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I’ve stood next to two people whom I considered geniuses.

One was Ben Tregoe, who cofounded Kepler-Tregoe in Princeton, and with whom I worked from 1972 to 1983, and had a continuing relationship with until his death in 2005. He is responsible for my mastery of critical thinking skills and my subsequent work on strategy and innovation. He was graduated from Whittier College, a small liberal arts institution in southern California.

The second is Oskar Eustis, who was the artistic director of the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, where I served on the board for six years. He subsequently was named to that same position at The Public in New York, where he’s garnered an armful of Tony Awards for introducing works such as Hamilton. He was graduated from high school at 15 and never attended college. I learned from him the value of sheer passion and fearlessness in pursuing projects, and more recently his validation that the arts are for everyone, not just one political party or one philosophy.

Such people are rare in our lives, and terms such as “genius” and “artist” and “icon” are tossed around far too often. I was fortunate to have realized what these individuals could contribute to my growth while I was in their presence. You may not have met your “geniuses” as yet, or they may be standing right in front of you. Look for innovation, fearlessness, resilience, and ultimately, success.

When Marshall Goldsmith and I were writing a book together, I asked him how we become “thought leaders.” “You hang out with them,” he explained. “I literally carried Peter Drucker’s briefcase for him. After a while, you become a thought leader through osmosis!”

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

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