4 Sexy Habits That Immediately Elevate Your Intelligence

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intelligent woman sitting in library

Buddhism says that there are three levels of wisdom.

  • Received Wisdom: A person with blind faith can only achieve this level of wisdom. They only receive it, but don’t understand it.
  • Intellectual Wisdom: Understanding the received wisdom converts it into intellectual wisdom. This is when you know exactly why something works.
  • Experiential Wisdom: When wisdom gets encrypted into your subconscious and changes your behavior without you having to make a conscious effort, that’s when you become truly wise.

I love reading. But I feel like reading only makes me intellectually wise, not experientially wise. Reading makes my conscious mind privy to more knowledge — but since 95% of your mind runs from your subconscious — an overinformed conscious mind doesn’t really help all that much.

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I’ve come to realize that true wisdom — true change in life — comes when your subconscious mind is rewired.

Here are 4 sexy habits that immediately elevate your intelligence:

1. Writing

Writing is reading’s daddy when it comes to increasing your intelligence

People get it wrong.

They think that a non-fiction writer knows everything they write about very clearly — before they actually write it. It’s intuitive for non-writers to think that clarity precedes the written word. However, in reality, the reverse is true.

Clear thinking does not lead to writing. Writing leads to clear thinking.

For instance, a few months ago I wrote an article about mental strength. It’s natural to think that I would have known everything I wrote in that article before I actually sat down to write the article. But that’s not true.

I knew maybe 40% of the content already. But the very act of writing about the topic made me discover and learn the remaining 60%. Writing about any particular topic leads to more intelligence due to the following reasons:

  • It forces you to research the topic. Writing induces reading.
  • Some lessons come from within you — and these stick with you for a very long time.
  • Writing helps you better understand your own thoughts.

That’s why writing is reading’s Daddy when it comes to growing your intelligence.

How to incorporate writing into your life:

Write online on any platform you like — Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, Quora, etc. Do it only for a few hours every week — I promise it’ll still be the greatest thing you can do for your intelligence.

You don’t have to do it for money. You don’t have to do it for fame. Just do it to become a better thinker.

2. Having unique experiences

This is what Steve Jobs would want you to do if you want to grow smarter.

Here’s how Steve Jobs defines ‘smart’.

"…but a lot of it’s an ability to sorta zoom out. Like you’re in a city and you can look at the whole thing from about the 80th floor down at the city. And while others are trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B by reading stupid little maps — you can just see it all out in front of you. You can make connections that just seem obvious as you can see the whole thing. But the key thing is that if you’re going to make connections that are innovative then you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does. Or else, you’re going to make the same connections and then you won’t be innovative. So, get different experiences than the normal course of events."

Illustration by the author’s friend

It’s pretty simple, really.

Everything you do in life — every input you take — builds your subconscious. Now, if these experiences that you have look awfully similar to other people’s experiences, your subconscious will also look similar to theirs. And if your subconscious looks similar to the average population, you’ll have ideas that are similar to theirs.

And evidently, those ideas aren’t that good.

To be a better thinker, you need to have ideas that are different from others. To do that, you need to build a subconscious that’s different from others. And to do that, you need to have unique experiences that the majority of the world does not have.

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How to incorporate this in your life:

Chase new experiences. It’s as simple as that.

For instance, when I was 18, I went to a 10-day silent meditation retreat where I learned the technique of Vipassana. And it changed my life in several ways. One of those ways was that it taught me a neurologically sound way to rewire my subconscious as I wanted to.

No other experience could have taught me how to do that — because Vipassana is an experience not many people have had.

The more unique your experiences are, the more unique your thinking will be. Hence, chase as many unique experiences as you possibly can.

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3. Doing — yes, the simple act of doing 

It can teach you what words never could.

Try this.

Read every book ever written on writing better. Buy every course you can. Hang out with every successful writer and absorb all of their knowledge. Do this for a thousand days — but don’t write even a single word in this period.

And then, on day 1001, write an article.

I bet that article won’t be that great. Even after all this learning.

Simply because reading or watching videos about how to do something can never teach you as much as actually doing that thing. That makes sense, right? Reading without taking action is like taking a classroom lecture on swimming better but then bunking the actual swimming session.

Here’s exactly why doing teaches you what reading never can.

  • One: Reading only gives you knowledge — and knowledge is not necessarily intelligence. When you read, you just make your conscious mind privy to more information. However, true wisdom — or true intelligence is when that knowledge is wrapped into your intuition — into your subconscious mind — and it changes you as a person. Reading and secondary learning can never do that. Only action can. Practice makes perfect.
  • Two: Words are great — they allow you to spread ideas. However, there are many nuanced lessons in any field that can never be put into words. These are super small, nano lessons that are heavily anchored to the present moment of taking action. They cannot be extrapolated into words. Such knowledge is not transferrable through words. It can only be learned through experience.

How to incorporate this into your life:

Garyvee’s advice is golden:

"You can only read so much. You have to do. I’m extreme. Maybe I’m different. I don’t learn that way. I don’t read anything. And that’s not right. But, is it right to read all of them? Sh8t. How many f***ing books from these experts do you need? Do sh*t. Learn. Put in the work."

Tell yourself that you’ve read enough. You’ve bought enough courses. And commit to action.

  • If you’re a writer, stop spending more time reading about writing better, than time spent actually writing.
  • If you want to launch a startup, stop reading all these books on startup lessons. Instead, actually, launch one.

Take action every day. It’s the only true form of learning.

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4. Playing a musical instrument

This could be your go-to full-brain workout.

Technology has truly revolutionized our understanding of the world. In recent times, neuroscientists use fMRI scans and PET scans to see which parts of the brain light up while doing different activities.

Activities like math and reading light up particular, isolated areas of the brain — as one would have imagined. However, when scientists looked up the brains of people while they were playing a musical instrument — they were stunned.

Practically all areas of the brain lit up — all at once. Neuronal activity was observed in both hemispheres of the brain in multiple areas. And this is why TedEd went so far as to call playing music as brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout.

Subsequent research has proven that playing musical instruments leads to higher cognitive ability due to enhanced neuronal connections in the brain. That’s why, MIT even suggests parents who want smarter kids teach them music, instead of coding.

How to incorporate this into your life:

Learn a musical instrument. If you don’t have a lot of time, I recommend the Ukulele because it’s easy and beautiful.

I have a Ukulele too — and I call it Lorelei. I play it almost every day at least for a few minutes. In fact, when I’m trying to write or outline an article — and it feels as if my brain isn’t working, I take a quick 10-minute break to play my Ukulele.

And sure enough, the ideas start flowing. It’s as if playing the Uke jumpstarts my brain. It’s a truly amazing hack. I cannot recommend it enough.

A quick tip: Never keep your instrument inside a cover. Yes, it might catch on some dust. However, not keeping it in a cover makes a huge difference because it removes the friction of you having to take it out from the cover. And you’ll be surprised at how much more you’d play your instrument — just by keeping it more accessible.

Another tip — use my hack and warm up your brain by playing your instrument prior to whenever you need your cognition at its best. You’ll feel a real difference in how efficiently your brain works later.

A quick recap:

To grow your intelligence:

  • Writing >>> reading. It’ll help you understand something better than ever.
  • Have new and unique experiences. A unique subconscious will help you come up with unique ideas.
  • Doing is also >>>> reading. Doing will help you learn nuanced lessons that cannot be put into words.
  • Play a musical instrument. It’s going to fire up your brain in ways you can’t any other way.

This article is not to say that you must stop reading. Instead, what I’m trying to convey here is for you to read on top of these activities — that’ll be extraordinary for your intelligence.

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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.