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It’s smart to pretend to be stupid – here are six reasons why

We Overestimate…

It's Smart To Pretend Stupid…what we think we know and we underestimate what we don’t know. We think we’re pretty smart.  We move quickly.  We think quickly.  We know how to solve problems and get things done. We’re pretty smart and we act like it.

Guess what?

Acting Smart Is Stupid

When we believe we Know-It-All, we don’t…

  • Listen
  • Observe
  • Ask Questions
  • Take Notes
  • Study
  • Imagine

When we’re secure in our smartness, we stop growing.  If we stop growing , while things and people around us, vibrate and whistle with change, disruption and evolution revolution, we’re doomed.  It’s just a matter of time.  Doomed.  Doomed. Doomed.

So let’s down trip that trail.  Instead, I believe…

Acting Stupid Is Smart

What I think we should do, is consciously engage as if we were stupid. Yes. I propose we pretend to be stupid.

If we were stupid instead of smart, we would…

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  • Listen
  • Observe
  • Ask Questions
  • Take Notes
  • Study
  • Imagine

When our big-brains and hyper-keen attention, revs from an over confident idle to WFO, we discover and uncover what we need to help us grow.  If we stay sharp and renew ourselves, we will remain relevant, attractive and choosable. Choosable. Choosable. Choosable.

So let’s keep this in mind….

The kiss of doom is over-estimating what we think we know and under-estimating what we don’t.

What-uh-ya say?  Let’s make a pact.  Just between us Smarty Pants People.  Let’s be even smarter than we thought we were, by acting as if were stupid.  Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.


Cheers and thanks for reading.

Written By

Ken Brand - Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors. I’ve proudly worn a Realtor tattoo for over 10,957+ days, practicing our craft in San Diego, Austin, Aspen and now, The Woodlands, TX. As a life long learner, I’ve studied, read, written, taught, observed and participated in spectacular face plant failures and giddy inducing triumphs. I invite you to read my blog posts here at Agent Genius and On the lighter side, you can follow my folly on Twitter and Facebook. Of course, you’re always to welcome to take the shortcut and call: 832-797-1779.



  1. Jordan

    April 12, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Alright so I figured this out when I was just a teenager! It wasn’t for business–it was for boys! They would slip and say something sort of offensive to their buddy right in front of me and quickly glance in my direction. I totally heard it, but if I acted like I had no interest in their conversation, they’d relax and continue the boy to boy talk and I’d get to hear it all! Sneaky, I know. Playing dumb has so many upsides.

    Let me clarify, not “blond moment” dumb, just unassuming-not-quite-sure-tell-me-more dumb. 🙂

    Thanks for the reminder.

    • Ken Brand

      April 12, 2010 at 8:37 am

      I’m not surprised. Experience has taught me that the female tribe is consistently crafty. Not really pretending to be stupid, more like slipping their ego into neutral and acting casual, while they soak it all in.

      I know sometimes, hopefully not as often these days, my guy-ego won’t shut the hell up and I miss out on what’s really going on at the moment.

      Thanks for sharing, Smarty Pants.


  2. Tavia Ritter

    April 12, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I love this.
    I think if more people would close thier mouth and open their ears…they could open their minds to other points of view and expand on so many levels. (including in business, folks!)
    One of the biggest issues I see with people struggling to make something of themselves is the inability to get out of their own way.
    Ask questions.
    Then be quiet and listen to the answers.
    Then ask more questions.
    We don’t know everything, and that’s okay.

  3. Gina Kay Landis

    April 12, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Ken, ater being the answer person most of my life to many people, I found that this feeds the “know-it-all-ready-answer” syndrome. Since figuring that out, I try not to jump in *all* the time with a bit of knowledge because frankly, to do so right away means I will (as you noted) miss something – a key point, a nuance… so monitoring myself has been key, (and difficult), to any successes I have had in any area in life.

    • Ken Brand

      April 12, 2010 at 10:13 am

      After a while, it’s easy to think we’ve seen and heard this movie umpteen-dozen times. We hear it again and our brain-waves wink-out, while we wait to solve the problem. The problem is because we’re sleep walking in our smartness, we miss what’s important.

