Inner game

Intelligence is a HABIT. Stupidity is a CHOICE.

“The only thing I truly know is that I know nothing”

Edited, enhanced and revised as of 11/6/2015

Please do read this whole post, but because reading is hard (and because you’re a busy person with important business to get back to) I’ve bolded and numbered some action-items below for you to get smarter ASAP. There are lovely quotes in big letters throughout, and I’ve even included a lovely TL;DR at the end. Now, then… Onward to brilliance!

How do you tell which kids in a classroom are the smart ones and which are the, *ahem*, less smart ones?

It’s easy; the smart ones sit in the front asking questions, and the stupid one sits in the back picking his nose and drawing pictures of dicks. The kids in the middle are basically the average of those two extremes.
We all like to think we’re wonderfully unique, complex intellectual individuals… In fact, we’re all pretty similar. Everybody is made of the same stuff, and although genetics do play a role, we all have the same human potential for intelligence (or lack thereof).

In the rest of this article, I’ll explain a few techniques and philosophies that will, whether you’re the booger picker, the brainiac, or the average student, help to accelerate your intellectual progress.

But first, let me share perhaps the most important aspect of gaining intelligence:
If you don’t have a good reason to learn, you won’t stick with it in the long term. Learn something that relates directly to your passion. If the thought of becoming a master in your field isn’t profoundly exciting, you’ve chosen the wrong subject. Enthusiasm is essential.

Moving forward,

Reading a book is like receiving a 1-on-1 lesson from an accomplished expert in your chosen field.

Picking up a book daily is the best thing you can do for your intellect. Any nonfiction will do.
Read a paperback, a book on Kindle, or listen to an audiobook… Whichever way you prefer to take smart words and put them in your brain.

It doesn’t have to be a big deal… 15 minutes of reading before bed, 30 minutes of audio on your commute, etc… It really is that simple. This is how you slowly become smarter over the years.

You probably already know that you should be reading, but maybe, for whatever reason, you just don’t. Here is one trick to start reading more:

Surround yourself with books. If you see books all over your room, your desk, scattered around every surface… You’ll read more. At the very least, you’ll think about reading more. You will naturally do more of what you subconsciously think about. Surround yourself with good books, and set little reminders on your phone, computer, or wherever you can slap a post-it note.

Every word that enters your brain affects you. What you see on TV, hear on the radio, read on billboards… All of that soaks into your brain and influences you without you realizing it. That’s scary, but the good news is that books work the same way. Reading high quality nonfiction quietly absorbs the brilliance of great minds into your own. Blog posts are OK, too… But again, the emphasis must be on quality. If we’re going to be brainwashed either way, we might as well be brainwashed by high quality content of our own choosing. Avoid advertisements, alarmist media, and all social/sensationalist media!

Figure out who you admire. Find someone you respect who has your dream job. Read everything they’ve written, and you’ll suddenly be a little bit more like that person. Self-transformation by osmosis!

Although we used grades in school as a metric for intelligence, as adults we don’t have an easy measure to judge each other’s intelligence. IQ is fine, but most people never take a real IQ test. Facebook IQ quizzes do not count. Even if we had a concrete measure of intelligence, people would never acknowledge their own stupidity. Stupid people have chosen to lead an unenlightened life, and they will bitterly defend that decision until the day they die.

49% the population must possess below average intelligence, so why won’t a single person acknowledge their sub-par brainpower? Have you ever met a parent who honestly, truly believes that their kid is stupid? Me either.

Stupid people are not only ignorant of their own stupidity, but they actually believe they’re far above average.

This unawareness of ignorance has been named and studied:
People smarter than me discovered the Dunning-Kruger effect. Basically, unskilled people can’t tell they’re unskilled because it requires that same skill to recognize the lack of it.


Stupid people, as well as bad drivers, bad writers, and bad singers are all blissfully unaware of their lack of skill, and can even be painfully overconfident of their abilities.

