Development: Make yourself smarter

In this interview we asked people:

What is the best way you have found to make yourself smarter and more valuable?

Below are the answers with the highest voted ones at the top.

Read, read and read. Then act and implement. Rinse and repeat.

Joel from Joel Falconer (rss)

There are few things that are as valuable as a regular plan for reading over your entire lifetime.

Listen, listen, and then listen some more.
Notice the patterns in everything.
Notice what is good before you try to fix what could be better.
Notice the way things work instead of wishing things were different.
Accept what is before you try to change it.
Surrender to what you cannot change.
Truly care about other people.
Seek to first understand before you judge any situation.
Be curious, avoid thinking you already know how people will react to things.

Ariane Benefit from Neat & Simple Living (rss)

It is amazing how much we don’t notice.  One of the ways humans deal with massive amounts of information is to ignore the things that don’t seem important.  By putting a little effort into noticing the things we’ve trained ourselves to ignore, we can see things that no one else does.

Easy: Work a little bit every day on something that you want to be skilled in or want to improve on. Here’s the secret though: It has to be every day. You have to make a conscious effort to work at least for a few minutes every day for your skill. But don’t worry… after a while it becomes a habit.

Glen Stansberry from LifeDev (rss)

It is the tortoise that wins. :)  15 minutes every day practicing a skill is better than spending a few hours over 2 weeks.  I think we tend to underestimate how much our skills develop when we aren’t working on them.  Working on something every day helps keep the skill active in our subconscious–even when we aren’t actively working on that skill.

I make sure I read every day, and not just blogs, but books, magazines, newsletters and newspapers. I also have the TV on in the background while I work and “watch” TIVOed shows from Discovery, TLC, History Channel, and the like.

I always like to find something that makes me say “I didn’t know that.” There is so much to learn in this world and so little time that I really make a concerted effort to keep learning and growing every day. If you don’t learn something new every day, no matter what it is, you’ll stagnate.

Charlene Anderson from Unravelings (rss)

Personally, I find it very difficult to watch something while doing something else, but Charlene makes a good point about how much information is available if we just take the time to consume it.  I have started trying to move most of my reading offline.  While I still take time to read blogs and some items on the web, I found that it was crowding out time that I would normally spend reading books.

I learned to teach myself. Any topic that has been written about, I can teach myself how to do it on a professional level. This has made me more valuable to my employers and to my clients. I also constantly expose myself to things that I either don’t want to do, haven’t tried, or wouldn’t normally do.

For example, I commonly read business books. I make sure to integrate strong literature in-between business books to open my thinking. I just finished reading “Personality Not Included” and am now reading “Notes from The Underground” before I begin the next business book.

Nathan Snell from The Technopian (rss)

From what I’ve read about how the brain develops, doing something new is about the best way to expand your ability to think.

I like using the car to learn. Because of spending a lot of hours in the car each week, I have found that it is easy to learn by using podcasts and ebooks to enhance your knowledge. It is so easy to learn something in your commute to work. In addition, being willing to attend classes, conferences, seminars, if your employer provides these opportunities, is also valuable to becoming more valuable to yourself and your employer.

Rolando from macNwinblog (rss)

I’ve been amazed at how many people don’t take advantage of their employer-sponsored educational opportunities.  I have left higher paying jobs to take a position that was willing to support more continued education.

I’m a planner and out of the box thinker and am not afraid to try new things.  I’m also pretty good at evaluating processes for efficiency and effective.  On the personal level, planning and trying new things ensures that I’m continually learning and growing.  On the social (valuable level), being able to plan and evaluate allows me to help others achieve their goals.

Charlie Gilkey from Productive Flourishing (rss)

Another vote for trying new things.

Audio books… have revolutionized my life. I try to listen to a new one each week. Business and self development titles rule. And the cool thing is I listen while I’m driving or doing other unproductive stuff.

I’ve learned more in the last year than in many a college lecture. Highly recommended!

