Ep 125: Along the Spectrum: Brilliance

We are surrounded by people of brilliance every day, but it’s not often obvious or easy to spot them. A lot of times, people of brilliance can be similar to people on the autism spectrum. In this third episode of the series on the spectrums of being, Adam Quiney specifically talks about this highly-esteemed yet commonly misunderstood state of being. He starts off by defining brilliance and abstraction and goes on by giving examples of how people of brilliance shine in their environment. But brilliance also has a shadow – indeed a dual shadow, which can result to very specific maladaptations on both sides of the bell curve. Adam also touches on these and gives some final notes on how leaders can work with people of brilliance effectively.

Listen to podcast here:

Along the Spectrum: Brilliance

We’re continuing our series of being Along the Spectrum. Now we’re going to be talking about brilliance. It’s interesting because as I was creating this title for the series, I thought about how often we talk about someone being along the spectrum, being a reference to them, having some qualities they may show up like Asperger’s or autism. What’s interesting about the particular way of being we’re going to be talking about brilliance is that it can occur people who are brilliant and expressing the shadow of brilliance can occur a little bit as though they are on that autistic spectrum. We’ll talk about that. It’s an interesting thing.

Before we get into it, I want to review what the basis for our conversation is. These are short pieces arising out of the model of the spectrums of being. The spectrums of being are an ontological model that I’ve created. It’s detailed and broken down in a great deal in a book, the title is The Spectrums Of Being. In that book, we break down how so much of our energy in terms of personal growth, supporting people, developing leadership is fixated and focused on the surface level. On the level of behavior or personality. What that does is it completely misses seeing the true person underneath. It leaves the person feeling gotten, unseen and it has them trying to fix something they feel as broken about themselves, as opposed to getting what’s going on makes complete sense and allowing us to work with it in a way that makes a difference.

You could think of it a little bit like an iceberg where we can see only 10% above the water and most leadership models and strategies as well as personal development in general are focused on moving or addressing that top 10%. The spectrums of providing a way of training and also a breakdown of how you can see the totality of the iceberg that is someone and begin to work with that in such a way that not only how they show it makes sense to you. You can support that person to create themselves in a way that’s more fully expressed, more powerful and allows more of the expression of the being of the leader. That’s the game that we’re working on. That book is only available in a limited print to run to those people that are engaged with myself in one of our programs.

GL 125 | Brilliance

Brilliance: People of brilliance have the ability to jump between the tiniest of nuances to the greatest of altitudes and between varying levels of abstraction.


The Forage, that Creating Clients course, the intensive and the proper edition will be coming out. In these episodes, we’re doing a bit of a summarized version, giving you a taster. In that book, what we do is you break down the quality of the gift of any particular way of being. We’ve got 25 different ones. We talk about what’s predictable as someone who is this quality of going through life and does what is predictable for people, which is a contract. Naturally, as we go through life, we tend to contract from life more and more as time goes on. This is why as you age, your world becomes smaller because you’ve contracted from more and more. This is natural and it happens despite our best desires because contraction gives us the illusion at the moment that we’re growing without the risk and vulnerability that actual growth and expansion demands of us.

It’s what happens when we try to solve our “problems” on our own. It leads to us eliminating the things that are stressors in our life rather than expanding our ability to be with more of life. We talk about the predictable result. What is predictable for someone of brilliance? What’s possible when they do their work when they work with a coach or a masterful leader? We talk about the shadows, how they’re formed, how they look, common experiences coming of age, we’d break down the obvious fixes to each side of the shadow. The obvious fix is the thing that your shadow met when you start to get present to the impact of it in your life, the low-hanging fruit, the thing left to your own devices, you’re naturally going to choose and that will lead you over to the other pole of the shadow.