Back to the kid in the classroom: why is the smart kid in front asking questions, while the stupid kid cares more about dicks and boogers than quadratic equations?

It comes down to habits:
Smart people read books, stupid people watch TV. Smart people are curious and ask questions, stupid people aren’t and don’t. Habits would take up more space than I have here, but you can check out The Power of Habit for an in-depth look at habit-building.

Enthusiasm for learning is a trainable habit. Passion is the key to long-term growth.
If you aren’t genuinely interested in learning anything, you will need to discover something that genuinely fascinates you.

When a smart person hears a word they don’t know, they look it up.

When a stupid person hears a string of words they don’t know, their eyes glaze over.

Smart people always want to know more. Stupid people don’t care one way or the other.

Here’s the biggest difference between smart people and stupid people:
Smart people know facts, stupid people “know” bullshit.
Smart people understand that what they know might not be accurate, and they are capable of objectively judging the merit of an idea they don’t agree with.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it.”


What, exactly, is the difference between smart and stupid?
It comes down to three things:
Knowledge, skills, and wisdom.

Knowledge means knowing facts about things. For example, knowing what trains are made of and how fast various types of trains can move.
Skills are the various tasks that we’ve grown to excel at over the years. For example, running fast, engineering technology, and piloting a train are all skills that we must learn and practice over time.
Wisdom is essentially life experience. It’s commonly called “common sense”, and it is the reason why older people tend to be a little smarter than young people. More years on Earth generally means you’ve seen more shit in your life.

Knowledge is knowing what a train is made of, while wisdom is knowing to get the fuck out of the way when you hear it coming.

Based on the above definitions, we can assume two things:

First, people do naturally gain wisdom, and therefore intelligence, over time.
Second, people also gain knowledge over time, some of which is bound to be false.

Older people are naturally wiser (i.e. more experienced). But if you went to public school, you know that someone being older does not necessarily mean they’re smarter.

Here’s the real difference between smart people and stupid people:

IF YOU’RE SKIMMING, READ THIS!! This is the most essential tidbit to remember from this article:

The difference between being smart and being stupid… is the desire for TRUTH.

QUESTION WHAT YOU KNOW! Don’t believe anything you hear without questioning it. Don’t believe any “scientific” studies without first asking yourself, “does this make sense?”. Half of those studies that people love to cite are completely invalid, and statistics are often intentionally removed from context (and just plain made up) to influence your beliefs.
Don’t believe your friends who tell you about an interesting “fact’ they found on Buzzfeed. Don’t believe anything I say in this article just because I say it’s true. Do your own research.

This is the CHOICE that stupid people make. They choose not to care enough about the truth to verify it themselves. Intelligence is habitually seeking to discover the truth lying under the surface of the superficial. 

Smart people understand that they very well might be wrong. Stupid people believe they’re brilliant, and they will vigorously defend their incorrect beliefs. Take it from Socrates: the only thing you can truly know is that you know nothing.

We learn naturally over time, but it takes concentrated effort to learn in the correct direction. Intelligence is made of knowledge, wisdom, and skills, but what does that mean for regular people like you and me?

It means that we have to learn intentionally. 

Are you learning at work?
Robert Kiyosaki, the brilliant financial mind behind Rich Dad Poor Dad said, “When you’re young, work to learn, not to earn.”  If there’s nothing more to learn at your current job, it’s time to move on to greener pastures. A huge part of learning comes from being in a rich learning environment.

After high school and/or college, people stop trying to learn. We get jobs that aren’t exactly intellectually demanding, so intelligence doesn’t increase.Try to find stimulating work, and surround yourself with people who care about educating themselves.

