The Two-Step Process for Getting Smarter

Oh no, I could never do that… I’m not smart enough.

So you think you need a high IQ?

All too frequently, this is the kind of thing you hear from people who have big dreams… but who think they don’t have what it takes to make those dreams come true.

They not only think that you need to be smart to become successful…
They also believe that being smart is not something you can learn (at least not without devoting years to higher education).

If you think you aren’t smart enough and that it’s too difficult to become smart enough to achieve what you want … you are operating under a common delusion.

You see, smart doesn’t mean what most people think it means. Let me explain…

When most people think of increasing their brainpower, all they think about is increasing their IQ. And there are many books out there promising that if you just add a few points to your IQ, your life will improve… and improve dramatically. Nice way for selling books… But I disagree with the concept.

If we want to be successful in life, I don’t think the goal is to have a higher IQ… Not at all. And here’s why… I’ve had the good fortune to meet many smart people, with high IQs. But often when you size up their accomplishments, there is much to be desired.

So if increasing your IQ doesn’t make you smarter in terms of reaching more of your goals, what will?

I think I have an answer … For me, getting smarter means improving myself in certain key areas: my ability to concentrate, the speed at which I learn, my problem-solving ability, my mental endurance, the clarity of my writing, the depth of my creativity… and my ability to remember, recall, and put what I learn into practice.

Does this resonate with you? Would improving yourself in these key areas help you reach more of your goals? Most definitely.

Richard Restak, a renowned neuropsychiatrist and author 18 books on the brain including Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot: Unleashing Your Brain’s Potential, referred to the above as “goals of cognition.”

Your mind’s ability to attend, identify and act. And the latest research shows you can significantly improve your cognition with training.

You see, even though the brain is an organ, in many ways it behaves like a muscle. What I mean is that your brain, unlike other physical organs, doesn’t wear out. In fact, the more you use your brain and the more you challenge it, the stronger it gets.

The flip side is also true. If your brain isn’t stimulated consistently, it atrophies. Use it or lose it is the operating principle behind your brain’s performance as well as your physical body’s performance.

Let’s say you want to “get smarter.” You want your brain to grow stronger and better instead of weaker and slower. What do you need to do? You need to do some brain training.

You train your brain the same way as you train your body – with both direct training and cross-training.

Direct training is where you focus “directly” on improving the specific skills you are after.
And cross-training is where you engage in activities that improve the skills you are after … “indirectly.”

A simple example: If a cricket player wants to increase his batting, he would engage in both batting practice (direct training)… and weight training (cross-training).

A more elaborate example…
Let’s say you want to increase the effectiveness of your report writing.

First, you identify and work on the mechanics involved in report writing. You do this by reading how-to books, taking courses, going to seminars… and so on. These are all direct-training activities.

Next, you identify cross-training opportunities – things like reading other reports or books. And while reading them also look at structure, form, word choice, etc.

This principle works no matter what skill you want to “get smarter” in.

Now that I’ve got you thinking in this direction, I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with your own brain-training program to improve your cognitive skills.

Action Step

You simply need to:

  1. Identify both direct and cross-training activities that will help you
  2. Engage in them, preferably daily, at the same time every day.

[an adaptation of an article by Rich Schefren]