4 Highly Specific Strategies To Become The Most Intelligent Person In Any Room

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smiling intelligent woman

Intelligence is to me what muscle is to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It’s my lifelong passion to grow my brainpower and think in ways other people cannot; solve problems that no one else can.

Of course, I’m nowhere near close to where I want to be. But I’ve come pretty far. And I’m still moving. In this article, I want to discuss some very specific strategies I’m using to grow my intelligence. Let’s dive in.

Here are four highly specific strategies to become the most intelligent person in any room:

1. Deliberately solve problems every single day

It’s hard to define intelligence. But a simplified definition that would suffice the purposes of this article would be: “Intelligence is the ability to solve a problem.”

When you hear it, the definition pretty sounds obvious — but in practical life, it isn’t to most people.

Think about it. To grow their muscles, people go to the gym and try to lift weights beyond their muscular ability. In response to that attempt, their muscles grow — so that come next time, they can lift that weight better.

Such is the case with problems.

To be more intelligent, you have to solve problems. However, most people unintentionally run away from problems. For example, if an employee arrives at a problem, they immediately google a solution for it. Or they run to their boss and ask them for it.

In such cases, no cognitive effort has been put in. Consequently, no growth of brain power occurs.

To counter this, an effective strategy can be to simply solve more problems.

  • If you encounter problems in your office, don’t run to your superior. At least try to solve the problem yourself (especially if it’s not an emergency.)
  • If no problem is currently presenting itself to you, seek problems for yourself. Pick a problem from your life and try to think of a solution. Or pick a problem outside your life and try to solve it.

For the past few months, I spend fifteen minutes every day trying to solve problems. Some of these problems are from my own life — “How do I wake up early?”, “How do I find time for this hobby?”, etc. And others are big problems that the world is facing — “How can we reverse climate change?” “How can we reduce tobacco consumption?”

The purpose here is not to set out to actually solve these problems. (Although you may do that too.) The goal here is to simply force yourself to spend some cognitive effort — and in turn recognize generalized frameworks that can help you learn how to solve problems.

Your goal in life should be to progressively solve bigger and bigger problems. Just like you try to lift heavier and heavier in the gym.

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2. Dig into the ‘Further Reading’ section

Many book readers — including myself up till now — read just one book on a topic and we’re done with it.

But I’m changing my approach to reading now.

My strategy right now is to pick a topic and read several books on the same topic. For instance, so far I’ve read 4 books on the neurochemical ‘Dopamine’ and 3 books on cryptocurrency.

Here’s my rationale behind this.

I’ve come to realize that all the different subjects that exist in the world have different primary frameworks in place. However — they’re in no way exclusive to those subjects. These frameworks can be borrowed and used to solve problems in other fields as well.

Let’s take an example.

A few years ago, NASA engineers wanted to install solar panels in space so that they can harvest solar energy to run space equipment instead of batteries. However, the problem that bothered them was that it was not possible to send solar panels with large surface areas into space using rockets that are shaped like pencils.

Then, a guy names Brian Tease had a brilliant idea.

He realized that they could use the principles of Origami to fold the solar panels such that they would fit into the thin rockets. And it worked!

However, it was in no way a coincidence that he was able to come up with this idea. Brian Tease actually practiced Origami as a kid — and hence, his mind was able to borrow a framework from that area of his life onto this one.

That’s precisely why I’m trying to explore certain subjects and find depth by reading multiple books on them. This way, I’ll have a lot of knowledge and at the same time, gain different perspectives on the same subject. This will get me acquainted with the many frameworks of those subjects.

Over a long time — with enough subjects explored and with enough frameworks collected — I’ll be a better problem solver. And consequently, be more intelligent.

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3. Play an instrument before and during your thinking time

First of all, to be more intelligent, you must take out time to think.

Because people don’t really think anymore.

They’re always doing something. And when they have nothing to do — they’re consumed by their screens. That’s why scheduling some dedicated time to think is a good way to be more intelligent. That’s what we’re trying to achieve with point #1 in this article.

Once you’ve developed a habit of thinking every day, a great add-on to that habit would be to boost your cognition by playing a musical instrument.

In recent years, neuroscientists have been able to read people’s brains by hooking them up to fMRI and PET scan machines. This consequently enables them to figure out which parts of people’s brains light up during different activities.

Activities like Math and Speaking have specific regions in the brain that light up — just like they predicted. But when scientists had their participants play musical instruments, they were stunned to see the results.

They witnessed fireworks inside the musicians’ brains. Practically all parts of their brain lit up.

Supporting this study are various other studies that show that playing musical instruments helps improve people’s cognition significantly. Owing to all these observations, TedEd went so far as to call playing a musical instrument the equivalent of a full-body workout for the brain!

Here’s a fun accessory to those scientific facts.

According to Einstein: His Life and Universe, while working on difficult problems, whenever Einstein faced a roadblock, his solution was always to play his violin. And he noted that the answers would come to him mysteriously while playing the violin — as if the very act of creating melodies inevitably led to the answers being unleashed to him.

This is why I try to achieve the same. Before my writing sessions, I play my ukulele — in an attempt to warm up my brain. And if I get stuck in the middle of an article — again — I pick up my ukulele for five minutes, and sure enough, the ideas start flowing again.

It’s totally worth it to try this out.

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4. Read biographies of geniuses

Most people might think that intelligence is independent of a person’s character. But perhaps it’s not. Your character determines your choices and your approach toward life — and that in turn generates your intelligence.

For instance, in Einstein’s biography, Walter Isaacson makes it evident that Einstein was highly individualistic and hated herd mentality. He didn’t like to assign himself to any particular community — so much so — that he even renounced his German citizenship at one point in time.

Einstein was also highly skeptical in nature and his nonconformist attitude led to him having an utter disdain for authority. But these character traits are exactly what led to Einstein being the smartest man in history — because being who he was enabled him to think how he did. Paradoxically, he once stated that “To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.”

Another example would be Steve Jobs. As a person, Steve Jobs was quite adamant. He wanted things a certain way — and would not settle for anything less than what he envisioned. Sure. He was a pain in the ass to the people he worked with. But it was his adamant nature that forced him and his team to think beyond their perceived abilities and come up with innovative ideas to achieve their envisioned products.

These people were able to do what they did because of who they were. Their legacy was a product of their intelligence. And their intelligence was a product of their character.

That’s why I’m always reading autobiographies of the people I consider highly intellectual — Steve Jobs, Einstein, Elon Musk — to name a few. By reading about their life — by getting a close look at stories from their day-to-day lives— I want to know their character better.

In hopes that their character will rub off on me and boost my intelligence — just like it did theirs.

Recap: Specific strategies for higher intelligence.

  • Solve problems every day. Choose problems you’re facing in your own life. Or go bigger. Solve problems the world is facing.
  • Explore a new subject beyond just a single book. Go deeper. Gather multiple perspectives. Let the frameworks diffuse into your subconscious — so that you can use them in other areas of your life.
  • Play a musical instrument. Use it to warm up your brain before doing cognitively challenging tasks. And use it when you hit roadblocks.
  • Read autobiographies of the most intelligent people in history. Let their character rub off on you.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.