We humans are in a constant state of change and development, but without conscious direction we’re bound to learn the wrong things.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
-Mark Twain

It’s the Dunning-Kruger effect in action. Stupid people are so certain of their view of the world that anything outside their narrow thinking becomes a personal attack on their entire worldview. Stupid people are set in their ways, so any attempt to teach them something is often met with anger. There’s no saving those people, so don’t bother trying. Just smile, just nod. “yes yes, of course, Chester, of course I believe you saw Bigfoot”. Save yourself the mental anguish of fighting a fool’s battle. You can’t argue with those people.

But YOU! You can be saved. Here you are, READING! You’ve read over a thousand words already, so clearly you’re pretty smart! Honestly, the average person is so dimwitted that merely reading past the headline picture ranks you above average. Now, then, my brilliant reader, I ask you to make a mental commitment to becoming smarter. Decide that you will think more carefully, think more intentionally, and think about how you’re thinking. Write down your thoughts and ideas. Decide that you want to be better than you are. Our intellects will never be “good enough”. There is always room for improvement.

Rather than, “You’re stupid, go get smarter”, I’ll say “Everybody is stupid, and people who don’t try to get smarter don’t get smarter“. So if you want to be smarter, which you should, all you have to do is try. 

So you’ve decided to become smarter. Now what? Here are 3 core principles to clarify your learning direction and harden your focus:

#1: Make a list of what you’d like to learn more about. Right now I’m most interested in Japanese, social dynamics, and the nerdy sciences of cosmology, quantum mechanics, and exponential computing. I study a wide range of other fields also, and everything I study intrigues me on a deep, personal level. Write down interesting stuff that pops into your head that you’d like to explore more deeply. There are thousands of books out there covering every conceivable field of study, so it’ll be easy to find at least a few nonfiction books to pique your interest.
#1B: Teach someone! Teaching is actually a great way to learn. Find someone enthusiastic who’s just starting out, and teach them what you know. Educating an enthusiastic pupil will motivate you to improve, lest they surpass you! You’ll be more motivated to learn, so you can teach more effectively, and you’ll wind up learning much more than you would alone. Two minds are better than one, and teaching can be a shockingly educational experience.

#2: Read something! The best way to get smarter is to read books. Read books every single day. Practice reading faster, too.
#2B: Reading books is too hard. Listen to them instead! If you don’t naturally enjoy reading, try listening to an audiobook. Listen to Audible in your car… Use this free trial link to show your support for my blog – Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks. Check out this post for more free educational resources and study hacks.

#3: Begin with the end in mind.
What skills would you like to have in a year’s time? What knowledge would benefit your social life and career the most? There are millions of options for meaningful learning, but it’s best to focus on one or two skills/subjects at a time. The key is to pick something useful that you’re genuinely enthusiastic about. Here are some skills that anyone can learn that will benefit your daily life.

  1. Voice training. Your voice is a huge part of how people perceive you, and studies have shown that deep-voiced men and women are seen as stronger, more competent, and more trustworthy than their high-pitched peers. Vocal control is learnable, and with regular practice any voice can be refined to be wonderfully easy on the ear. One quick trick is to say “me” at the lowest pitch you can, and hold that note. See how low you can get it without your voice cracking. Before long you’ll notice your voice becoming richer and more resonant.
  2. A Foreign Language. Wherever you live, there are definitely some people nearby that speak a different language. Learning a new language will open opportunities to meet new people, experience new cultures, will improve your overall mental strength and will even increase comprehension of your native tongue. Becoming bilingual is one of the true marks of an intelligent person.
  3. Play an instrument. Take those guitar lessons you always said you wanted to. Learn piano, or accordion, or whatever instrument makes you feel something when you hear it. Jazz drums are my jam, what’s yours? Listen to a wide variety of music until you discover something that gives you tinglies in your gut.
    Playing music strengthens your brain muscles, and listening to music has positive effects on a wide range of brain functions (see graphic).


Be curious. Ask questions. Practice skills daily.

