In some measures of intelligence, I’m smart. In others…not so much. I experienced something at a young age that science has confirmed.
Intelligence, like many other attributes, is not fixed. I discovered this by getting tested over and over again when I was starting school. Each successive time I took a test, I got much better at the test. I started off well below average and ended up being well above average.
This trend has followed me throughout my life. It takes me a long time to become competent in a subject. But the time between competence and mastery is comparatively short.
Like Dweck, Ericsson, and others, I discovered that considering I could get better and deliberately practicing on the things I could actually improve led me, quite predictably, to improvement. When it comes to intelligence (Mensa style not Gardner style intelligence), getting more of it isn’t easy. And I don’t think it’s taught all that well, either.
I want to talk about becoming more intelligent entails and an approach to becoming more intelligent. It isn’t as straight forward as taking more IQ tests (although that could help). And it isn’t enough to study people who have intelligence(s) that you desire.
It’s going to require you to see smaller, and do smaller. And you’re going to be able to see more. And once you do more, you’re going to be able to know more (knowledge) and be more (intelligent).
Being that what we learn is based on BioFeedback, we need to look at intelligence through BioFeedback’s lens. BioFeedback has to do with the relationship between sensation and action. In the common parlance, that’s the relationship between knowing and doing.
Whenever we’re talking about Intelligence, we think of it more in the realm of knowing…than doing. And we’ll keep Intelligence in that realm for a bit. Intelligence has to do with knowledge.
But knowledge of what? When we’re speaking of intelligence, we’re not talking about any specific domain. We want general intelligence…or the ability to be smart in anything.
How can we be generally smart, or generally intelligent? We have make the specific – general. Let me explain.
Each intelligence, whether it be in the arts, sciences, or mathematics comes with a particular set of specific terms. For the artist, the scientist, the mathematician, they call those sets of terms a language. For the uninitiated, we call those terms jargon.
If we don’t want them to be jargon, we have to understand them. And understanding those terms requires using other words, more words to make meaning of them. But it’s not enough to just define your terms.
When we define the terms (or understand) everything we encounter, we have yet to make the specific general. To make the specific general, we have to move beyond definitions. We have to find synonyms.
Finding synonyms is seeing how one word, or term, is like another. Ennui is like boredom. Misery is like suffering.
We’re using one term to understand another. But understanding isn’t just limited to terms, it can be applied to ideas. A peak experience is like summiting a mountain.
When we can see how seemingly non-related things can be related, we’re not only “building” empathy (see what I did there?) we’re making the specific general…building general intelligence. But there is another direction intelligence can go.
Not only can Specific Intelligence be generalized, General Intelligence can become specialized. An easy way to go down this path is to see how things are different. Can you see how synonyms can be antonyms?
What would else would you call something heavy? How about massive? Synonyms, right? But not entirely.
Massive refers to mass (to others, size), heavy refers to weight…they’re different. This differentiation allows for general intelligence to become specific (Hipsters are great at this, lol). And it’s in moving back and forth between the general and specific where we get smarter.
Think of general and specific in visual terms. General is more macroscopic. Specific is more microscopic.
If you look macroscopically, you see astronomy. Smaller, you see geology. Smaller you see sociology. Smaller, you see biology. Smaller, you see physiology. Smaller, chemistry. Smaller, physics.
Or you may not see any of the sciences. You may hear music. You may see art. You may hear poetry or prose. You may feel sports or martial arts. You may make peace or war.
But they’re all related. They’re all connected. They’re connected into patterns.
You may’ve heard intelligence (especially Artificial Intelligence) referred to as pattern recognition. Can you recognize what makes them the same? Can you recognize what makes them different?
If you can connect them generally and disconnect them specifically, you’ll be well on your way to being smarter…maybe even smart…maybe even genius…but probably not savant (but no longer an idiot, either).
And in the most important measures of intelligence, new knowledge should lead to new action. Here’s the most important insight into intelligence: action leads to more intelligence. More intelligence, whether general or specific, is a function of more action.