      Cheers to self-monitoring Gina.

  4. BawldGuy

    April 12, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I think we may have shared a Grandma. 🙂 This post reminded me fondly of a couple things she endlessly repeated to me.

    You know what you know ’till someone knows more or knows it better.

    If you ever just think you’re pretending not to know it all, you’re already doomed.

    How many times have we heard half of a random sentence and learned something astounding?

  5. Ken Brand

    April 12, 2010 at 10:32 am

    You know Jeff, I grew up running the streets, canyons and beaches of San Diego. Went to Bay Park Elementary and Clairemont High. Who knows, maybe we’re related.

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but yeah, I’m always blown away by how smart, clever, insightful and wise some people are. Especially if I shut the hell up, quiet my inner-voices and simply sit and listen, observe and think real hard.

  6. BawldGuy

    April 12, 2010 at 10:36 am

    My most recent listing was a couple baseball throws from Clairemont Hi. 🙂

  7. Peggy

    April 12, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Hi, Ken: I’m new to your blogs, but enjoyed reading them. I agree with you about not acting like the smartest person in the room all of the time. As a self-employed investigator, I have used this technique for several years in interviewing individuals. In order to get people to trust you, open up, and share information, you have to gain their respect and trust. Being, or acting like the smartest person in the room, actually only feeds your ego, and sometimes just intimidates or alienates the other person. it doesn’t always benefit you and it does not always get you where you need to be. I often have to tell myself to just stay quiet and listen and I will gain more information and insight than I ever would by talking. Thanks for the great advice and your input on the subject.

  8. Ken Brand

    April 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Good point Peggy. I guess we should all be open-minded investigators. You make some great points, and now I’m thinking another reason to pretend stupid is maybe the smart people we interact with are playing stupid and learning that the BIG EGO in the room, who isn’t listening, is actually the dumb one….but they (BIG EGO) don’t know it. Arrgggg….reverse, reverse dimensional thinking.

    Thanks for the feedback. Cheers.

  9. Ramadan Radwan

    April 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    i just wanted to take some time to thank you for the post.

    we always learn at our life,

    just wanted to mention the Difference between who is learn and who is not it’s like the life and death

  10. Joe Loomer

    April 12, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    I was once at a Navy conference where the agenda was to revamp the whole bibliography of study materials for Navy Cryptologists to make it more current and relevant. One of the publications on the chopping block was titled “Security and Emergency Destruction.” The room was chock-a-bloc with big hitters in our little slice of Navy-dom, all spouting how out-dated and obsolete the material was (a course designed to teach safeguarding highly classified material, and how to destroy it securely and rapidly in the case of emergency/enemy acts, etc.). The conversation went on for a good 45 minutes until Master Chief Wally Bischer – who had not said a word – simply stated “what’s the fastest way to make a CT (crypto-tech) a non-CT (lose their job)?”

    He acted stupid up until the point he revealed his brilliance – keep the course and update it, or remove it and risk compromise of material due to lack of education.

    My comment may not be too relevant to most folks on here – but it’s the first thing I thought of – my big mouth got me in to plenty of pinches in my younger days – pinches I could have avoided by shutting up and listening before acting. Thanks for another great referesher, Ken!

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    • Ken Brand

      April 12, 2010 at 11:07 pm

      We should all wear a muzzle for a day. See what we learn?

  11. Paul Stoltzfus

    April 12, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Refreshing you are, Ken!

    • Ken Brand

      April 12, 2010 at 11:08 pm

      Now if I can practice what I preach, I’d really be something. Thanks Paul

  12. Andrew McKay

    April 12, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Warning a big generalization coming up:) I’m a Brit who spent a year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and now live in Canada where my daughter is at elementary school. The North American education system in my (limited) experience encourages and rewards the student to say something, anything. The number of classes I took where a student just repeated what had been said by the teacher was in the majority. At my daughters school you get get marks for contributing anything. Even at Real estate school hans would shoot up to ask the most inane questions.
    If your educated this way its a difficult habit to break, to just keep your mouth shut..

