable (especially in the superficial ways, which are important in customer service) as others. If you need +3 sigma reliability-- someone who can work 100-hour weeks and not miss details or break rules or even become annoying-- you don't want +3 sigma creativity.


Does "+3 sigma creativity" actually mean anything?

(I'm aware enough of the rough technical definition, I mean in the sense that if you think there are 500,000 super special people in the U.S. can you do anything useful to find them?)


I was just using it ("+3 sigma") to mean "high-level" creativity and could have just as easily said "99.9th percentile" or some other number. No, I don't know of a good way to test for it.

My point is that there's a strong negative correlation, especially at the competitive upper reaches, between creativity and the sort os superficial reliability that (a) tends to determine a person's ability to advance in organizations, and (b) you'd probably want in someone you put in front of difficult clients on a regular basis.


Is this correlation just something you believe based on personal experience, or do you have some more substantial basis?


Upvoting for conflation (my favourite word) and making it known that "brilliant" may have been used a different way back then.


I don't think it's a mistake. That was correct usage of the word "brilliant" in 1920.


Which one? Creativity or charisma? They're two entirely separate traits.


Based on books I've read that were written in the 10's, 20's or 30's, I think charisma is closer.




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