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5 Simple Ways to Get Smarter in Life and Business

5 Simple Ways to Get Smarter in Life and Business

Although intelligence means something different to everyone, psychologists and scientists have tried to pin it down to just our IQ, as if a number can be representative of our entire mind. They used to believe that intelligence is entirely inherited. This means you’re either born with or you aren’t, and it can’t be changed or improved upon.

Today, we understand that intelligence is a much more abstract concept. It is not set in stone. It can be influenced by our environment, our mindsets, and our commitment to constantly improve ourselves.

There are two key factors over which we have control if we want to get smarter.

1. The environment we choose.

This is the classic Nature vs Nurture debate.

Nature: our genetic makeup.

Nurture: the environmental factors which influence our development.

Turns out it is not so much Nature vs. Nurture as it is Nature and Nurture, more specifically how they interact. Intelligence is only partially inherited. The full potential of our intelligence is determined by the environment we set it in. This means the people we surround ourselves with, the new challenges we give ourselves, and the shows we choose to watch, are just a few examples of factors that influence our intelligence. Nature and nurture interact together to create intelligence. Even though we can’t (yet) change our genes, we are in control of many factors in your own environment.

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2. The mindset we choose.

What about when things happen in our environment, which we have no control over? It comes down to our mindset.

Current research indicates that the only limit to one’s intelligence is what the individual believes is possible and how their behaviors either foster or limit their intelligence.

What does this mean? 

If you have always been told you are unintelligent by your teachers or your family members you are likely to have set a mental limit for yourself and what you can achieve, thus preventing you from reaching your full potential.

Michael Strasner, personal and professional coach for over thirty years, says our beliefs come from our past experiences and the interpretations we make from those events.

When we make the effort to identify the negative beliefs we have about ourselves and remove them from our thoughts then we are truly free to become anything we want, including more intelligent.

Choose the growth mindset.

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The growth mindset, a concept founded by psychologist Carol Dweck, perfectly describes the qualities which are essential to developing our intelligence.

dweck_mindset

    The qualities are:

    • Embracing challenges
    • Persisting in the face of setbacks
    • Viewing effort as the path to mastery
    • Learning from criticism
    • Finding lessons and inspiration in the success of others

    Ironically, we sometimes need to make mistakes and immerse ourselves in situations where we are in a state of disequilibrium in order to improve our intelligence. Although this may initially feel uncomfortable, it ultimately brings us much further in life than the person who’s main goal it is to appear smart in the eyes of others.

    4 Simple Ways to Get Smarter

    1. Challenge Yourself

    Lev Vygotsky developed the theory of the Zone of Proximal Development during the last ten years of his life. He believed the optimal tasks for developing our cognitive abilities are ones which are too difficult for us to master on our own, but we are able to complete with some assistance from more capable peers.

    As soon as a task becomes effortless for us to complete on our own, it is a sign that we are not challenging ourselves enough and are not encouraging any potential growth in that specific area.

    Are there any areas in your own life where the tasks have stopped requiring your conscious effort? Unless you don’t wish to improve, don’t get too comfortable.

    Intelligence is like a muscle. It can’t become stronger if it is not challenged by heavier weights and exercises.

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    2. Read Smarter

    Reading just about anything will improve your awareness and open your mind to new thoughts and ideas.

    According to an article by Glen Stansberry, “Those that read have higher GPA’s, higher intelligence, and general knowledge than those that don’t.”

    While the concept of reading books to get smarter is not exactly novel (pardon the pun), few of us actually do it.

    The reason is: we’re not reading smart. We can read even more books by increasing our reading speed, using technology like Spritz, and even dropping the books we don’t love.

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      If you haven’t read our article on how to read over 60+ books a year, I highly recommend checking it out.

      3. Hangout With People Who Are Smarter Than You

      Perhaps we aren’t exactly, as Jim Rohn said, “the average of the five people you spend the most time with” but he was definitely heading in the right direction.

      No matter how strong we are, those closest to us can (and will) have an impact on our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.

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      It may feel more comfortable to have friends who aren’t overachievers, because it takes the pressure off of us, but ultimately one of the best ways to become more intelligent and grow as a person is to surround ourselves with intelligent and ambitious people.

      The same goes for when we surround ourselves with people who genuinely believe we are intelligent and capable. They will subconsciously show more respect and enthusiasm towards our abilities and ourselves.

      We register these slight differences in behavior and mirror their high expectations with our excellent results.

      4. Become an Idea Machine

      In James Altucher’s new book, The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth, he shares a daily habit of his with fellow readers. Everyday, no matter what, he writes down 10 new ideas.

      It is easier said than done. Altucher says, the more we practice it, the easier it will become for us to think of ideas and solutions during times of conflict, where it is essential to be able to react quickly.

      You might choose to write all of these ideas in one sitting, or you could carry around a small notepad and write down any ideas you have sporadically throughout the day.

      Conclusion

      I genuinely believe everyone is intelligent and capable of enhancing their own intelligence.

      The tips in this article are meant to help you see measurable changes in the way you think, the ideas you have, and the challenges you are able to face in real life. By measurable, I don’t mean an IQ test or your grades in school, but the progress you make towards your goals and the future you desire.

      Over to You

      Which of these tips to get smarter resonates with you? Are there any that you have not been utilizing?

      This was originally posted on Rype’s blog.

      More by this author

      Sean Kim

      Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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      Last Updated on February 11, 2021

      10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

      10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

      Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

      You have to work hard to develop the right skills

      If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

      1. Make your presentation short and sweet

      With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

      JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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      2. Open up with a good ice breaker

      At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

      • Joking
      • Tugging on their heart strings
      • Dropping a bombastic statement
      • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
      • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

      You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

      3. Keep things simple and to the point

      Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

      4. Use a healthy dose of humor

      Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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      It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

      5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

      Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

      6. Practice your delivery

      Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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      7. Move around and use your hands

      Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

      8. Engage the audience by making them relate

      Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

      9. Use funny images in your slides

      Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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      10. End on a more serious note

      When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

      As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

      Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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