Matthew Rozsa discusses the term “brains trust” and why we need to bring it back… because everyone needs their personal brains trust!
It recently occurred to me that there is a special type of friend in my life who I’ve never really honored. For that matter, I’ve noticed that although a lot of people have forged these unique relationships, they aren’t widely discussed in the media. While I could spend an entire article speculating as to why that’s the case, I think our time would be better used simply paying tribute to the special circle so many of us have created in our lives:
The Brains Trust
The term “brains trust” was coined by New York Times reporter James Kieran in 1932, when he noted that Democratic presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt liked to surround himself with some of America’s greatest thinkers of the time. Although his connotation was specifically political, I personally have developed a network of friends who serve a function in my life and career not entirely dissimilar from those of FDR’s advisers.
1. They share my curiosities.
If there is a single quality that separates intellectualism from mere intelligence, it’s that the latter is imbued with a passionate curiosity, an insatiable appetite for knowledge and creativity. When two intelligent people have overlapping fields of curiosity, it’s very easy for them to forge a bond not only over their shared interests, but from the stimulating substantive conversations they can share thanks to their knowledge base and enthusiasm.
2. They offer valuable advice.
On the most immediate level, I’m talking about networking – i.e., developing amicable professional relationships or even friendships with co-workers to advance your career. That said, there are other ways your friends can help your career besides serving as connections. If you respect someone’s intelligence or judgment, they can offer you meaningful guidance in developing important life skills (e.g., I have friends helping me lose weight by learning how to develop a healthy diet) and inspire your creative output (I’ve lost track of the number of articles that were inspired by conversations with friends, who I try to credit whenever possible).
Speaking of which…
3. You enjoy collaborating with them.
I’m not going to list the friends who I consider to be my personal Brains Trustees (out of concern that I’ll offend anyone I inadvertently leave out), but suffice to say that they are sprinkled liberally throughout my body of written work, both as collaborators and sources of inspiration (see Point #2). This is because, when someone is a true Brains Trustee, you eventually find that talking with them isn’t enough; you want to work on projects together. If nothing else, this is to see what might be produced from such a partnership.
While my Brains Trust may help me in different areas of my life than your Brains Trust does for you, the bottom line is that if you have a Brains Trust, they probably benefit you in ways similar to how mine has enriched my life. As such, I feel the need to say that I’m truly grateful to have them. To each and everyone of you, if you’re reading this: Thank you.