The Dumbest Guy In The Room
Mr. Toastmaster, ladies and gentlemen.
You may have seen the best selling book and movie called The Smartest Guy In The Room. I'm here today to tell how I have benefited from being the dumbest guy in the room.
I was trained to be an engineer at Clarkson College in northern NY. When I got to be a senior. I realized that I didn't know two important things. I didn't know what engineers actually did all day, and I didn't know where to look for a job.
I went to my professor. He said, “Dick, interviews are not for you. I have arranged for you to work for General Electric in Schenectady, NY. Report there June 6.”
Little did I know what I was getting into. GE had amassed in Schenectady a brain trust of scientists and engineers that was the envy of the world. In fact, in the years 1900-1965 more than half of the patents in the entire world named at least one of those people as a co-inventor.
As a green engineer, I became the dumbest guy in the room. But what happens to the dumbest guy? He is motivated to improve himself.
GE then sent me to Daytona Beach Florida for a few years to work at their Apollo Support division. Those were the people who put a man on the moon. They really were the smartest people in the world, and I was the dumbest guy in the room. I benefited greatly from that association.
When I returned to Schenectady, I found that 7 of GE's best and brightest were about to leave the mother company to create their own startup. They asked me to join them. Once again, I became the dumbest guy in the room. But the startup prospered and I benefited.
They sent me on assignment to Sweden with my family. There, I was the smartest guy in the room; at least with respect of the technology I was sent there to teach. But outside of work, I and my family found ourselves in an alien culture where we didn't speak the language. Believe me, not speaking the language is the most humbling experience imaginable. It was perhaps the cure for a young man who's head was getting swelled.
Speaking of family, I met my wife Libby in high school. I was a senior and she was a junior. We went out on a date. That was the first and last date of my life. Now, 55 years later we have 3 wonderful children, 5 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. I guess it is fair to say that it was a very good date.
Years later, I went to work for NYISO. That is the organization that runs the power grid and the energy futures markets in NY. When I got there, I found that my engineer's training was not enough. I had to learn economics and law also, to the extent that I could explain to lawyers how the power grid works in lawyer's language. Once again I became the dumbest guy in the room.
That brings us to this evening. Here I stand at the podium, surrounded by experienced Toastmasters. Once again the dumbest guy in the room.
Mr. Toastmaster, thank you.