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20 Funny Things Everyone Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter

20 Funny Things Everyone Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter

What does being “smart” look like to you?

Hanging out at the library, nose buried in books? Staying up late into the night programming the next killer app? Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory?

Or could it simply be organizing your routine, habits, and practices around getting a little bit smart each day?

Appearances aside, I’ll vote for the latter. Here’s 20 things you can do every day to boost your brainpower. You might look funny, but it might just be worth it…

1. Sprint into work (or school) in the morning

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    Needless to say, our brains are programmed for convenience. Everyone has that urge to park as close to the door of the building as possible. But if you want to give your brain a boost to start off the day, that might not be the best strategy.

    Research has repeatedly shown that intense cardiovascular exercise gets blood and oxygen flowing to the brain, providing enhanced cognitive performance afterwards. It also activates nervous system (and shakes off that “sleepy” feeling), and releases the “miracle-grow” of brain chemicals: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

    So if you want to seed your dome-piece with the ingredients for building new connections and brain cells quickly, start parking further away than you usually would. On your way into the office (or school) do 1 set of 5×30-second light sprints, with 30 seconds of rest in-between. This little 5-minute routine will get your body and brain ready to tackle the day at full mental capacity.

    2. Wear these at night

    150707-RobertScoble-Bono-glasses

      (Photo: Robert Scoble)

      Little did you know, blue light is making you dumber. Blue light from computer screens, artificial lighting, phones, TV’s – you name it – impairs your body’s ability to release the appropriate amount of melatonin at night, preventing you from falling deeply asleep and damaging the quality of your rest at night.

      So what can you do? Blue light is friggin everywhere.

      Well, you can slap on a pair of these bad boys! Problem solved. Thank you Bono.

      Wearing blue-light blocking glasses simulates the sunset for your visual center, even though you’re still surrounded by artificial light. This signals your body to releases more melatonin, promoting more deep and restful sleep that will leave you mentally recharged. And all without giving up indoor lighting or nighttime Facebook.

      3. Do air squats at your desk

      150702-squat2parallelfarley-crossfit

        You’ve probably heard the news: sitting sucks for you. Not only for weight management, but also, it turns out, for mental performance.

        “With a 1-mph walk after a meal, blood sugar peaks are halved.” ~Tai Lopez

        “Indeed, the best business meeting would have everyone walking at about 1.8 miles per hour.” ~John Medina

        Not only does light exercise stabilize blood sugar levels, requiring less insulin release, and lessening the devastating impact of post-meal crashes, it also keeps a steady flow of blood and oxygen headed to your cranium.

        Now, these guys are talking about walking, but that isn’t always practical if you’re in an office or classroom. So instead, do AIR SQUATS. Work in 20 of these each hour during the day, especially after meals. Yes, you will look somewhat ridiculous, but hey – life is meant to be interesting. And while your co-workers or fellow students are fending off the drool after lunch, you’ll be powering through in peak performance mode.

        4. Carry around a stack of books

        150707-IndiSamarajiva-Books

          (Photo: Indi Samarajiva)

          Reading can make you a smartypants, and no one is a more die-hard believer than author and infamous marketer Ryan Holiday.

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          So according to the man with the famous 40k+ subscriber reading recommendation list, if you want to read more:

          “Carry a book with you at all times. Every time you get a second, crack it open. Don’t install games on your phone–that’s time you could be reading. When you’re eating, read. When you’re on the train, in the waiting room, at the office–read. It’s work, really important work. Don’t let anyone ever let you feel like it’s not.”

          Take it seriously. Go to Amazon, or your local bookstore right now and buy 5 books that interest you. Then, carry them everywhere you go for 2 weeks.

          5. Wear a blindfold and put in earplugs

          150707-KaiMultiblind-blindfolded

            (Photo: Kai Multiblind)

            In a world now, where according to Eric Schmidt of Google we generate more information in 2 days than we did for all of human history up to 2003, it can feel like we’re on maximum sensory overload.

