One of my most prevalent goals is to become smarter — always.
When weighing opportunities, a job’s potential to make me smarter is more important than raw career growth (although the two often go hand-in-hand), monetary gains, or geographic location. It’s an important driver in my personal relationships, and in my choice of activities and pursuits outside of work.
Does it increase my knowledge of the world, and/or the functions of the world, particularly in the areas I hold interest? It’s a yes/no answer — and the answer is one of the most important data points in my decision-making process.
There are a number of reasons becoming smart is important to me:
1. It increases my effectiveness and ability professionally
2. It increases my potential for competence in my personal projects
3. It increases my creative problem-solving capacity
4. It increases the range of things I can intelligently write about
5. It makes me a better coach and teacher
6. It makes me a more valuable colleague, ally, and friend
“Smartness” is a personal definition, to some extent. It’s a value judgment, based on your desires and priorities. By my personal standards, smartness is:
1. The ability to think about complex ideas in a clear manner
2. The ability to creatively solve problems
3. Context for the world in which I’m working
4. Understanding why the world around me is the way it is, and understanding the layers at which I can explore this why.
5. A broad understanding of the broader intellectual world (that we culturally think of when we think about “intellect”)
6. Intellectual agility
The above can neatly divide into two categories: 1. concrete knowledge of objective facts, and 2. the ability to think.
The beauty about knowledge is that it compounds. The more you learn, the more things you become aware of that you need to learn more about, and the more questions you can ask (or the more connections you can draw), which in turn unlocks more knowledge — which repeats the cycle.
The pitfall of getting smarter is that it’s a subjective thing. It’s hard to measure in its raw form, and it’s hard to quantify your progress.
In future posts, I’ll expound on how to develop your ability in both areas — how to increase your knowledge base (that you use for your problem-solving), and your ability to think.