You’ll go from under-expressed to overexpressed thinking breakthrough will be staying in the same place. It looks different on the surface. This is why behavioral shifts rarely work without the underlying foundation to be addressed. Finally, we talk about the typical breakthrough path for anyone with a particular quality of being, how to lead and work with people of that quality being and practices that can support you or those you work with to create shifts in your leadership. All of that is coming out soon. If you are interested in getting a copy, you can send an email to PR@AdamQuiney.com and say, “I’d love that.” The only request is that you write a review on the other side of that. If you would like to be one of those people if you want to get your hands on a copy early on, awesome. If not, you can read these episodes where we go along the spectrum.

Brilliance As A Way Of Being

Let’s talk about brilliance and its particular way of being. Brilliance is the quality of a sharp, fast mind. Those with a lot of brilliance have the ability to jump between the tiniest of nuances to the greatest of altitudes and to move between varying levels of what we would call abstraction. People with this quality tend to find themselves into roles where that’s rewarded like software architects or things like that where you have to architect an entire system’s level thinking is what they would call it. Also then be able to zoom down to the level of writing code and, “How do I get this one little widget to work with this little widget? What’s the solution to this problem?” It’s that ability to move in and out of varying levels of depth or abstraction and operate with the facility in all of them. People with brilliance often have the ability to rise above. They have a gift with abstraction and metaphor.

People who express the shadow of brilliance can actually occur a little bit as though they are on the autistic spectrum. Click To Tweet

Abstraction is the ability to see that even though an apple is not the same thing as an orange, they are both fruits. The fruit is an abstraction. From that, we can make determinations. We can make some assumptions or theories and test them out like, “I know that this apple is not the same as an orange but presumably it might operate or have a similar effect on my body or stuff like that because they are both fruits.” That’s a bit of a weird example but that is part of the quality of someone with brilliance. They’re especially gifted at this. Part of what makes humans magnificent is our ability to abstract. Those were the quality of brilliant especially adept at doing so. I’ll say metaphor is another form of abstraction. It’s a way of saying, “This thing is like that thing.”

What this ability and quality of brilliance and the magic of being able to extract so well afford these people is that they can learn things fairly quickly. They tend to be fast learners and have a sharp learning curve. That means is that they could say like, “This sport is not the same as that sport but they’re similar.” If I put that thing over there in a practice, it might serve me over here or this particular coding language is a lot like that particular coding language with these exceptions. That allows them to hit the ground running. people that are brilliant consequently tend to be very fast learners. They pick things up well. Because of this ability to rise up, to abstract away details and to deal with stuff on a more general or higher altitude, brilliance tends to have an ability to see order amidst chaos and to get up out of the fray.

This allows them to spot, distinguish trends and patterns before most other people. For example, in the middle of a pandemic like COVID, most of us are awash in it. We’re like, “I can only focus on the thing right in front of me.” What brilliance allows people to do is to rise up and see like, “What are the trends I’m starting to notice? I Imagine Zoom is going to become big. I’m going to invest my money there.” This allows them to create technologies to get out in front of that curve and do quite well in their life. Brilliance is often very good at generating results.

People of brilliance growing up often do exceptionally well in school and are thus given multiple experiences as a result. They can also do exceptionally poorly. I’ll talk about that when we get to the shadows. The thing about school is it’s set up to have you learn something and the way we test that, you’ve learned something as we ask you questions and you answer it. Brilliance is very good at that. We can absorb information well. One of the things that happen is that brilliant people receive a lot of accolades. They get moved to the front of the class, put an advanced or enriched class, held above those around them. This can do a couple of things.

One, it can train these people that what has them be of worth, what makes them good or valued or loved or worthy as a human is their ability to have the right answer. In this way, someone’s brilliance becomes narrowly focused. It also can have them resented or called out or denigrated or made fun of by the people that see them being held above them. When we see someone raised above us, we want to pull them back down so that we’re on equal footing. Brilliant people can find themselves made fun of, called a nerd, resented, losing friends.

GL 125 | Brilliance

Brilliance: Brilliance is a fascinating quality of being because it is overrepresented on both ends of the bell curve.


Finally, they can feel the pressure and the burden put on them when they’re put on a pedestal this way, “I got an A on that test.” What about the next one? All of this, this common experience of coming of age can lead to the shadow, which we’re now going to talk about.

