You may be the type to constantly push yourself to stay on the cutting edge. You work out your mind and body everyday so you can get more from life and stay in the zone. But, with everything you do there’s still a little something missing. You may not know exactly know what “it” is, but you can feel it: The spark, the zest, the quick wit.

You probably know people who can flip the script of life on a moments notice. Now it’s time to cultivate these skills for yourself.

To some, cleverness means manipulation. Instead, we’re gonna reframe that expired meaning to mental flexibility and gut instinct.

The little known story of Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa was a musical genius and constant innovator of his craft. A little known trait of his, however, was his quick, intuitive thinking.

One day a stranger showed up on Frank’s doorstep, waving a revolver and a bloody bag. As Frank reached for the bag, the man aimed a revolver at his chest.

Without hesitation, and fueled by a brilliant impulse, he rallied everyone in the house to head outside to the lake, including the armed stranger. When they were all standing by the shore, he suggested that everyone start throwing things into the lake. The stranger threw his gun.

The secret to his success was his lightening-fast mental reflex; a muscle he had built up over many years.

A deeper dive into his mental life

Zappa’s success had to do with the way he perceived the world. As a naturally creative mind, he allowed his creative processing to seep into his life. Most people would see this situation and immediately react, either cowering in fear or reacting with anger; instead, Zappa saw the situation from multiple angles. Disarming the stranger would be his ultimate goal.

Through building your own creative muscle you can learn to process the world in this open ended manner. It takes time, but the exercises are simple and can potentially save your life.

Zappa also had a unique bond with his gut instinct that many of us take for granted. Granted as an innovative musician he had built up the ability to trust his gut, leading him towards new musical avenues. This connection with his intuition proved vital. It allowed him to turn his creative thinking into reality with lightening speed, bringing the situation under his control and saving his life.

When you build a connection to your own intuitive muscle it might feel strange. After all you’re simply trusting in a feeling or a hunch, but over time you’ll become a master. Couple this intuitive trust with creative thinking and you’ll have lightening fast mental control over your life.

The Zappa Equation: Intuition + Creative Vision

To infuse your life with cleverness two elements need to be present:

1. Creative Vision

Having a creative view of the world is the ability to perceive multiple realities in one situation. It’s easier if you prep ahead of time, so you’re ready when life deals you a tough hand. To cultivate this gift try the following exercise:

Whenever an event just happened in your life, pause for reflection: maybe it’s a conversation with your boss, or a decision to take a trip to Europe. Use your imagination to come up with alternative ways it could have gone. Use the golden phrase “what if”. Get playful with it, this should be fun. You’re awakening your imagination with your creative juices.

By playing with different realities of a situation your brain will become used to applying this kind of daydream like thinking to everyday situations.

For some it helps to keep a journal with you so you can jot down events and how they could have gone differently. After a while you’ll start to program your mind to see the world this way.

2. Intuition

A lot of us have an unhappy relationship with our intuition. Either it’s weakened to the point of decay or we confuse the feelings of our gut with anxiety or indigestion. We need to cultivate this bond with our inner guidance system so it can steer us in the right direction.

Imagine trying to navigate your way through a dense forest with a broken compass—you probably wont get very far.

Let’s get your compass in working order. Give this exercise a go:

Any time you walk into a room try and sense the overall feeling. Ask yourself: is there any negativity present? What about positivity?

Give yourself permission to try and feel out the room with your intuition. It should only take a few seconds. After a couple of times you’ll have a better sense about the world around you and have the ability to feel into situations before they happen.

When can I use this?

All this is great but how does this translate to your daily life?

Your life is made up of moments. The greater mastery you have over these moments the more beauty you can inject into your life.

You’ll be like the artist at her canvas, using your cleverness as a brush to paint the life of your dreams. By experimenting with these simple cleverness practices you’ll develop a river of cleverness throughout your life. A set of tools that can be used on moments notice.

The tools are simple, and the results are profound.

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Featured photo credit: bright idea concept with light bulb via Shutterstock

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