An excellent story, in the sense that it communicates the magnitude of the kinds of mistakes that can be made, even when one is wise and prudent (or imagines oneself so). I note with more than some amusement that people are busy in the comments adding stricture 108, 109, 110 - as if somehow just another layer or two, and everything would be great! (Leela: "The iceberg penetrated all 7000 hulls!" Fry: "When will humanity learn to make a ship with 7001 hulls!"
Feels like there's a lot of stuff muddled up in this discussion.
For what the anecdote is worth, I went to Harvard Business School, a self-styled pantheon for the business elite.
The average person was:
- top decile intellect (though probably not higher)
- top decile emotional intelligence (broadly construed - socially aware, self-aware, persuasion skills, etc.)
- highly conscientious / motivated
Few were truly brilliant intellectually. Few were academically distinguished (plenty of good ivy league degrees, but very few brilliant mathematical minds, etc.).
A good number will be at Davos in 20 years time.
Performance beyond a certain level in the vast majority of fields (and business is certainly one of them) is principally a function of having no cognitive and personal qualities which fall below a (high, but not insanely high) hygene threshold -- and then multiplied by determination, of course.
Conscientiousness, in fact, is the best single stable predictor of job success for complex jobs (well established in personality psychometrics).
Very high intelligence actually negatively correlates with career success (Kotter), probably because smart people enjoy solving problems, rather than making money selling things -- which outside of quant trading, show business and sport is really the only way of being really successful.
There are some extremely intelligent people in business (by which I mean high IQ, not just wise or experienced), but you tend to find them in the corners of the business landscape with the richest intellectual pastures: some areas of law, venture capital, some cutting edge technology fields.
Steve Ballmer - for instance - might deafen you, but he would not dazzle you.