The Shadow Of Brilliance

There’s a bit of a dual experience in that growing up thing that read. One it’s like, “It feels so good to be smart. I’m smarter than most people.” At the same time, it can feel bad when I’m smart. When I let that part of me out, people will make fun of me. People pull away from me, people feel dumb around me. They don’t like me.

I’m arrogant or I’ll be burdened by expectations. There are two paths that can arise. The first is the overcompensating shadow. This is embracing brilliance but it does so in a way that leads to arrogance. It does so in a way that is like, “If I’m goinsg to own my intellect, it’s going to mean some people aren’t going to like me.” It has us put all of our tension into having the right answer. That becomes the highest currency of our being. We become very fixated on that. We decide, “People are not going to like me and I’m not going to like them. I’m here for something different. I am going to focused on whatever.”

Also, when people put all of their attention and focus in this way, it allows them to rise up more and more into their brain and up out of their heart. The overcompensating aspect of the shadow can often lead to isolation from feeling. this leads to removal from intimacy. Brilliant people especially from the overexpressed aspect of the shadow, tend not to feel what they’re feeling, instead, they think about what they’re feeling. This leads not just to a separation of intimacy from other people but first and foremost, a separation of intimacy from themselves rather than having the ability to have anger show up and be angry with it, the conversation in their head looks more like, “I’m angry. What is that about? I wonder why I’m angry. I know that anger is a secondary emotion. What am I feeling underneath this? I don’t need to be angry.”

You can tell that’s not the same as being angry. That’s a conversation about being angry rather than a conversation in your head where you’re angry, those are different, even though they occur similar, even though to a brilliant person, it occurs like their “processing” their anger. Consequently, what happens is this can lead to a great deal of anxiety among other things. It can lead to anxiety because rather than have the ability to be with what’s showing up, we think about it. Thinking about it gives you a reprieve from it. You don’t have to feel it but because you are never truly allowing yourself to experience what is there, it never can move through you. It sits there while you put a layer of thinking over top of it. When something sits there, the next time it shows up, there’s more of it. You have to think more and more to alleviate this.

This is not the same necessarily as clinical anxiety but brilliant people can show up very anxious in their lives especially from the overexpressed aspect of their shadow because they are trained to think. Anxiety is the attempt to use thoughts to overcome fear about the future. You can show up very anxious. The other thing that can happen is they can show up as though they have Asperger’s or they’re along the spectrum. Peter Thiel is a great example where that’s one of the earliest investors in Facebook. A brilliant man can occur cold, heartless. I’ve been told. I’ve never had a conversation with him. That’s what happens when brilliance rises up into the head over and over again. As we get more and more separated from our own hearts and then we can feel less and less intimacy with another person, which includes the ability to empathize with them. Instead of when those things are removed from the picture, the only thing that remains is, “What are you right about? What is the right answer?” People’s feelings tend to get shoved to the side, they get squashed.

People of brilliance tend not to feel what they feel. Instead, they think about what they feel, leading to a separation from intimacy. Click To Tweet

You end up with people that are brilliant and creating amazing results in the world while at the same time, leaving a bit of a wake of battered, destroyed relationships in their path. This is how brilliant can occur a little autistic or a little Asperger’s is where there’s no heart. It’s like, “Are you not even aware of how I feel about this? Do you not even care? Do you not even have the capacity to get it?” The truth is they don’t. They’ve inadvertently and unwittingly trained it out of them by practicing in the shadow for so long. Let’s talk about the under compensating aspect of the shadow. This is the disownership of brilliance. The one is almost a complete retreat up into brilliance. The second one is disowning it.

“Brilliance is wrong. Brilliance makes other people feel dumb. I’m not that brilliant. I don’t want to own my brilliance because then people either make fun of me when I am wrong or they have all these expectations on me.” From this level, the way brilliance works is you end up with real under-performers, underachievers. In this regard, brilliance is a fascinating quality of being because it’s over-represented on both ends of the bell curve. The highly intelligent people who have gone for the overexpression tend to do everything they can to get the right answer, strive, study, absorb knowledge, do everything right so as to get the right answer, so as to win the highest LSAT rank. The other side of brilliance is shadow occurs dense and dumb. It has people say, “I’m not going to go through your stupid school system. I don’t need a diploma. I don’t want grades.”