    • Ken Brand

      April 12, 2010 at 11:12 pm

      Interesting observation. Speak Up is most definitely what’s taught and what attracts attention these days. When I was a kid, way back in the days of Gas Wars, Pong and Rabbit Ear Antennas, my dad would smack us if we broke the rule, “Don’t speak until spoken too.” Sadly, over the years I’ve grown to talk more than i listen. Trying to come correct. Cheers and thanks for the feedback.

  13. rob white

    April 14, 2010 at 8:00 am

    I love this concept Ken. I have a little trick I use to break that barrier. I often preface a question or of statement with “I have a stupid question…” or “Here’s a stupid idea…” and proceed. What comes next is usually insightful OR it IS stupid… but who cares since you taken all the negative energy out of feeling stupid. The only stupid idea is NO idea.

    • Ken Brand

      April 15, 2010 at 5:01 pm

      Nice point Rob. Vanishing the tension and relaxing into it. Smart stuff. Thanks.

  14. Anthony @ Indianapolis Real Estate

    April 15, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Good advice. I know a former professor of applied Mathematics who said that once he reached the highest terminative level of Math — a Ph.D. — he realized how much he DIDN’T know. Whereas he would constantly encounter individuals who were studying at the lower levels of math, such as Bachelor’s level students who thought the knew a lot about math.

    The point is, no matter how much we think we know, it’s not nearly as much as we actually know, and sometimes it takes trying to completely master a subject, to learn all that is humanly possible to know about it, to finally arrive at an appreciation for how little we REALLY know.

    • Ken Brand

      April 15, 2010 at 5:06 pm

      Anthony, As you’ve shared, the truth is, the more you know, the more you know, you don’t know. Here’s a quote from American Gangster, it applies here, “The loudest one in the room is the weakest.” Not always 100% true, but something to think about.

      Thanks for the share.

  15. Susie Blackmon

    April 16, 2010 at 5:38 am

    There is one guaranteed way to make men act stupid.

    • Ken Brand

      April 16, 2010 at 6:03 am

      Susie, the benefits are multi-dimentionsal;-)

  16. Agent for Movoto

    January 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    This is a strategy that has stood the test of time over and over. And you’re making a good point overall…. but I think we all know that nobody expects stupid people to listen and observe carefully…..

  17. "Stupid" Sadistic Girl

    May 8, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Had I seen this post when I was in elementary school I would have called it blasphemy, but I figured this out in my middle school years. I’m 18 now and every now and then my intelligence will get the best of me when proving a point. I have noticed that I have perfected the art of being “stupid.” I came to realize this when a couple of adults were looking at me strangely after I made a statement about legal policy.

    Now, the statement would be known to anyone if they knew the laws of the state and country. The statement was about how anyone can manipulate the law to benefit their situation and how easy it was to manipulate people who were to have no common sense. This was something that I just expressed my opinion on and didn’t think twice before relaying what I thought. The expressions on their face was almost hysterical (in my point of view) they went from over-confident adults to bewildered and frighten children.

    Granted I’m not saying that I like to scare people; I’m stating that I did not know that I seemed so “stupid” to them that with one expression of knowledge would bewilder and frighten them so. I like being “stupid” not because I like to learn more or gain knowledge of the confusing world of the lives around me but for only one main reason. I like to watch those around me fumble and fall.

    I probably seem like a wicked and vile person and no doubt to some I am. I am not trying to hide this fact. I am not nice nor am I kind I will do what benefits me in the end. Now, I’m not looking for judgment or guidance from the path I’ve chosen. I am just stating how I perceive this idea and what experience I have gained from this. Think as you will “she is young she will learn better” I know those lines well but in reality the world is what you make of it both cruel and kind. I will take advantage of both sides and create my mind’s paradise. One day I may come to see this is not the case and I will learn but until then I will try my best to make what I can out of the life I’ve been given.

  18. Sigh

    May 21, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    This article is gompletely false and operates on assumptions no “smart” person would make. Intelligent people are always curious and open to learning new things. That’s WHY we’re smart. It’s the idiots who falsely believe they are smart who stubbornly refuse to learn anything.

  19. Adrian Wnorowski

    August 13, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Durp. Di. Durp. Please teach me something. Someone.

    Please! I’m so dumb! 😉

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