            So it’s not a surprise that things like sensory deprivation tanks have had a major resurgence of late.

            “…flotation may enhance creativity and performance in a manner similar to that of sleep or meditation. Research has shown that during resting states the brain repeatedly rehearses newly learned skills and consolidates recently acquired knowledge for long-term storage. Some studies have also shown that the resting brain is particularly adept at synthesizing information from a wide range of brain areas to solve tough problems – something you may have experienced daydreaming in the shower.” ~Shelly Fan

            Although not all of us have a float tank on hand, you can achieve (to a lesser extent) some of the same cognitive benefits each day by simply wearing a blindfold and earplugs and lying down for a quick recharge.

            Taking 15 minutes after you come home in the evening to spend some time blindfolded and earplugged, not only will enhance your skill acquisition and memory capabilities, but will also give you the space to truly think that seems so hard to come by.

            6. Balance in weird positions

            150707-FrankKovalchek-balance

              (Photo: Frank Kovalchek)

              To say that body and mind interact would be an understatement to a research writer like Alex Hutchinson, who recently wrote a piece on the cognitive benefits of the development of balance and proprioception.

              “It is novelty and unpredictability, rather than repetition, that are essential to keep your brain engaged. A recent study by researchers in Denmark, Finland and Germany compared a group of 15 endurance-trained athletes, like runners and cross-country skiers, with a group of skill-trained dancers, gymnasts and figure skaters…

              Both types of athletes have highly trained calf muscles, but endurance athletes use them repetitiously, in a way that the brain consigns to autopilot. Sure enough, plasticity in the area of the brain that controls calf muscles was no different between endurance athletes and nonathletes. In contrast, the dancers, gymnasts and skaters, for whom autopilot is not an option, showed dramatically higher plasticity: Their neurons were primed to keep learning new motor tasks.”

              So not only should you be getting up from your desk regularly (a la item #3), add in some weirdo balance moves. Stand on one foot. Do some yoga poses. Do this while you’re working, standing in line, etc. and enhance the intelligence of your “body brain.”

              7. Fast like a caveman

              150702-kevinhart-fastingmeme

                We’ve all heard the term “brain food.” But what about the opposite?

                “…we have ample evidence that intermittently depriving organisms of food has been shown to engender beneficial effects on many functions… The antifragility of humans manifests itself in the response with up-regulation of some genes in response to hunger.” ~Nassim Taleb, Antifragile

                Now that mouthful from well-known investor and contrarian Mr. Taleb might not mean too much to you, but what he’s basically saying is: short periods of fasting boost neural activity and mental health.

                Plus thinking about eating is one less thing you’ll be focused on during the day, freeing up mental resources.

                A less extreme option to the full 24-hour fast is a shorter 16-hour intermittent fast each day. So see how long you can go each morning on just coffee or tea, and test how that affects your mental performance.

                8. Agree with people you hate

                Likeability is one of the biggest determinants of who you will, or won’t believe. But unfortunately for the accuracy of your beliefs, whether someone is likable or not has zero to do with how correct they are. So we tend to dismiss the thinking of people we don’t like too much, while holding on dearly to our beliefs which are confirmed by those we are more fond of.

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                Stack on top of that the fact that we have a bias towards information that confirms our beliefs anyway, and you have a recipe for some wacky, illogical thought patterns.

                On the flip side, if you can combat these things you’ll significantly improve your thinking.

                “I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.” ~Charlie Munger

                So next time you’re listing to your favorite radio show, watching a talk on Youtube, or even listening to that co-worker everyone does their best to avoid, flip the script. Surprise the crap out of someone you usually disagree with, and agree with them for a day and see how that sharpens you’re reasoning skills.

                9. Become a notecard weirdo

                150707-wsilver-notecards

                  (Photo: wsilver)

                  How many of us read book after book, blog after blog, but can’t seem to remember or incorporate any of it into our lives?

