“He is such a witty guy.”
If you make such a statement you tend to remember the person for a long time. Everyone admires a smart person.
The two most admired traits of human beings are intelligence and beauty. Almost everyone wants to learn how to be a smarter person.
Can you increase intelligence or are you born with a fixed value?
Intelligence differs from wisdom.
You have an IQ level by birth. But IQ differs from wisdom. A high IQ does make learning easy but normal people like you and me can grow smarter and wise too.
Wisdom is not a fixed value you possess during your birth. It works like a muscle. Those gifted with good genes find it easy to build muscle, while others can gain muscle with a disciplined diet and workout routine.
Over the long term, a disciplined person grows wiser than a lazy person with a high IQ. A lot of the successful people have IQ like the rest of us. Their effort to improve led them to the success they have today.
How to be a smarter person?
Being a smarter person takes persistence, hard work and time. Do not expect to magically turn into a smarter person overnight. The journey can take years and people who expect immediate results will not find any. No magic pill can make you smarter.
That said, you can work towards growing smarter little by little every day. To learn how to be a smarter person try applying the tips below.
1. Spend 15 min every day on reflection
Each day gives you an opportunity to learn. You learn better ways to do things, you do some things right, you make some mistakes. You also meet other people, hear their perspectives and learn from their mistakes too.
Every day you garner enough information to make you smarter than the previous day. You digest some of this information as soon as you receive it while some needs more thought. If you fail to reflect over what you observe and hear, chances are, the wisdom evaporates.
Spend some time every day to ponder over what you did well, how badly you messed up and how could you do better. Take 15 minutes in the evening or before you go to bed. The reflection will help you discover your inner self and avoid mistakes.
2. Ask yourself how to improve a random thing
I do this activity to challenge my own thinking skills. When I encounter a business, I try to think about what could I do better if I was running the business.
For example, if I am at a restaurant, I imagine what would I do if I owned the place. Maybe I would add a special dish, use a different outfit for the waiters or leave sticky notes for customers to write feedback.
My ideas might be stupid and may run the business to the ground if implemented. But the outcome of the ideas does not matter. My thoughts help me challenge myself to think better.
Likewise, you can pick a random thing and imagine how to improve it. Picking an area of your passion works even better. Since I am passionate about businesses, I made that choice. If you are passionate about working out, you can think of how can you make your workout better than the last time.
Pick whatever you like and challenge yourself to improve it. Never has there been an easier thinking challenge because you do not have to be right.
3. Spend 15-30 min everyday thinking
The ability which sets apart human beings from other creatures is thinking. If you have not spent time in the day thinking, you have not utilized your day to the fullest.
I am not referring to the thinking you do daily. Normal thinking differs from deliberate thinking. Deliberate thinking is when you set aside time and sit down to think and only think. No computer, no smartphone, no other people. Just you thinking about what could you do better.
Use the thinking time for all areas of growth, not only the advancement of your career. You can spend time thinking on how can you be a better spouse, a responsible parent, a caring son, an impactful speaker, an empathic leader or an improved entrepreneur. You can even spend the time thinking how to be a smarter person itself.
This form of thinking differs from reflection. The reflection time is more like a discovery where you process your events from the day to extract wisdom. Deliberate thinking is like an invention where you think of new ways that you have not thought before.
4. Think of 5 new ideas every day
You can either do this during your thinking time or as a separate activity. I sometimes think of 5 new ideas during thinking time and sometimes do it when I get a random time slot.
Go vivid and overboard with your ideas. For example, I have thought about ideas to perform a diamond heist all alone. God forbid the plan falls into the hands of a thief because the person who attempts my plan will be shot dead before even entering the building.
Again, your ideas do not have to be practical or intelligent. The process of forcing your brain to generate ideas makes you better at it.
5. Read books
You will find a load of wisdom in books. Find any wise person and I can guarantee you that he has a habit of reading on a daily basis.
Books teach you lessons which take longer than your lifetime to learn on your own. After all, you can only be at one place at a time. Books cover that gap by providing you the thoughts, lessons, and mistakes of people.
Many of the amazing books are written by people who attained peak levels of success. Taking a leaf out of their book helps you understand the world better, avoid mistakes, grow mature and improve as a person.
One person on Quora(cannot find the answer to link) explained what books do to you with the perfect metaphor. Consider each book as a dot. The more books you read, the more dots you have. The more dots you have, the more easily can you connect the dots.
6. Talk to wiser and experienced people
Around you are people who have seen life longer than you have. Not every aged person is necessarily wise, but you know someone who knows the world or a topic better than you do.
Talk to them, understand their thoughts and ask them for advice. A conversation for 30 min will provide you some insights which you cannot find elsewhere.
7. Teach yourself
As per the forgetting curve, you lose 90% of what you learned after 7 days if you do not use it. Not always do you have an opportunity to use what you learned within 7 days. One way to retain information better is to teach what you learned.
