The Brightest One In The Bar

  • You can spot her from a mile away, the smartest one in the bar – or, if not quite from a mile, nonetheless from very far.

    She doesn’t necessarily think of herself as smart.

    Still, her brain is carefully crafted – self-crafted and stylized – like a work of art.

    Her eyes are alert and bright and lively. They twinkle.

    She’s relaxed and polite, with a well-modulated voice that speaks to you in the appropriate tone.

    Her smile glows like expensive stone.

    You do not quickly forget that smile.

    She walks purposefully, and yet not aggressively, or with an over-mannered style.

    She has a sense of humor.

    You can see that she knows there’s a kind of dignity in loneliness, that every loneliness is a pinnacle, and she doesn’t go out of the way to seek friends or groups or any kind of crowd.

    In general she prefers quiet to loud.

    She gives and receives compliments gracefully, grasps that in everyone, healthy confidence comes from thought, is not frivolous or vain and can be strong and assertive, quick to stick up for herself, but she can also speak of her shortcomings and accomplishments with an equal ease which you envy.

    When communication or clarification is called for, she’s never dismissive or inexplicably silent – never, of course, in any way rude or aggressive or violent.

    What’s her trick? What’s the secret?

    The secret is this:

    First, develop a total disregard for where you think your abilities end.

    Aim beyond what you believe you’re capable of.

    Do things you think you’re not able to do.

    Nothing is impossible, in this regard. The will to believe is the most important ingredient in becoming what you want.

    The discipline to follow through is next. It is also the most difficult.

    Why? Why most difficult?

    Because it requires hour-after-hour, day-after-day practice.

    It requires diligence.

    Second – unless you’re in a technical discipline like medicine or mechanical engineering —- drop out of college.

    College stunts creativity.

    College is conformity, groupthink, a lot of conforming to culture or subculture.

    The cost of conformity is colossal.

    Individuality, on the other hand, is a prerequisite of genius.

    Genius is the cultivation of your living potential.

    The deeper your cultivation, the deeper your genius.

    Cultivate, therefore, a durable purpose (not food, not drink, not sex or cigars or other ephemeral things) around which you can construct your life.

    Passion is largely willed: the more you do something, the deeper your understanding of it grows, so that after time your passion for that thing develops and spreads like a gorgeous soft surge of water-ripples.

    Whatsoever thy hand findest to do, do it with all thy might.

    Third, be observant.

    Pay attention.

    Attention is the seat of human will: the fundamental choice we face, all day, everyday, is the choice to pay attention or not.

    What, after all, does it mean to be smart?

    It means to self-stylize your brain, like a work of art.

    It means to observe the universe around you, as well as the one within: to introspect, as thoughtful people do.

    It means to be intelligent, like you.

    Intelligence is your mental capacity to deal with a wide range of thoughts and ideas.

    That’s why it never mattered to you when you were voted least likely to succeed – why it never fazed you when they called you a misfit, a malcontent, alienate, disaffiliate, deviant, recalcitrant. And it’s why your natural-born predilections and proclivities and predispositions are and always have been irrelevant: because intelligence is an acquired skill.

    It must be developed by each person’s own desire and activated by each person’s will.

    It must be habituated and automated by each person’s own mind.

    Which is why it’s quite rare and beautiful, and rather difficult to find.

    This, incidentally, is true for both children and adults: the cultivation of intelligence requires effort – or, to put the same point in a slightly different way: thinking is an act of choice.

    Thought requires work.

    Whereas to be stoopid is relatively simple: all you have to do, in essence, is do nothing. If you do nothing, stoopid will naturally occur.

    Being smart, however, requires a different sort of action.

    It’s not passive.

    On the contrary, thinking is an entirely active process the undertaking of which is, when you consider it at all, massive.

    She’s intelligent, yes, but in a highly unorthodox way (they say) hard to pinpoint why: bookish but not book-smart, introspective, certainly, and everything she does – yes, everything – she does with all her heart.

    [Note: this is a chapter out of Whiskey Wisdom: The Art of Being Interesting]


About The Author

Ray Harvey

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning at the core of my life.

8 Responses and Counting...

  • Tiffany N. York 12.14.2016

    I have so much experience dating boring men, it’s almost embarrassing to admit. NY stockbrokers? Ugh, the worst. Me? I can make a grocery list sound interesting. I mean, you have to, or else you end up wanting to stick a fork in your eye over dinner with them. Maybe it’s because I’m somewhat crazy that I always gravitated more towards stable, even-tempered men. You would think I’d stick with other artists. But they were too crazy for me. haha Now that I’m older, I just. can’t. Mind-numbing conversation? Lack of passion? (And no, passion for booze and sex does not count.) Men whose lives are defined by their jobs are really freaking boring. Women whose lives are defined by their husbands and children are really freaking boring. Sometimes it does take a lot of energy to be interesting, esp. if you’re at a party where you only know one person (my biggest nightmare). There’s a definite art to it. But hey, I can stand to be more interesting, considering I live in the suburbs (you cannot get any more boring than that!)

  • I wouldn’t write off booze and sex so quickly. Sure getting crunk on a Friday night to drown the dull hum in your brain and having a glorified masturbatory session inside of another person aren’t very interesting. Travelling to France, Spain, Italy through the sip of wine, or experience the salt laiden earth, the history, the culture, through the sip of Isley Scotch is titilating and tantalizing at the same time. To experience the rhythm, dance, and music of two bodies passionately intertwined in glorious awkward cacophony rising in crescendo to a beautiful harmonious release is the foundation and inspiration of the majority of arts themselves.

  • Sounds like you’ve had a taste of many kinds of life experiences… I know they are all sweet in their own way, but any words of advice you’d give to younger women in your shoes? Any sour lemons that were harder to turn to lemonade?

  • “(And no, passion for booze and sex does not count.)”


    Spoken, if I may say, like a true suburbanite.

  • Suburbanite?! Bite your tongue. I’d rather be described as “iniquitous” over “suburbanite” any day.

  • Ha-ha!

    You iniquitous sweet suburbanite.

    Run with the dogs tonight.

  • Caleb–Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking sex and booze. Sex and booze defined my teens and twenties. I was a wild child of the 80s. Need I say more? But I’ve been there, done that. I’ve also traveled to France, Spain, and Italy and that was infinitely more interesting. You wanna know what my life consists of now? Twenty-something boys propositioning me. I’m almost 50, cougar stage. This very morning my teenage son’s friend’s older brother (he’s like 24?) knocked on my door to tell me I was the most beautiful neighbor he had ever met and he’s had a crush on me since the first time he saw me. Then he waited, no doubt for me to take him up on what he was offering. You must get the visual picture of me to fully appreciate the scenario: I’m in the process of editing my book, it’s 8:30 am, I’m in sweats and a fleece sweatshirt, slippers, wearing glasses, and I haven’t even brushed my teeth or hair. Needless to say, it was one of the most awkward moments of my life. Could I have taken him to bed to make my life more interesting? Of course, but alas, I’ve been there, done that as well. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but initiating a young boy ain’t it. And to think I thought the suburbs were boring when I can have my pick of married men and young boys. Oh, joy.

    Ray–I’m downloading your book if I can figure out how.

  • Thank you, Tiffany!

    Thank you very, very, very much.

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