Einstein’s five levels of cognitive prowess

Tom McCallum
2 min readMar 17, 2021

The five levels of cognitive prowess by Albert Einstein: Smart, Intelligent, Brilliant, Genius, and Simple.

Einstein's five levels of cognitive prowess
Abir Bushan

Einstein’s five ascending levels of intellect

  • Smart
  • Intelligent
  • Brilliant
  • Genius
  • Simple

My role as a Sounding Board is the opposite of being an expert, being smart. It took me a long time to learn that being smart and intelligent only goes so far in supporting other sin #MakingPotentialPossible.

Yes, I will bring my insights forwards for clients at times, yet the core role is to listen, to then support the client in distilling to simplicity from bringing forward their own answers through questioning and listening. The concept is perhaps best captured by the Jazz great Charlie Mingus:

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace. Making the complicated simple … that’s creativity.”

I approach this in many different ways and often use my writing to develop my thoughts. You can simply google site:tommmccallum.com (or use from the search bar in my site footer) with the words “simplicity sophistication complexity” and you will find many articles. I leave you a few here:



Tom McCallum

Sounding Board for Visionary Leaders ready to make a Massive Impact. Daily posts here, or https://tommccallum.com/newsletter-sign-up/