                  Well back to Ryan Holiday again for our solution: becoming a notecard weirdo.

                  Holiday describes his notecard system (formally called a “commonplace book”), which works by forcing you to record only the most compelling information you find as you read and learn, and organize it in a way that you can easily reference later on.

                  After a month of doing this everyday, you’ll be overflowing with good ideas. So go out and buy yourself some 4×6 notecards, a box, and go to town.

                  10. Study hot-dog eating contests (and other weirdness)

                  150707-dj0ser-kobayashi

                    (Photo: dj0ser)

                    Now, you may never have eaten more that 2 or 3 hot dogs in a sitting, but in 2001 Takeru Kobayashi smashed the world record of 28 in 12 minutes and ate a whopping 50!

                    As the Freakonomics guys Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner talk about in their book Think Like a Freak:

                    “What question were his competitors asking? It was essentially: How do I eat more hot dogs? Kobayashi asked a different question: How do I make hot dogs easier to eat?”

                    The takeaway here is that it’s not always coming up with the right answer that makes you smarter, but asking the right questions.

                    So try it for yourself: search youtube for weird off-the-wall contests and games that you can study. Here’s Kobayashi’s 2001 record video. You can learn a lot by watching the strategy of people like Kobayashi in hot-dog eating, and people like Arthur Chu in Jeopardy. Study how they look at the world and what questions they’re asking.

                    11. Hang out with toddlers

                    160702-toddler-meme-you-mean-to-tell-me-spoons-dont-actually-sound-like-airplanes

                      If you’ve ever spent more than 30 seconds around little kids, you quickly realize that their filter for bad ideas is permanently turned off. They haven’t yet developed that “internal regulator” that edits ideas before they fly out of your mouth, and this allows them to generate the most interesting, off-the-wall ideas you’ve ever heard.

                      This is the essence of creative intelligence, and toddlers are masters at it.

                      Now, you’ll never be able to quite reach their level of ridiculousness, but you can get close. Set aside some time (early in the morning or late at night usually work best) and turn off your filter. Write down 10 horrible, off-the-wall ideas each day. Over time, you’ll start to see weird and wacky ideas pop up that just might be brilliant.

                      12. State the obvious

                      Another one from the Freakonomics guys: “don’t be afraid of the obvious.” Usually the “next big idea” comes from studying what’s right in front of you.

                      As Paul Graham, founder of famous startup fund Y Combinator says (from his post How to Get Startup Ideas),

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                      “The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.

                      The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they’re something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way.

                      …Which means, strangely enough, that coming up with startup ideas is a question of seeing the obvious. That suggests how weird this process is: you’re trying to see things that are obvious, and yet that you hadn’t seen.”

                      Next time you’re thinking about <INSERT YOUR THING HERE>, ask “why” to the most obvious aspects of your experience. Why does it take so long at the post office? Why do we like watching TV? Why does food taste good? Whatever you’re trying to figure out. Really think about the question and don’t filter your answers (see #12).

                      13. Bet against yourself

                      150707-bark-betting

                        (Photo: bark)

                        As much as we like to romanticize the “aha” moment of genius, much of the learning or skill development process is just making daily progress, regardless of how you feel. The problem is, when you don’t feel like it, it’s hard to overcome low motivation and put in the work to make progress.

                        So what we can do instead, is create artificial incentives that get you VERY motivated VERY quickly. Make it so that the negative outcome of NOT doing what you know you should be doing is SO PAINFUL, that you essentially have no choice but to get to work.

                        This is what economists and psychologists call “commitment devices” – and one of them is as simple as betting against yourself.

                        Next time you REALLY want to make progress on developing a new skill or learning something new, use a site like Stikk or Beeminder to throw down $5, $10, $50, even $1,000 which will swiftly disappear from your bank account if you don’t meet your target. If that won’t get you moving I don’t know what will.