“Whom do I teach?” do you ask? You do not need a student. Teach yourself or pretend to have an invisible student sitting right in front of you with a notepad and pen.
8. Learn a new language
Learning a new language is said to be one of the most challenging activities for the brain. Scientists have strong data to back this statement based on the various MRI scans performed on the brain when a person learns a new language.
To speak a language, you need to learn the vocabulary, grammar, how different words sound and how to pronounce them. All these need many parts of your brain to trigger into action and co-ordinate together. In short, learning a new language is equivalent to an intense workout.
MRI scans also claim to have noticed an increase in brain size during after learning a language.
9. Do a random new thing
To perform even a simple activity, multiple neurons in your brain need to act in synchrony. You might think clenching your fist is a simple activity. Try telling that to your brain. Your brain needs to co-ordinate between various muscles to make this happen. The poor brain does all the effort and you do not even recognize it.
To develop better connections in the brain, try doing something random. I had tried learning to write with my left hand. You can try to get good at touching your index finger to your pinky behind the other fingers.
It does not matter what you choose to do as far you compel your brain to do something it has not done before.
10. Sleep 7 hours
As Matthew Walker says Sleep is your superpower. Most people do not know of the magic that happens within their bodies when they fall asleep. To understand what your brain does while you sleep, read the detailed post – Why do we sleep.
The things that the brain does is mesmerizing, to say the least. Once you know the facts, you will proudly claim with your chest thrust forward, “My brain is freaking amazing.”
If you thought you go to sleep to rest, you are mistaken. Due to sleep, you grow wiser with age, stay healthy and fight diseases. If you sleep 6 or fewer hours on a daily basis:
- You will not grow wiser with age
- You will not be able to learn and retain new information effectively
- Your body would turn more vulnerable to diseases
- You get irritable and angry
- You would not be able to get over a major emotional distress
11. Understand about diverse topics
The world is a complicated place that operates together as one unit. You have a wide array of subjects like history, geography, psychology, medicine, evolution and a million others.
Learning about every single area lies beyond the capacity of any human being. But learning about many topics helps you understand why things are the way they are.
For example, reading about psychology helped me understand how people behave. I learned a lot about human biases, persuasion, negotiation, and building rapport. When I read about evolution, I also understood the reason behind such behavior. Reading about physics helped me understand how the forces of the universe played a part in evolution.
Each topic might seem different but many of them correlate at some point in some areas. The more you try to understand various topics, the more you will realize how the different pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Yet again, you do not have to gain expert-level knowledge on different topics. Knowing enough to understand the topic serves the purpose.
12. Do 1% better
Also called marginal gains, this technique is notoriously simple as an idea but one of the hardest to follow. To follow the technique you have to do a little better every day. That’s it.
The 1% is an imaginary number for reference. You have to find a way to improve your performance every single day irrespective of whether the change is massive or tiny.
Most people won’t stick with this routine because results are not seen by this technique immediately. I have difficulty doing something better every day too.
Fedor Holz, a champion poker player, improved his game a little every day and it took him roughly 1000 days to notice a significant difference. That is for about 3 years. Yes, you read that right. He persisted for 3 years doing a little better every day without noticing any big change in results. But once he did, his expertise was a league apart.
Dave Brailsford led the British cycling team from 1 medal in 100 years to absolute domination of world cycling using the same technique.
The technique takes immense mettle. You need to have the discipline to continue and believe in the technique even when you do not see the result. You must be prepared to fail, learn, rise up and win.
13. Talk less and listen more
When 2 people talk, both keep thinking about what to say next. During this thought, you miss listening to the other person’s point of view. Even if you do, you fail to process it enough.
When you talk, you speak about what you already know. When you listen, you hear the view of a different person. By listening more, you learn more and grow wiser.
14. Do a routine activity differently
There are many activities that we do on an autopilot mode without even realizing it. For example:
- When you wear pants, you always start with the same leg first
- When you cross your arms, the same hand goes underneath
- When you clap, the same hand stays on top
You may not have paid attention, but when you do, you will know that your brain follows patterns for such activities. Force yourself to change the pattern by doing the opposite. You will feel the difference when your brain tries to adapt to the new technique.
Finally, if you are keen on learning how to be a smarter person, you must have the discipline to persist. In the end, your talent matters lesser than you think if you have the will to persist.
Most people either never start. Many of those who start give up in a few days or weeks. Even most of those who read this article will hardly put these steps into practice.
Persistence increases your chances of success far more than talent does.
The real answer to how to be a smarter person lies in applying what you know. Incorporate as many of these tips as possible. Make some a habit, implement some on a daily basis and try a few of these once in a while. You will notice gradual changes.
When you see slow results or no results, remember the last tip. Persist. You will get there.
What I am not:
What I am:
Continuously improving self-learner
Productivity/Time Management Obsessed