How do I become a more intelligent person?

(February 02, 2016 )

There are two forms of intelligenceraw(fluid) and practical(crystallized)


Raw refers to how fast you are able to come up with a solution to a novel problem. Practical refers to an accumulation of knowledge that makes the things you do day to day easier.

For example if you know a lot about the civil war, you'll do very well in a debate with a smarter but less knowledgeable person. If you have a lot of experience in your job, you'll do better than the smarter newbie with no experience.

But if you and a smarter person with the same amount of background knowledge are asked to find the best way to get a rocket to the moon, the smart guy is likely to arrive at a better solution.

If you want to increase raw intelligence you're out of luck.

As of now there is no technology or method that has wide consensus in the scientific community that can increase raw intelligence to a meaningful degree. Don't buy into the brain training games, they are a waste of your money.

But don't worry about it too much.

Increasing your practical intelligence will help your life in a very meaningful way.

1. Meditation will increase your attention to a significant degree. Your gains will be dependent on how much you meditate. You can reasonably have an expectation of godlike attention abilities if you practice focused attention meditation for decades. Here's what else you can expect.

  • Your relationships will be much better because people will find that you're a good listener.
  • It will shorten you're learning curve when you're trying to gain a new skill.
  • You will have a greater appreciation for the present moment and become much happier as a result.
  • It will be much easier to set goals and go after them because you're mind will be trained to avoid distractions.

2. Increase your vocabulary. It's not to be able to show off to other people how smart you are, but having a large vocabulary has a lot of surprising side effects you might not be aware of.

  • You can read a 100 books a year but it won't really help you if you don't get a lot out of them. You're reading comprehension is heavily dependent on your vocabulary. This goes beyond just knowing the definition of the words you're going to read. It seems strange but studies have confirmed that having a large vocabulary will give you a higher general reading comprehension ability . Having a large vocabulary will help you get more out of books then anything else will.

3. Increase your general knowledge. When I mean general knowledge, I don't mean knowing random facts but functional knowledge. For example you can't expect to be taken seriously as an intelligent person if don't know the difference between capitalism and socialism. There's a great book by the renowned education expert E.D. Hirsch called Cultural Literacy that lists everything an educated American needs to know. Here are some other benefits.

  • You will have a greater memory. Your memory is like a spider web, and the more connections you make the easier it will be to memorize something. This effect is so great that some cognitive psychologist have suggested that a great memory is just a function of having a great base of knowledge.

  • It will be easier for you to solve problems. You will have a greater base of skill and knowledge to draw upon when confronted with a novel problem.

4. Learn skills that are desired by society. Being smart means you should be able to live life in the most efficient way possible. If you can easily navigate the world you're a smart person in anybody's book.

  • Learn some accounting. It's essential if you want to start your own business.
  • Learn the basics of trades like plumbing, carpentry and mechanics.
  • Learn to cook
  • Have some basic survival skills like being able to start a fire and botany
  • Knowing nutrition and how to work out properly
  • Public speaking
  • etc... You can fill in the blanks.

5. Learn discipline. You will be much more effective in life if you have a base of discipline to work with. You have to start with a small goal and work your way up if you want to be disciplined.

  • You're life will be much more efficient if you can finish your goals on time.
  • Dude you're going to be better in everything if you can keep yourself disciplined, I'm not going to bother to think of more bullet points for this. It's infinite.

6. Constantly challenge your own beliefs. Debate all the time.

  • If you challenge your own beliefs on a regular basis, what you're going to end up is a lot of security and comfort in your way of looking at the world. You'll cut out all the bullshit and will be comfortable in knowing your way is the right way. Only by constantly challenging your own beliefs can you arrive at the best path or view on life.

7. Learn a musical instrument, read a lot of literature, learn to dance etc... Get in touch with your creative side.

  • You will end up becoming more open to ideas by getting in touch with your softer side. Now if you're a guy I'm not telling you to put on a pink tutu and start doing ballet. This could mean learning to battle rap and picking up the guitar.
  • You will be much more creative because you won't be so set in your ways.
  • Studies have shown that learning a new instrument has led to thickening of some parts of the brain making you smarter.

8. Exercise
  • Studies have shown that people who exercise get higher scores on measure of intelligence suggesting a link between physical activity and intelligence.
  • More importantly it will help you fight off cognitive decline. You should be striving to be smart and healthy for your whole life and not just your early 20's.

Beyond will be entering the realm of nootropics, multivitamins and trans cranial electric brain stimulation. The science is still out on those.

Don't worry about those for now. If you keep working on the things I've listed you'll find significant change in your ability to navigate the world.

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