As a relatively senior person at a relatively highly-rated place, and having experienced grad school and post-docs at elite places: in math, at least, the basic point is that we're all inadequate to really penetrate the most serious mysteries. Check. So, by the harshest standard, we all fail. Ok, so that's not such an interesting standard. In grad school at an elite place, it quickly became clear that an absolute novice could not interestingly or usefully "compete with" the decades-more-experienced faculty. Check. But the real point was that asking (inescapably naive) questions of such people was a terrific opportunity, which few people have. If ego were in play, it just diminished acquisition of critical, rare information. Bad.
My subsequent experience and observation: well, sure, people vary. Some people are quick, some are quick-but-shallow, some are slower, etc. Some are more ego-oriented, which I think impairs investigation of serious mathematical things, since, by this year, the low-hanging fruit that anyone cares about has been picked. So what remains is inevitably going to be less-immediately gratifying, etc.
In any case, smartness (or height, or handsomeness, or ...) is not a moral virtue. Plus, having a good head but not applying it, or having various perversely nonconstructive bad attitudes, is less effectual than having more modest brains but being focused and sincere (perhaps less ego-ful).
That is, what gets my respect involves not so much the individual's personal gifts, but how they use those gifts, that is, to advance mathematics in contrast to advancing just themselves. That kind of thing.