The female voice on the radio is describing a personal friend of hers, a composer. He is said to be a big, tall fellow, with a huge beard. He has an intimidating presence, but is soft at heart. He can debate philosophy, and yet knows all about what’s new at Disney World. And, as I said, he’s a composer. The woman concludes by saying he is “easily one of the most brilliant men” she knows.
From the way she described him, ticking off a list of his personality quirks meant to illustrate his profundity, I instantly knew we (the woman and I) were two of a kind. I’ve made the same mistake — almost everyone has. We mistake charisma for brilliance.
The people who hold some sway of loyalty over you, you naturally regard as being geniuses. A car salesman isn’t thought any better for going to Disney World all the time; but when our friend the bearded composer does it, it is counted as another facet on his wonderfully complex personality. I have nothing against the bearded composer (never heard of him before); he might really be brilliant for all I know. But, then again, he might be no more intelligent than your average car salesman. The difference is that he has charisma. People with charisma are “brilliant.” People without it are just possessors of cold “intelligence.”
“I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue, than why I have one.”
—Cato the Elder (234-149 BC)