“I can usually figure out if a person is smart, but I can’t figure out Trump.”

Alexei Sorokin
3 min readJun 3

The other day my eighteen-year-old son and I were discussing something totally unpolitical — our housing rental search. My son just graduated from high school and had time to join me on most viewings; he was learning to drive so these trips were convenient occasions for him to practice.

Usually, you get shown around by an agent; occasionally, you meet the owner. One of the options we liked was offered to us by the owner. He seemed a nice guy; he was in his forties — around my age. We liked his house and were set to move forward with our application. After walking through the property, we wanted to see a couple of other things in the community, and the guy offered to accompany us, so he got into our car while my son drove and directed us.

Subsequently, he became hard to read, and we struggled to close in on this property. “You are my number one option,” he texted me. “But I have another family who can move in earlier, can you match them?”. I said no. For several days we continued to exchange texts, though our communication was intermittent.

When I was finalizing another opportunity, the guy reappeared, asking for additional proof of income. After all he was interested in our application, but it was too late.

“I can read people really well,” my son said, as we ate dinner and I mentioned to him about the house resurfacing. “I didn’t tell you then, but the guy was shady. I could tell when we were in the car.”

“I see what you mean,” I said. Indeed, in hindsight, there was something about the owner that undermined his credibility. It’s very hard to find the right adjective and “shady” is an unfair word. He was very professional and seemed trustworthy. But something felt off.

We continued this conversation about “reading” people, and moved to the discussion of people being “smart” or “intelligent”. We discussed a few famous business people and several athletes — the way they come across when then speak to the media. In the world of sports for example, Novak Djokovic comes across as very intelligent. He may be controversial at times but if you listen to him speak, you can see self-awareness of the highest degree. In the NBA, we both liked Draymond Green. This guy can be controversial too, on the court, but his podcasts and commentary are rich and versatile. I’m sure Draymond has a very bright future in the media space after he retires.

Alexei Sorokin

A Russian immigrant in America, father of 4, Cambridge and Harvard Business School alum. I run and write every day. More here: https://linktr.ee/alexei.sorokin