                        14. Tell wild stories

                        Joshua Foer, 2006 U.S. memory champion, and author of bestseller, Moonwalking with Einstein, developed the ability to successfully recall entire randomly shuffled decks of playing cards, from memory in minutes.

                        How did he, and other memory “athletes” accomplish these incredible mental feats? They get really good at telling memorable stories to themselves, which are connected to what they’re trying to remember.

                        Because the human brain is built for storytelling, the more things you can link together into a narrative, the more readily you’ll be able to recall them later on.

                        So next time you want to remember something, tell a friend about it, but create a wild and wacky story to go along with it. Learn about the origins of the idea and tell it in the most colorful way possible.

                        15. Write off-handed

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                          Da Vinci was famous for his obsession with ambidexterity, and even wrote in his notebooks from right to left and backwards. But was he just an obsessive freak, or is there really a method to his madness?

                          It turns out that by writing with your off-hand, you can activating the opposing hemisphere of your brain that doesn’t usually get as much “attention.” There’s also some evidence that this improves the connection between your analytical “left-brain” skills and your more creative “right-brain” skills.

                          Regardless, what we definitely know is that by changing things up (and forcing yourself to concentrate on writing with the opposing hand), can get you out of a mental “rut” and force you to make new connections.

                          So try this: spend 15 minutes each day writing some percentage of your notes off-handed. Or try using the mouse, brushing your teeth, throwing around a football with your off-hand as well. Anything to activate that new motor pattern that doesn’t feel “comfortable.”

                          16. Roll around on balls

                          150707-upsidedownshpere-laxballs

                            (Photo: upsidedownsphere)

                            Jill Miller, yoga and fitness pioneer, is an advocate of what you might call an “unconventional practice” – i.e. rolling around on balls.

                            Miller call this “body mapping” – developing proprioceptive sense of the different parts of your anatomy, which improves your kinesthetic awareness.

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                            As she says in a recent interview:

                            “It can enhance the mobility of your soft tissues and awaken your proprioceptive sense (body sense)…

                            …They help you map your own anatomy and befriend it. Mapping yourself is empowering, it helps you to distinguish and differentiate your different parts so that they cooperate better as a whole. Each body part and YOU become more intelligent…”

                            So if you want to improve your “body intelligence,” incorporate this into your routine: roll around on a lacrosse ball or tennis ball for 10 minutes each night before bed. Focus on the “sticky” spots where you experience pain or discomfort and spend more time working the soft tissues in those areas.

                            17. Go to bed when your grandparents do…

                            …but still get up when your friends do.

                            150702-weknowmemes-grandparents-on-thanksgiving-meme

                              Getting a ton of sleep (7-9 hours) is largely underrated, but is essential for effectively consolidating new memories and forging newly developed neural pathways from whatever you learned that day.

                              “A full night’s sleep includes a large dose of several distinct brain states, including REM sleep – when the brain flares with activity and dreams – and the netherworld of deep sleep, when it whispers to itself in a language that is barely audible. Each of these states developed to handle one kind of job, so getting sleep isn’t just something you “should do” or need. It’s far more: It’s your best friend when you want to get really good at something you’ve been working on.” ~ Benedict Carey, New York Times reporter and author of How We Learn

                              So take a play out of your grandparent’s book and hit the sack earlier than what’s considered “socially acceptable.” Instead of setting a morning alarm, work backwards 9 hours and set a “bedtime alarm.” Your new and improved brain will thank you.

                              18. Eat the same meal every day

                              You know that feeling when you come back home from a long day at the office or in the classroom? You feel so drained you can’t even figure out what to eat for dinner. This is the feeling that comes from complete and utter willpower depletion: you’ve used so much mental energy during the day making decisions, thinking, and solving problems, that your gas tank is now empty and you’ve become the equivalent of a “lump on a log.”

                              On the flip side, preserving willpower throughout the day can be a huge cognitive advantage. And one way to do that is to not make tiny decisions throughout the day about trivial things.

