5 Practical Ways To Get Smarter & Better at (Almost) Anything
Daniel Craig in Knives Out. Design by the author.

Who doesn’t want to get smarter?

And if you are to believe online articles and YouTube videos, becoming brighter than your middle school class topper is easier than ever.

All you have to do is

🔹 set aside your phone

🔹 read more books

🔹 befriend people smarter than you

🔹 and learn to play some instruments for some reason

So essentially, they want you to change your entire lifestyle, social circle, and hobbies in the name of a vaguely defined goal of ‘getting smarter.’ And when you fail to do so, you are a lazy loser.

Now, don’t get me wrong. On paper, these are valid pieces of advice. They are all evidence-based. And if you stick to them, you will see lasting positive outcomes.

The only problems are:

A. It’s not easy for everyone (people with real-life works and issues) to stick to them.

B. You don’t know what the positive outcomes really are and how they will make your life any easier.

Make no mistake. If you want to be smarter or learn to solve your problems more efficiently, you have to make some hard lifestyle choices.

But you have to know why you are making them. You have to know the stakes. That’s why the first step is to…

Know Your “WHY”

What does it mean to get smarter?

Is it just about knowing a lot of stuff that has little to no application in your life? Or is it more about asking, learning, and figuring out your way into a better life?

If you prefer the second option, you better be crystal clear on why you want to learn what you want to learn. Otherwise, you will run the risk of losing your resolve halfway through.

No. You won’t give up right away. Instead, you will find yourself stuck in a loop between procrastination and action-faking.

What you really need is a clear mental image.

We (the alleged most intelligent beings on the planet) don’t like to commit to something for free. There will always have to be a sense of threat or a promise of tangible rewards.

➡ You can’t taste fitness, but you sure can taste a double patty hamburger with extra cheese (pleasure). That’s why most of your morning strolls end up at the nearest Wendy’s (action).

➡ Now, if I throw in some delicious joint pain with the toppings of a potential stroke (threat), you will happily set aside the burger and pick up your running shoes (action).

That’s how your instincts, consciously or subconsciously, dictate your actions. Don’t worry! You can work it to your advantage.

It doesn’t even matter what you are trying to learn. Be it coding, writing, designing, or anything else. All you need is a clear sense of:

1⃣ how would it benefit you when you manage to get it right

2⃣ and what you will lose if you fail to get it done

The real-life implications of your actions will keep you from slacking off.

Be Very Careful of What You Read

The problem with giving advice saying just read: is that there’s so much junk out there, right? There are as many different kinds of authors as there are people… I do have people in my life that I consider to be very well-read who aren’t very smart.

Naval Ravikant

This one can be tricky. There are absolute pieces of garbage that have amassed quite a following. And then there are those underrated gems that can make some sense of your messy life.

Reading the wrong books, or even the right books in the wrong order can be widely counterproductive.

It’s because when you start by reading meaningless feel-good fluff, you start seeing the world from a wishful point of view.

Then when you are presented with factual information, you deny them all because they challenge your core beliefs.

That’s not how you get sharper. No. That’s how you get delusional.

So your best bet is to question anything you read.

Ⅰ. Don’t just read one book on a topic.

Ⅱ. Read multiple books on the same.

Ⅲ. Do your homework on the authors as well.

Ⅳ. See if the authors have credentials in the area they are exploring.

Ⅴ. If not, then do they have any personal achievements in the field?

Ⅵ. Go to YouTube. Listen to them explain their points.

Ⅶ. Then cross-check their assessments from external sources.

Want to build a solid core? Stick to the basics and stick to science. The things you teach yourself are going to reflect on your decision-making. That’s why you wouldn’t want to take any chance here.

Use Your Time Well

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Abraham Lincoln

Again. Most of us (who have bills to pay and a family to take care of) don’t enjoy much free time.

But fortunately, you don’t actually have to spend hours in the gym. You can still make progress if you do 10 push-ups a day for the next three months.

What I’m saying here is to build a long-term plan instead of running into a wall with your eyes closed.

The best way to go about it is to break your lofty dreams into a lot of smaller, achievable goals. Now, make an actionable strategy on how to go about it.

For example, if you want to finish reading a book in a week:

☑ Figure out how you can free up some chunk of time from your daily chores.

☑ Ask yourself if switching to an audiobook is going to help.

☑ If you don’t feel like reading the entire thing, read or listen to detailed summaries.

☑ Note what you learned from the said books. And whenever you find a scope, try to apply them in real life.

The more thought you put into your learning framework, the easier it will get over time.

It’s not about how much you can get down in a day. It’s more about if you can maintain your gradual yet consistent effort to create a compound effect.

Take Care of Yourself (No, Really)

This shouldn’t come as a surprise.

You can’t play for the long game if both your physical and mental well-being is under the constant strain of your unhealthy lifestyle.

And it doesn’t have to be that hard to make life easier for your future self. All you need to do is to

🔹 go out for a morning walk

🔹 eat well

🔹 maintain a steady sleep routine

🔹 drink more water and less alcohol

🔹 do light exercise and meditate if possible

In the long run, making these micro-changes in your lifestyle pays off really well.

By taking care of your body, you extend the peak of your physique, retain your cognitive functionality more than most people, and give yourself enough wiggle room under heavy stress.

Be Self-Aware

No matter how qualified you are or how fast you can solve complex problems, if you lack self-awareness, you will keep making a fool out of yourself.

Being self-aware is a clear sign of higher emotional intelligence. Not only does it allow you to view different perspectives than yours, but it also allows you to accept when you are proven wrong. As a result, you get to

💠 manage yourself and your resources well

💠 assess both your strengths and weaknesses without any bias

💠 adapt according to circumstances

develop better social skills, and foster a strong relationship with people who matter

Guess what! It’s never been easier to know what you want to know and learn what you want to learn. With just a laptop and a wifi connection, you can access all the information you need.

In the end, it all comes down to how fast you learn to use your advantages. Yes. Everyone has their own unique set of unfair advantages — you too.