Getting smarter takes time and genuine commitment. You need to work hard at it. Knowledge builds up, like compound interest says Warren Buffett. And he couldn’t have said that any better. You get to cash in when the time is right. All of us can build our knowledge but most of us won’t put in the effort.
We all differ in our abilities to solve problems, learn, think logically, understand and acquire new knowledge, integrate ideas, attain goals, and so on. But when you put your mind to it, you will work better, smarter and faster. Intelligence is always work in progress so you are never too late to add to what you already know. The good news is, you don’t have to learn everything in hours, days or even months. The focus should always be on progress.
The simplest, most direct way to be smart is to build deep knowledge about things you care about. Building knowledge of an area improves your memory, thinking, and decisions about that topic. You can gain knowledge faster about a topic you care deeply about than a random topic.
But if they are not really the kinds of things you are interested in, then you will be hard pressed to devote time and effort to learn much. One thing that most people seem to agree on is that reading is near the core of how to be smart. Don’t get in the way of your own learning. Most people don’t really think much about how they learn.
The world is changing fast and new ideas pop up everyday; incorporating them into your life will keep you engaged and relevant. It pays to crave and keep an open mind. Incredibly smart people aren’t always born that way, but rather are constantly working to improve their intelligence. You have every opportunity to improve and enhance your way of thinking. Choose smart and stay curious.
These are a few of the many things you can consistently do everyday to get smarter.
Excerpted from the new book “A Smart New Mind: What You Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter”
1. Be curious about almost everything. Some people are naturally curious and others are not. Your learning does not stop at school, college or your job. There is nothing that can beat a curious mind.“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” -Albert Einstein
2. Be willing to try new things. Here is a short fascinating story of Steve Jobs’s youthful calligraphy class. After dropping out of school, the future Apple founder had a lot of time on his hands and wandered into a calligraphy course.
It seemed irrelevant at the time, but the design skills he learned were later baked into the first Macs. The takeaway: You never know what will be useful ahead of time. You just need to try new things and wait to see how they connect with the rest of your experiences later on.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,”. In order to have dots to connect, you need to be willing to try new things.
3. Try a new better, faster or smarter routine. It pays to break some of your routines sometimes. Try consciously breaking one of your habits, just for a moment. Eat a different breakfast. Take a different route to work. Sleep in the opposite direction. Read fiction. Get out of your comfort zone once a while.
4. Expose yourself to different world views. Be genuinely curious about other cultures, languages or how things are done differently by others. Different cultures could have a big positive effect on your own ideas.
5. Get fascinated. If you can’t get fascinated, you won’t care enough to really learn something. You’ll just go through the motions. How do you get fascinated? Often doing something with or for other people helps to motivate me to look more deeply into something, and reading about other people who have been successful/legendary at it also fascinates me.
6. Reflect on your learning by blogging. You soak up a ton of information and patterns, and you can put that into action, but when you sit down and reflect on what you’ve learned, and try to share that with others (as I’m doing right now), you force yourself to think deeply, to synthesize the knowledge and to organize it, much as you do when you teach it to others. Blogging is a great tool for reflection and sharing what you’ve learned, even if you don’t hope to make a living at it. And it’s free.
7. Do it, in small steps. Actually doing whatever you want to do will be scary. You can learn as much Spanish vocabulary as you like, but until you start having conversations, you won’t really know it. You can read as much about chess as you like, but you have to put the problems into action, and play games. You can read about how to program, but you won’t know it until you actually code. Start with small, non-scary steps, with as little risk as possible, focusing on fun, easy skills.
8. Feel free to move around. I will dive into something for a couple weeks, and then move on to something else. That’s OK. That’s how passion for a topic often works. Sometimes it will last for a long time, sometimes it’s a short intense burst. You can’t control it. Allow yourself to wander if that’s where things lead you.
This post was excerpted from my new book “A Smart New Mind: What You Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter“
Image courtesy Dave (D Stop), Flickr.