It’s painful for them to get a grade that might suggest that they are dumb because of who they are as brilliant. Remember, the negation, the opposite of who we are is existentially painful. These people have created a brilliant shadow that allows them to preemptively take away your ability to judge them as dumb. “I’m not going to try on this test. Give me whatever grade you want. I’m the one in control. You don’t get to tell me I’m dumb.” Where these people can end up is frustrated in life. There’s a lack of expectations on them. There’s a lack of going after something and failing in such a way that leads to them feeling dumb. yet at the same time because they cannot go for that, they end up in places in life where people still relate to them that way or where this becomes an allergic reaction to them.

Anytime they have to sit down and do something if there’s this risk of feeling dumb as a result of it, they stop, they quit, and they don’t seem to understand, “Why don’t I seem to move past this? Why can’t I make myself do this thing?” It’s because it’s born out of this under the express shadow and this inability to put themselves at risk of occurring is dumb. Ironically, simultaneously, creating this experience for themselves unknowingly. Great brilliance can show up almost like autistic or Asperger’s or operating from the head like a sociopathic all the way to the other end of the spectrum, which is dumb, dense or like, “Are you kidding me?”

One of the things that I find interesting is that there is a lot of brilliant people that find themselves in trades work and they do this because it does require a great deal of thought and thinking to do something like electrician’s work. You’re putting your life at risk. Brilliance is rewarded there but trades, this isn’t a truth but it’s related to often as a sign of less high-minded than quantum physics, for example. Brilliant people who are in the under-expressed aspect of shadow can still see, “I want to make money. What’s the best way to do this?” Still have the capacity to do all that calculus. Trades become the way that they do that and then the irony is they often resent a lot of people around them for their stupidity.

How To Lead People Of Brilliance

Let’s talk about how you lead and work with people that are brilliant. There’s one other part to this that I wanted to speak to. One of the real struggles with brilliance is the ability to bring people along with them. Especially from that overexpressed aspect of the shadow. We’ll talk about that here. First, the way we always work with people at brilliance is to be able to recognize the shadows. That’s what presents on the surface and start to recognize that both of them A, cost that person something and B, are a reflection of the brilliance below. If you can notice when someone plays as a bit dumb or even goes a bit dumb or acts a bit dumb but at the same time, you’re like, “I don’t buy it. You’re a smart person.” Look for those people that almost seem completely detached from their emotions.

GL 125 | Brilliance

Brilliance: Working with brilliant people means having to recognize the shadows.


What we want to stand for in leading these people is both their brilliance as well as their ability to create relationships. Does someone want to have an impact beyond being right? Part of what can happen when brilliant people find their way into leadership is, they get frustrated with people that don’t see things the way they do because there’s not even a lot of processing that has to happen. They’re like, “This is the thing. This is what we have to do. I can see it. I can see the trend.” Other people are like, “I don’t see that yet. How do you mean?” This is related to which is experienced by the brilliant leader as a challenge to their brilliance, which then becomes a challenge to their existence. Consequently, they get frustrated, angry and can be a bit of a bulldozer.

One of the things that leaders or brilliance struggling most with is bringing people along with them because the desire, the need for them to show their own work is related to a challenge of their intellect as opposed to an ability to create a deeper relationship with something. The irony of this is that people that are brilliant can often be quite lazy thinkers. Rather than show their work or work through something, they want to, “I know the answer. Can we jump to it? Why do I have to explain this?”