John Richardson from Success Begins Today (rss)

I make use of podcasts and audiobooks from iTunes.

In 5 years, I will be the exact same person I am today except for three things:

1. The books I read.

2. The people I meet.

3. The websites I visit.

These three things have helped me become a much more smart individual, but they go deeper than just “smart.” These three things have helped me to become more “wise.” Being smart means that you know facts, being wise means that you know how to use those facts in a beneficial way.

Ron Haynes from The Wisdom Journal (rss)

Good point.  Having the knowledge isn’t of much use if you can’t apply it.  Someone who knows less, but is better at applying information is going to be much smarter in terms of actual results.

To break down and understand how and why I do the things I do; by which I mean that if I have achieved something I know others would like to achieve, breaking down how I did this into a process and logical steps that others can follow is one of the most effective ways of improving your own value and worth to others.

Not only are you then an example and case study of having achieved something, you can also show others how to do it too.

Lea Woodward from Location Independent Living (rss)

Being reflective and asking “why” is extremely valuable and something we don’t usually spend enough time doing.  As Lea points out this is particularly true in the areas where we are successful.  If something works well for you figure out what you are doing that works.

I’ve found that the best way to manage my time (and my stress) has been to focus on things that really matter. It’s about knowing what I absolutely have to do and what can either be postponed, delegated, or done away with altogether. It’s about knowing what to take seriously and what to let slide. It’s about taking care of the big things so the little ones take care of themselves and the really little ones don’t bother me at all.

Why do anything else? Why be one of those people who knows more about Hollywood’s hottest couple than they do about their own family and friends? Why be one of those people who spends hours and hours watching the latest reality show but never has time to take a walk or read a book? Those things aren’t important, so why not spend time focusing on the things that are?

Eugene from Varsity Blah (rss)

Defining your priorities is a very important part of knowing where to invest your time in yourself.

The best way to make yourself smarter is to always step back and look at the big picture and make a wise decision before you start down the wrong path.

Something only has value when it is demanded by another person. The way to make yourself more valuable has everything to do with how much others demand your time or skill. Becoming more skillful brings you much less benefit if you are not perceived as being skillful, regardless of what the reality is. Perception isn’t everything, but perception certainly is powerful.

Jason from World Fitness Network (rss)

Some good advice.  I particularly like Jason’s take on doing things deliberately.

Reading, of all sorts, and paying attention, so that I can to think up good questions and work out possible answers.

Michael Leddy from Orange Crate Art (rss)

Good point.  Just reading isn’t very helpful.  You have to actually pay attention to what you are reading.

I’ve been practicing Transcendental Meditation for 40 years. It has done miracles for me. It has increased my intelligence and made me more creative, healthier, happier, more insightful, more loving, and richer. If interested specifically in TM, you must learn how to do it properly. For that I would recommend visiting to find a trained teacher.

Fred Gratzon from The Lazy Way to SUccess

Interesting point of view.  I’m a bit suspicious of TM, but I do think most people don’t spend enough time reflecting.

I constantly consume podcasts and audiobooks while driving. As an added bonus, I mind the traffic far less!

Eva Holtz from College Admissions Secrets (rss)

This is something I do as well.  It is amazing how many great resources are available for free now days.


  1. says

    What a great group interview! I love seeing the patterns in how people answer! : ) I thought it was interesting that all the answers reflect that becoming more valuable is all about being a learner vs. a knower. About taking information in and digesting it vs. putting it out there. Whether it is by listening, reading, or seeing. We all agree that learning is the key.

  2. says

    Nothing new or original about my comment, but after years of providing training to others — whether it be job-related software application training or volunteer speaking for organ donor awareness — I find that it pushes me to become more knowledgeable very quickly — even when I do not consider myself an expert on the topic.

    Of course, an “expert” is simply one that knows slightly more than others on a given subject — or — is able to convey knowledge more effectively than others.

    And when you are training/speaking/presenting, listen to your audience, they will teach you even more about the subject at hand. The best teachers must also be the best students.

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