Sunday, August 7, 2011

How You Can Maximize Your Intelligence

I want the future we were promised! That's right, I said it! Where are the flying cars, alternative energy, time traveling phone booths, the holodeck, incandescent clothing, interplanetary travel, hover-boards, and realistic androids? It's one thing to try and fail; it's another to downright fuck with the people's education and priorities. But that's another blog in itself. How many of you know multivariable calculus, let alone any math past high school algebra? I'm guessing not many. More importantly, how many of you even care? And how many people strive to be a clone of someone socially more popular? Answer: Too damn few or too damn many.

I'm not here to judge anyone. If I could do anything, it would be to free your mind. There are two things a person needs to push their limits: a reason and a way. I'm assuming you found a reason. While I don't know what your limitations are, I do know that most people are nowhere near them. This isn't going to be a straight up guide, however, I will list ways you can improve your memory, make yourself more intelligent, and educate yourself more effectively. If you actually do these things, you should get some positive and life changing results.


Improving Your Intellect 


Learn Basic Logic and Critical Thinking:

Do you ever find yourself needing to ask for help while feeling frustrated watching people figure "it" out more intuitively? Well, don't worry; this isn't your fault! Not many people know or understand real logic. It's a term that gets thrown out there, colloquially, for one's personal reasoning. But this isn't what it really means. No, it's an actual system of structural reasoning, and it is very powerful.

The first lesson I'm going to give you is to ditch your ego. The ego gets in the way. To ever improve in life, you must embrace being wrong and allow yourself to be corrected. This isn't just a slice of humble pie here; it's a way to reprogram your brain into valuing correct information and remembering it. It's a better thing to be wrong than to hold onto a false "truth."

Now, back to the logic portion of this section. It's best to start off with informal logic. This is the study of logical fallacies. Logical fallacies are errors in a supportive argument, premise, or conclusion. Essentially, if you or someone else are using one in a premise, the argument is structurally invalid and can not lead to a correct answer; it should be discarded until the fallacy is corrected. This doesn't mean its conclusion is wrong, however. It just means the fallacious premise did nothing to support or lead to it.

Here is a list of logical fallacies: (http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html) Click on them and really internalize them. This list gives detailed examples. And if you're still confused, Google can definitely help. 

Once you get a handle on that, you'll be able to move on to more complex forms of logic. Don't be afraid to abuse the hell out of these terms in casual discussion: Practice makes perfect! Channel your inner Spock.

Using External Stimuli to Increase Activity in Parts of Your Mind:

This is actually a little secret that most people don't understand. Institutionally, you're taught to study in silence and without distraction. This does work for some people, but there is a good reason some whistle why they work! Our right and left sides of the brain have very different strengths: One is creative (the right), and the other is logical (the left).

By listening to something melodically and structurally predictable, you can stimulate the left side of your brain. By listening to something melodically and rhythmically wilder like Jazz, you can get your right side fired up. The more you understand about music, the better this effect is. The best way to utilize this technique is when reading or writing. If you are having trouble imagining and envisioning a descriptive scene, experiment with different music until you find yourself flowing through the text with greater ease. 

Visual stimuli like a television program in the background can also get the mind moving. But in this case, you should have the sound off. Try a combination of both and figure out your niche. 

Improving Your Memory

So, maybe you're the type to forget your phone number—no problem! I'm not going to lie, this involves the most work. It's not necessarily hard; it just takes a long time and discipline. 

Music:

If you're not a musician, you're going to have to become one. Don't worry, you don't have to transform into Beethoven. This is a two pronged attack. Firstly, you need to learn a stringed instrument. It's very important that the left and right hand coordinate in synchronicity (not independently). If you're financially strapped, you will probably be playing the guitar. The idea here is to create more brain symmetry between your brain's right and left side (Einstein). 

Learning even your favorite, easy to play, pop songs over time will dramatically increase your memory, as well. It's also the most fun memory practice tool and beats the hell out of flash cards with random facts on them 

Numbers:

The next thing is number chunking. This is going to sound like more work at first, but I'll explain why this is important for short term and long term. Let's say you want to memorize ten digits of pi: 3.141592653. And let's assume the 3.14 isn't already ingrained into your long term. What you'd do is break this into chunks. Instead of memorizing ten numbers, I want you to memorize five: 31 41 59 26 53. Without even attempting to associate these numbers with anything else, this makes it instantly easier for the brain to store in short term. 

