Intelligence is your brain’s capacity to deal with a wide range of thoughts and ideas.
Like most things, therefore, intelligence is a process.
It is not a static state.
It is not something you either have or don’t.
Your brain is something you cultivate.
Intelligence stems fundamentally from thinking.
Thinking is a choice. It requires one essential thing: effort.
Thought is work. Thought is effort.
Thinking develops your brain. It increases your intellectual power and range.
Non-thought, corollarily, is something you can change.
You become brilliant.
You learn to be smart.
You are not afraid of new ideas because you know your brain can measure and weigh and test these new ideas — in the same way your brain can create new onomatopoeias.
A cultivated mind IS an intelligent mind.
It is also beautiful and strange and rather difficult to find.
Thought is both the source and also the end result: it is the goal. It is the driving force.
It is an end in itself.
Intelligence is your ability to think.
This ability can be habituated and developed, or not, depending upon what you prefer to do with your time.
You know you’re in the presence of a brain that’s been cultivated when you see some of the following:
Fast, fluid handwriting that’s legible.
There’s a misbegotten notion that illegibility is a sign of a smart person, when in actuality it’s the other way around:
People who write legibly want to be understood. Thus they make an effort to present themselves clearly, which takes brain power. Quick clear handwriting shows practice and patience, which in turn shows development.
Quick wit almost invariably signals that someone’s mind has been cultivated:
Wit is mental sharpness. It is cognitive acuity. It is keenness.
Similarly — and for the same reasons — people who like to laugh, and who in turn like to make others laugh, are frequently smart.
A sharp sense of time and direction show brain power.
Because a sharp sense of time and direction indicate attention and focus.
The choice to focus or not is the seat of human thought.
The choice to pay attention is where it begins — and ends. It is the locus.
Smart people, virtually by definition, are also more curious.
They are thus more tolerant of ambiguity, just as they are also more tolerant of differences in others — grasping, as they do, what for many of us is blindingly obvious:
The brain is a complicated place, and largely for this reason no two people are alike. This basic act of apprehension gives any person who performs it a more complex and more subtle and more sophisticated mode of thinking.
Obsessive worry is a strong indicator of intelligence, because it discloses a racing mind that’s never at rest but always thinking, always considering.
Smart people like to read for fun.
People who who take active pleasure in reading, rather than doing so out of duty or reading purely for information, unquestionably have brains they’ve worked to cultivate — which means, among other things, “avid readers have better memory function, communication skills, and focus” (source).
Truly intelligent people like to often be alone.
Which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re introverted (although they can be), nor does it mean they don’t like spending any time among friends and other people.
Rather, intelligent people prefer a lot of privacy and space, just as they prefer to pick and choose the time they spend among others, because they are independent and they value their independence, in part because it gives them time to think, as well as time to relax.
Smart people, understand, genuinely smart people, as against the book-smart and the pedantic and all the other imposters, are autonomous and have the authentic confidence that can only come from thought and the comprehension that thinking fosters.
Smart people are self-aware.
And because they are self-aware, smart people recognize their mistakes and failures, and they learn from them.
Self-awareness and insight into self is, incidentally, one of the few foolproof signs of intelligence.
People who can argue articulately and convincingly — and from many different angles — have, to that extent, clearly cultivated their brains:
Their minds through practice are able to move nimbly from one idea to another, like a long-legged river-spider skating upon the water.
Yet they are often slow to speak and swift to hear:
Genuinely smart people almost invariably consider what they’re going to say before they say it. Their brain is honed in such a way that it’s quicker than their mouth.
What, after all, does it mean to be smart?
It means to stylize your brain, like a work of art.
It means to cultivate your thoughts for as long as you’re alive — cultivate your thoughts as if they’re the plants of a living garden.
Cultivate them, yes, before your ideas, only partially thought through, ooze into dogma and then fully harden.
It means to observe the universe around you, as well as the one within: to introspect, as thoughtful people do.
You often feel that desire swelling up and pulsing inside you.
And once you acknowledge it, it begins to intensify, struggling to take shape so that it might burst open at last, like a tarantula-firework, illuminating a dark world desperately in need.
Yet, at the same time, an oppositional force tugs at you too: the uncertainty and fear of breaking away from the pack, of leaving your staid but secure position, of running out of money, not making your bills, evicted, hungry, homeless.
And so you ignore the pull to create, and you do nothing about it.
You bury yourself back in the safety of your soul-sucking job.
Oh, you tinker with your passions, here and there. You become something of a hobbyist.
But, in the end, you evade and ignore your dreams, and you meanwhile drown yourself in booze or food or drugs or sex or whathaveyou. And you tell yourself that staying in your current lifestyle is the right thing to do.
Still, that irrepressible part of you can’t be completely suppressed. It’s like a little creative beastie pulsing with life and pushing and kicking to break open inside you, yearning to grow.
Have you ever watched the slow, silent death of a thing?
Have you witnessed the life-force leaking out of a living organism, bit-by-bit, and gradually draining that organism of all its beautiful vitality, until one day, one hour, one minute, one second, the organism is suddenly no longer alive?
It is wrenching to see.
It is also ominously familiar.
And yet, and yet …
And yet what you always hear about pursuing your dreams and if you do everything will work out — this is, to a certain extent, a lot of nonsense.
You can run out of money.
You can get evicted.
You can go hungry.
Your life, in short, can nose-dive.
I’ve been there.
It is not pleasant: showering at the beach, brushing your teeth in the bathrooms of all-night convenient stores or laundromats, unable to write because you can’t concentrate, because you’re so worried about what’s going to happen to you.
And so knowing this is possible, what do you do?
You tell yourself you’re being prudent after all. You’re being sensible, practical.
You tell yourself that you need to first do this and then that and then you need to go back to college and then you need to do this other thing, and then, perhaps — perhaps — you’ll pursue your passion to become a creator, at last.
The truth is that you’re stalling because you can’t muster the courage to take the plunge.
You have the power within you right now to change everything for the better — and if you don’t try, do you know what will happen?
You’ll die without ever knowing what you could have done.
Am I telling you, then, to quit your life of safety and security?
Yes, I am.
I’m telling you that if the life you’re living is stultifying you and preventing you from bringing forth that which is most vital within you, you should indeed quit your safe secure life.
I’m telling you to stop treating your passions as hobbies.
I’m telling you to stop glutting yourself on the things that drown out your dreams.
I’m telling you to start thinking of your passions and your dreams as your profession: your life-force, your reason for living.
You just have to do it.
Slash your expenses.
Map it out.
Focus your brain.
Find a freelance or part-time gig.
Construct a fall-back plan for when everything goes straight to hell, which it might.
You bet your fucking ass.
Every great achievement is difficult, and every path leading to it frightening.
We each live primarily inside of our own mind. Our lives are largely an attempt to give form to our psychological existence. We do that in large part through what we create.
It’s do or die: Life is do or die.
So go and do.
And to hell with swords and garter — and anything else that strangles the creative beastie so desperately yearning to hatch open and take shape inside of you.
How to be twice as smart: