I need to Learn How to Be Smart
So, you want to be smart? First, there’s a problem with the question. If you reading this and want to be smart, you are probably thinking that you’re not smart already? That’s a serious mistake. First of all, if you are asking questions like that, you’re probably a lot smarter than you think you are. The truth is that being smart or not smart are just labels, and for all of the credit that is heaped on IQ scores and other identifiers of intellegence, it’s important to remember that IQ is probably one of the biggest injustices ever perpetrated on humankind. After all, how many people have at some time in their lives been labeled stupid and turned out to be anything but? Einstein. Edison. The list is practically endless.
The truth is that IQ measures nothing more than the ability to coorellate abstract information. Nothing more. And what exactly is that going to do for you? It certainly won’t pay the rent in most states. It is also important to understand that everybody is smart at something while not necessarily being smart at something else.
Much of being smart is simply a matter of perception, and if that is the case, how do you change that perception? That is the focus of this article.
How Smart Am I?
Have you ever found yourself wondering what others are talking about? Perhaps you were listening to a conversation in the lunchroom about a particular subject that you knew little or nothing about? If it’s a subject that you would like to know more about, the natural process would be to educate yourself on that subject. This means keeping in mind that education doesn’t necessarily mean degrees and diplomas. It also has nothing to do with age or education. Simply put, it’s an understanding about the world around you. And you want to know something? It’s a fascinating place just waiting to be explored. All you have to do is look around, read, and ask questions. And when you develop that understanding about how a part of the world functions that’s more than how to be smart in school, that’s called genius.
How to Be Smart
A discussion about how to become smart would probably be without merit if there were no examples included on how someone did just that. This is not to say that anyone is ever born “dumb,” but just needs to feed their brain to get where they want to go.
There’s a story that came to public attention a few years ago when a young African boy decided that he wanted to help rescue his family and his neighbors from the cycle of poverty that had afflicted them for generations. The trouble was that the boy lived in a region of African called Masitala, one of the poorest areas of the continent.
For years, the boy and his family relied on farming for their basic support, but one year the area suffered a terrible famine, which forced him to drop out of school because he could not afford the tuition. Fortunately, the boy had a love of reading, so he started making daily trips to his local library, as scant as it was, where he discovered an interest in electronics. Soon, the knolwedge he gained through his study led him to start a small business repairing radios and other small electronics from his home. But that wasn’t enough. Wanting to do something to help his family and their neighbors, he decided to combine his interest in electronics to construct a makeshift windmill, which eventually powered his family’s home as well as an irrigation system that has benefitted his whole community and in the process brought him international fame. The boy’s name is William Kamkwamba, and he not only recently wrote a book about his experienced titled The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, but he was recently featured in a TED talk. Since then his story has appeared in many international publications and made him not only famous, but also in great demand as a public speaker.
How to Be Street Smart
This is an inspiring story, to be sure, but the question is, “How did William become so smart?” The answer is that he was inspired by his desire to help his family and friends, and put his love of learning to work. As a result, it’s wasn’t a matter of intelligence so much as his motivation to put his desire to work that made him “smart.” In fact, it’s when you can apply what you learn in school and in books to your everyday life that you become “street smart.”
Several years ago there was a song by Madonna that used the phrase “Express yourself.” The real meaning of song lyrics are probably something that not a lot of people put a lot of thought into, but when it comes to being smart, especially when it comes to wanting to be smart, it pays to be able to express yourself well.
This brings to mind the ability to express yourself with your vocabulary, a shortcoming many people have. And what is it to develop a good vocabulary, but to build yours one word at a time? The meaning and history of words is a fascinating study, and noplace will you get answers to those questions better than by looking through a dictionary. Just pick a word, and learn about its meaning and origins. The result will be one more word that you can use to better express your thoughts and feelings, the very stuff that makes smart people who they are. Many online dictionaries and publications such as Reader’s Digest have word of the day features that will even send you a new word daily to enrich you, free of course.
Leaders are Readers
It’s been said in many ways by many people throughout the ages that leaders are readers. It’s true. Smart people not only are able to use their vocabularies to express themselves, but they also use their knowledge of words to understand the world around them.
When was the last time you read a book? If you’re like most people, it’s probably been a while. Why not change that by not only reading a book, but by picking up something that’s new to you, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. Better yet, why not pick up several books to read at the same time? You will be enjoying an intellectual smorgasbord in no time.
The World In Front of You
Having a knowledge of the world of the past is great, but what about the world as it’s evolving? When was the last time you read a newspaper or a news magazine? These are both great ways to become smarter about the world around you. Television is great, but broadcasts don’t usually have the time to give to great analysis of news events like publications do. And today, you don’t even have to worry about buying and reading all of the publications that are available. With electronic readers, you can subscribe to them and have them delivered right to your hand.
It doesn’t make much sense just to learn things for the sake of learning them, even though there is a particular joy in that, so the next time you meet someone, why not engage them in a discussion about something you just read? When you can have a meaningful discussion with someone over something you learned, it’s not trivia anymore. It’s now an interesting tidbit that’s fun to marvel about with someone else.
Learn Another Language
One of the most interesting experiences in intellectual achievement is to learn another language. After all, not only are you learning to speak and or read something many people don’t consider doable, but you have the benefit of the additional experience of meeting other people from other places and interests that you can communicate with in their own language.
Learning another language really does open up the world to you. And if you have a desire to learn a language that you know nobody from that part of the world, why not visit that country?
Becoming Another Person
There’s an old saying that once you stretch your mind to incorporate an idea, it will never return to the same shape again. And it’s true. The more you learn, the more you will want to learn, and it will change you. You will, no doubt, ask more questions, set learning goals for yourself, and devote more time to educating yourself. It’s all mental exercise that any smart person commits themselves to, and soon you will join that esteemed group.