This is part of how you can support people with this quality is invite them to bring people along with them, show your work. There is an opportunity, a breakthrough for you in you slowing down and bringing people along. Otherwise, you’re bulldozing people. If you get enough power or leverage, people will allow you to bulldoze them. That is a very short half-life that will not work in terms of creating breakthrough leadership. They will not work in terms of creating impossible results. Further, it will lead to your exhaustion as a leader because you have to keep pushing people. They’re not able to enroll in what you’re doing because they can’t see for themselves how to get there and then they become reliant on you, and that leaves you or the person you’re leading as a leader of followers rather than a leader of leaders.

It’s powerful to invite people to step into the distinction of, “Do you want to be right or do you want to create a relationship?” Leadership is formed in relationship with others, simply being right is the booby prize. In some leaders, many times, we know that stereotype that’s often all too true of the brilliant scientific, computer, programmer, developer mind that is in their office. Everyone finds it super unpleasant. You bring them out, they give you a brilliant solution but, “It’s awful.” That person, A is miserable, B is lonely, and C is tolerated. None of those are qualities that enroll people in your leadership.

You have to check with that person first with his brilliance, like, “Do you want to deepen your ability to lead? I’m committed to supporting you in that, but only if you wish for it.” You’re going to have to start to notice that you are choosing being right at the expense of creating relationships with people. From there, your leadership is going to forever be stymied.

That’s all that we’ve got for you on the quality of brilliance in this episode. We’re going to shift our conversation next episode to something different. If you are interested in more of these qualities, if you’d like to read more of the Along the Spectrum Series, we’ve got some future qualities of being that we could bring forward. We could talk about joy, wit, quality of oneness or unity, the quality of presence or radiance, or the quality of leader/power. If any of those speak to you, you can send an email to PR@AdamQuiney.com. Let us know, “I’d love to know this. I think I might be this. Can you break that down?” You can email us and also ask to be added to the list of early readers for the book. I’ll tell you about what we’re going to talk about next episode because I’m excited about that too.

First, I want to talk about the Creating Clients course. We are now underway. The doors are closed for enrollment and registration for this particular iteration but we will be starting again a new course in January 2021. We’ve got eleven people thus far and usually be capped at about twenty people. The reason for that is because we’re committed to this being something that not only gives you some training, some steps to master creating results and sales as a natural expression of who you are on this planet but that we also create that transformation. To do that, we have to keep the courses a little bit lower. It’s an affordable course. It’s only $1,000. It’s something benefits every entrepreneur and service-based professional. If you’re selling anything, this gives you access to a new way of showing up to sales that alleviates a lot of the anxiety.

The negation of who we are is existentially painful. Click To Tweet

The way it goes for most people is that they’re like, “There’s this thing that I have to do that I don’t love but if I’m willing to do it, that lets me do this thing over here that I love doing,” which is whatever you do outside of selling. I get to coach them. I get to work with them to support them, to do this thing. I get to help them build a house. What we’re doing here is rather than have you become okay with the thing you don’t like so you can do the thing you love. What you will leave this course with is seeing that all of it is integrated and that all of it can become something you truly love. That’s the promise of this course is the transformation that you will experience through this course. It runs for ten weeks.

I hope to see you there send an email to PR@AdamQuiney.com if you’d like to know more or you can go to AdamQuiney.com/ClientCreation and learn more about it. We do have a lot of the breakdown of what you’ll learn, how you’ll get to implement it. Next episode we’re going to be talking about the three stages of leadership. It’s a powerful distinction and it speaks to why we have many people convinced that they are doing exquisite leadership and so little exquisite leadership. The three stages people necessarily have to move through in terms of their own leadership to get to a place where they can make the impact they want to make in the world and why they feel so frustrated that they’re not doing that. It’s going to be a great episode. We’ll be talking more about these three stages as time goes on. I hope enjoy it. Bye.

Important links:

About Adam Quiney

I’m an obsessive perfectionist, high-performer, former lawyer, and now an Executive Mentor. I know what it’s like to succeed easily and quickly. To blindly put my happiness in the hands of achievement.

All the success, money and possessions in the world couldn’t cure my boredom. Couldn’t produce a loving, intimate relationship with my wife…and definitely couldn’t fulfill me.