Money Matters

How To Get Smart



It’s when you’re obviously clever. Clearly informed. And surely valuable. It’s an adjective you can own, practice, and trade on. It’s not something you’re born with (no babies are out there solving the world’s most pressing problems). Nope. Smart is something you become. Something you earn. Something you practice. And ironically, it’s easier to be than you think.

Read books.

It doesn’t matter what kind, or even what quality. It just matters that you read. Every book, no matter how odd, no matter how unusual, contains at least a kernel of insight. Some books contain insights on beauty. Some contain insights on filth. All of those insights are useful.

Watch people.

Smart people understand other people. They can wear others’ metaphorical shoes and feel their actual pains. Just by watching, you’ll see the details that make civilization both possible to function and challenging to maintain. So sit. Observe. Absorb. Imagine other people’s lives, with all of their chemicals and all of their memories sloshing around. You’ll be smarter and kinder for it.

Notice systems.

Why are you who you are? Why are you where you are? Why is where you are even a place? Everything happens for so many, many reasons. Find those reasons, and you’ll see the systems. See systems, and you’ll understand situations. Smart means reading a thousand big pictures as transparent slides stacked upon each other.

Feel emotions.

Hastily swallowed feelings get digested and lead to crappiness later. Examined feelings lead to wisdom and the ability to function in society (seriously, ask a therapist). Use your emotions to make connections and trigger knowledge. They’re the keys to being emotionally intelligent. Smart means knowing how to leverage information, including all of the emotional stuff.

Leverage logic.

Logic is gritty material. It doesn’t care about your situation or your motivation or your plans. It just is. Logic contains facts and probabilities, laws and functionalities. It’s history without the bias, information without assumption. See logic where you once only saw mythology, and you’ll become exponentially smarter than you were before.

Explore puzzles.

If you can answer a big question with a simple yes or a no, you’ve only engaged with a puzzle superficially. If you can’t find an answer to a big question, you’re only picking at its edges and you can’t locate its crux. Learning to navigate between the overwhelming and the obvious is a skill you can acquire by exploring puzzles. How do you know you’ve encountered a puzzle? It’s a topic that haunts you and keeps you from easy sleep.

Tackle difficulties.

Both yours and those of others: all pains (of all potencies) are signals that something needs fixing. Every product that turns a profit solves a problem. Each difficulty is an opportunity wrapped in a thick, oozing crust of potentially contagious discomfort. Smart people dare to tackle the tough problems that need solving.

Refuse absolutes.

Think of every piece of information as a clue, not a conclusion. Avoid black and white explanations, and instead explore the gray areas (where the gnarly, messy truth usually lives). You’ll keep your mind open and your opinions reasonable. And you’ll get smart.

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