The Greatest Weapon in the World: To always endeavor to be the smartest person in the room

There is a certain mentality that you must have if you want to be able to stand up to bullies like the current F.B.I. and all the power they have, or if in general you want to be a leader of people in whatever capacity. You, as a person must endeavor to be the smartest person in the room. If you are, no tyrannical bully can ever gain the leverage of fear against you and make silly threats for which you can never deal with. This is essentially why Donald Trump is so successful in whatever he does. Being the smartest person in the room in my experience doesn’t come from genetic inheritance as much as it comes from hard work. If you put in the time to become intelligent, you will have leveraged yourself into the most fundamental position any leader needs to be in. If you are the smartest person in the room, especially in America, you will ultimately become the decision maker for a lot of people because people will naturally follow you. So in that context you never have to fear the power of a corrupt law enforcement officer or a ruthless dictator, because intelligence most of the time all by itself is enough to wipe them out.

A lot of people assume that I’m the kind of person who would start shooting up bad guys at the first sign of trouble. But honestly, I have done a lot more damage to villainous people with my mind. When things do get bad, which doesn’t happen much, but over the years happens from time to time, I seldom have to use violence to make my point. Sometimes it evolves into that because the people you are dealing with are not very smart so they have no other weapons to work with but violence. However most of the time, just being the smartest person in the room is enough to diffuse anything and advance any topic.

From personal experience I have dealt with a lot of different people, some who would claim to be the richest and most powerful in all of Cincinnati financially. Others politically. My kids and I were talking the other day about how different Over-the-Rhine was today in downtown Cincinnati than it was almost thirty years ago when I lived on the campus of the University of Cincinnati for a while and accepted a dare to walk from Central Parkway up to Bogarts by way of Vine Street, which at that time was ripe with many, many criminal elements. I did so and not a single person bothered me. A lot of people looked at me very intensely, but not a single person engaged with me the way people might think would happen by way or robbery, or some other physical assault. I felt I could deal with any problem that anybody might throw at me and it showed in my personality which nobody wanted anything to do with. It wasn’t that I was a big guy, or that I was heavily armed. In fact, I didn’t have any weapons on me during that walk. All I had was what I knew. On a separate occasion a few years earlier, I was on a date in downtown Cincinnati where I am sure the intention was a robbery. I was taking my wife to a downtown restaurant but we parked near the courthouse because I felt that was a place where vandalism might be the least but on our way a large group of very scary looking inner city dwellers covered in gold chains and all the stereotypes of a rap video blocked our passage. After a quick qualifying conversation with a very large leader of the group, easily over 6’5” he decided that we weren’t worth the trouble. He asked me for our money, I told him we didn’t have any. He said to me that you don’t have a girl like “dat” without “no” kind of money.” My response was to ask him why not. That was probably the last thing he was prepared to hear. Most people obviously just gave him the money and went about their way. The fear of being hurt by him was enough. But when I asked him why it put the burden on him to respond with his true intentions. He elected to move on with his little gang of thugs because their imaginations as to why I was confident were running wild and it wasn’t worth the risk. I could tell an even worse story about Washington D.C. when I had to go out at 2 AM in a really bad part of the city to find milk for my kids as we were staying in a hotel nearby. I got the milk but no further trouble much to the shock of the people who heard about the story later.

I have had an unusual life in that I have been to court many, many times. I’ve nearly been put in jail more times than I can count. I have personally known hit men, famous Bengal players who were major drug dealers after their playing days were over. I used to repo cars for a living and have been shot at several times but I never was consumed by that lifestyle. I always lived outside of its grip. One time when all my friends were in jail on the campus of Miami University because we got into a huge fight with the football team at a bar there I was the only one not put in jail and I managed to talk reason to the officers to get a quick release of my friends, not that they deserved it over a weekend so they didn’t have to wait for an arraignment on the following Monday. On several occasions I’ve defended myself successfully in court as my own attorney because why hire someone not as smart as you to deal with something you have a stake in. And in saying all this I’m not saying that biologically I was ever the smartest, I have been friends with people with IQs near 200, I’m thinking of at least 2 people as I write this, which is very rare. I received my intelligence the old-fashioned way, through very hard work. I started reading as a young person not yet ten. As a teenager I continued that trend more than my peers. Then as a young adult I really took off starting a habit of at least one book a week of all different topics. After a few years you discover that no matter who you are dealing with, being well read gives you an advantage in almost any conflict. I have always had a personality that challenged authority which is why I got into so much trouble. But the more books I read the less trouble I found myself in which was an interesting ratio. I kept doing it and have found that after thirty years of that behavior, you can do the math. Nobody can really fight you if you know more about things than they do. Even if they resort to physical encounters, all those things you learn I think are far more powerful weapons than any gun. I’m an advocate of concealed carry but honestly, I doubt I would ever use it since I feel that I can defeat any situation without coming to that scenario. It helps to always be the smartest person in the room and if you commit yourself to that, you’d be surprised how safe in the world you really are.

I say all that because these are scary times, obviously in the world of politics the old world of brute force and stupidity—which I’d term the Robert Mueller investigation—is fighting the election of Donald Trump and those of us who put him into office. All they have is fear to use to defend their control on the world. If you know better, all their primary weapons are worthless. If you are the smartest person in the room there is no jail they can put you in, no gun they can draw, or legalism they can use to put pressure on you to flip to save your beloved family members. I feel sorry in a lot of ways for people like Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and even General Flynn. They were smart and powerful guys in their specific professions, but when it comes to being smart about life, they are still prone to being victimized by an F.B.I. that thinks it has intelligence leverage over them, so they can make threats and get a desired response from those witnesses because they aren’t smart enough about more topics in the world to defend themselves. But in all honesty, I can at least report that the tactics used by the F.B.I. are those of very stupid people who have no case and are no different from those street thugs I mentioned who thought about robbing me many years ago in Cincinnati. They have size, strength and weapons, but not intelligence—because intelligence takes work to nature and most people don’t do it, leaving them always at a disadvantage to those who do. If you really want to be a tough person who can stand up to anything, then read a book. And not just one, but one ever week and you will discover dear reader that will be the most powerful weapon you can ever have, and guess what—nobody in the world can take it away from you.

Rich Hoffman

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