                              “According to Professor Baumeister, one simple way to preserve your banks of mental energy is by not wasting it agonising over needless decisions. He cites the case of president Obama, who generally only wears blue or grey suits so that deciding what to wear is one decision he doesn’t have to make.” ~Josh Naish, DailyMail

                              In the same way as the president approaches his wardrobe strategy, one thing YOU don’t want to waste that valuable executive power on is decisions about meals.

                              So instead of leaving it up until just before you eat to decide, pick a meal that you could see yourself eating every day for lunch. Plan out a week’s worth and make it in batches each Sunday. In this case, boring is good, because it means you’re not using valuable brain power making your meals “interesting” and you can spend that power on the more important stuff.

                              19. Sell your TV and delete your Netflix account

                              150702-weknowmemes-good-guy-netflix-meme-2

                                It’s almost become a counter-cultural movement in itself. “We don’t even OWN a TV,” has become a status statement – an attempt to display sophistication and intellectualism. But despite the cliche, think about it.

                                TV rarely provides the entertainment we think it will, but at the same time it doesn’t really allow us to shut off and allow the sympathetic nervous system to take over, which is essential to re-booting your brain after a long day of use.

                                So try it. Sell your TV or unplug it. And delete your Netflix account so that you’re not as tempted to watch shows or movies on your computer. Just don’t go around telling everybody about it…

                                20. Stare at the wall

                                150707-MikeTidd-TM

                                  (Photo: Mike Tidd)

                                  Here’s something true for most of us that we don’t usually stop to think about: often can’t stand to be with ourselves.

                                  Our own thoughts tend to drive us crazy, so instead of sitting there and listening to the anxious chatter that’s going on between our ears, we fill every minute with content and distraction. TV, music, podcasts, books…

                                  That’s all well and good, except that part of coming up with ideas and developing an intuitive intelligence is being aware of our own thoughts and paying attention to them.

                                  So instead of immediately jumping on email or checking Facebook in the morning, spend 15 minutes, before your day has been corrupted by interruptions and other inputs, sitting quietly and observing your thoughts. You might be surprised by what great ideas bubble up.

                                  Featured photo credit: JD Hancock via flickr.com

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                                  1 What Is the Purpose of Life and What Should You Live For? 2 Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes 3 10 Things High Achievers Do to Attain Greatness 4 11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity 5 How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life

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                                  Last Updated on October 16, 2019

                                  Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

                                  Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

                                  Do you like making mistakes?

                                  I certainly don’t.

                                  Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

                                  Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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                                  Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

                                  Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

                                  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
                                  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
                                  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
                                  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

                                  We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

                                  If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

                                  Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

                                  Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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                                  When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

                                  Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

                                  We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

                                  It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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                                  Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

                                  Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

                                  Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

                                  1. Point us to something we did not know.
                                  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
                                  3. Deepen our knowledge.
                                  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
                                  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
                                  6. Inform us more about our values.
                                  7. Teach us more about others.
                                  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
                                  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
                                  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
                                  11. Remind us of our humanity.
                                  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
                                  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
                                  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
                                  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
                                  16. Invite us to better choices.
                                  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
                                  18. Can reveal a new insight.
                                  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
                                  20. Can serve as a warning.
                                  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
                                  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
                                  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
                                  24. Remind us how we are like others.
                                  25. Make us more humble.
                                  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
                                  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
                                  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
                                  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
                                  30. Expose our true feelings.
                                  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
                                  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
                                  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
                                  34. Show us when we are not listening.
                                  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
                                  36. Can create distance with someone else.
                                  37. Slow us down when we need to.
                                  38. Can hasten change.
                                  39. Reveal our blind spots.
                                  40. Are the invisible made visible.

                                  Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

                                  The secret to handling mistakes is to:

                                  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
                                  • Have an experimental mindset.
                                  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

                                  When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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                                  When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

                                  It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

                                  When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

                                  Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

                                  Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

                                  More About Success and Failures

                                  Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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