Now, here is another trick to keep it. Look at the double digit numbers and see if you can associate them with your personal life or entertainment. For instance, maybe 31 is the jersey number of a popular sports athlete and 41 is your age. You could memorize it as Greg Maddux followed by your age. It can be a little work sometimes finding already stored facts to relate them too, but this will make it immensely easier to recall them in the future. If you struggle with is, try three or four digits in a set, which is common for lots of street addresses.

Reading:

Reading is important, but you have to ease into it. I'm not going to sugar coat this; the best way to begin your journey is in a place where you have eliminated all distraction and are focused: the toilet. Instead of reading magazines or texting people from your phone (hey, you're the one doing that!), pick up something challenging but not far beyond your level. If you haven't read a book outside of school, start with a popular young adult book series like Harry Potter. Eventually, you'll improve and actually choose it over television ... sometimes. 

Here are some recommendations of both fiction and non fiction:
  • The Physics of Superheroes (James Kakalios) If your science education ends with high school, this book will change your life! It will relate it in an entertaining way, and he keeps it mainly algebraic. It's the perfect book for someone who wants to better their understanding of our reality.
  • The Stupidest Angel (Christopher Moore) Moore has a wicked, macabre, sarcastic sense of humor and is easy to read while offering a lot of character depth. You'll have a good time with anything by him! 
  • Demon Haunted World (Carl Sagan) This is a great book on critical thinking. Are you sick of being paranoid and scared all the time? Pick up this book, illuminate your mind, and strengthen your intellectual prowess. 
  • Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card) I chose this one because it's also easy to read and is a pinnacle of science fiction writing. It's not overwhelming and is a definite gateway drug into sci-fi literature.
  • Death by Black Hole (Niel Degrasse Tyson) While the title is a little deceptive, it is another great introductory book to understanding science and our universe. I have a man crush on Niel. He is charming, witty and has a passion for relating science to people that rivals the late great Carl Sagan. 
  • Lapsing into a Comma (Bill Walsh) I have to throw a grammar book in here because it's a bit important. Bill has such a humorous, entertaining way of approaching this seemingly drab topic. It's part grammatical journey and part style guide; this book will instantly improve your writing and understanding of the English language.
  • E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation (David Bodanis) This book is such a fun read. It demystifies this "simple" equation and tells a story of how we got to it. Ever wondered how we discovered the atom or even how to split it? This is a story about scientific progression and the lives of brilliant minds who changed the world. 
  • The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) If anything, this will sharpen your wit just by quoting it. It needs no explanation; just read it!
I could list books all day and night, but this is enough for now. These are great starting points to launch yourself into more advanced reading. 

Natural Supplements that May Aid in Mental Focus and Memory:

Obviously, you should know your allergies and take into account any health conditions before taking anything. Also, natural does not mean safe. Apple seeds are natural and they contain a tiny amount cyanide. If I made an all natural apple seed bar, don't eat it! Personally, I think my life is too short to wait for proven research on everything. If something is proven to be largely innocuous and there is a logical reason to why it may have a beneficial effect, I'll probably try it. 

  • Caffeine: It stimulates blood flow which increases brain activity. I like to get mine through a cup of tea. 
  • Fish Oil / Omega 3: This can actually help with depression and brain fog feelings. It has other positive health effects as well, and it just may surprise you. 
  • Lecithin: It is a natural source of phosphatidyl choline, which stimulates the creation of acetylcholine in the body. That neurotransmitter is directly tied with long term memory. I believe it mostly helps people who use the introverted pathway mentioned in my older blog on introversion. But, in the very least, it's proven to be good for lowering cholesterol. 

I think I've given you enough to work with for now. If I learn anything new, I'll do an update to this. 

2 comments:

  1. Great blog full of useful information:)

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  2. "To ever improve in life you must embrace being wrong and allow yourself to be corrected."
    Couldn't agree more. I feel like we live in a society where the expectation is that we all already know everything. That's insane. It's OK not to know everything and be open to learning.

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