Learning is all about connecting the known to the unknown. The more interconnections your brain makes, the smarter you become. Our brains NEVER stop learning, and they are capable of incredible, exponential improvements. Our minds can always begin learning anew, even after many years of intellectual neglect. Because we’re always learning, it’s easy to slide into a period of negative learning… But by having a good reason for learning, and by approaching it one little step at a time, learning will gradually become easier, more enjoyable, and ultimately massively fulfilling.

\Imagine your amazing future self, and figure out what that person will need to know to succeed. Maybe it’s a language, or an instrument, or maybe it’s social skills… Whatever it is, read about it. Immerse yourself in it. Become the person you see in your future, one day at a time.

But above all, the most important factor in learning is to have a good reason for it. Without a concrete reason, a reason that your future self will absolutely need to know the material you’re studying… without that, you will fail. Every single time.

I’ll leave you with one more thought…

The best feeling in the world is the fulfillment from moving in the right direction. It’s always a challenge, and at times it feels like an impossible task, but the feeling of satisfaction that comes after a day spent the right way… That feeling makes it all worth it.


Question everything.
Have a good reason for learning.
Read authors you admire.
Be enthusiastic!
Be curious.
Make time for what matters.
Set clear priorities and achievable learning goals
Watch less TV and ignore mainstream media


I murdered my anxiety with mind-bullets


Over the past couple months I became increasingly anxious. I didn’t notice it at first, because for two weeks I was sick with strep throat. Those wonderful days, I paid much more attention to my body and mind than I do normally. After finally seeing a doctor for antibiotics, I began taking stock of myself. I could finally swallow without having to gargle salt, but I noticed that I still wasn’t recovering mentally. It’s scary to think that a simple sickness could cause lasting damage to the mind, but the reality is that what affects the body will always affect the mind. Exercise is possibly the best cure for depression, and allowing the body to wither is a surefire method of weakening the mind as well as the body.

Anxiety is weird. I know how to talk to people. I can read people pretty well, and these days I’m much better at interpreting subtext and body language than I was as a teenager. Despite the skills I’ve gained over the past couple years, I suddenly feel a knot in my gut whenever I must interact with people. I find myself spitting out whatever comes to mind. This afternoon I asked the same question twice in a row; this shit doesn’t happen to me! I’ve always been comfortable with silence, but now I find myself filled with a strange panic every time I try to communicate.

On a happier note, here’s how I’ve dealt with my anxiety:


I mentally take a step back, sucking in as much air as my lungs will hold and letting it out slow. I tell myself,  “it’s OK to be silent. Shut your mouth, watch, and listen. Everyone else here is too worried about their own shit to care about how retarded you are.”

I actively remind myself to see things from others’ perspectives. I try to imagine how everything I know about that person’s life might be influencing him, and I connect that to the cues I’m seeing to get as full a picture of that person’s mind as possible. I try to find out about people as much as possible, because it will help me understand them.  Everybody loves to talk either about themselves or about something their favorite thing, like cars or music.

Maybe you don’t feel anxious in social environments. Maybe you’re a social butterfly. Regardless, nearly everyone experiences a wide range of emotional ups and downs, and everybody can benefit from increasing emotional intelligence. I found this excellent chart a couple weeks ago that helps illustrate the subtle differences in our everyday emotions.

emotional intelligence wheel

Can you recognize each of the feelings on this chart? Just knowing how to describe how you’re feeling, to yourself and others, can be a big help in beginning to feel better.

Some people take pharmaceutical drugs to relieve anxiety, but this is merely treating the symptoms of your problem. Anxiety medication alters the chemistry of your brain, which does help with symptoms, but taking the easy way out by altering natural brain chemistry deprives you of the solution to the underlying causes of your mental funk.

A better option than drugs is meditation. For those that aren’t familiar, meditation is essentially a formalized methodology of “taking deep breaths”. It’s much more complex than that, and you can read countless articles about it all over the Web. The short version: focus only on your breathing. When your mind strays, refocus your thoughts. Take long, measured breaths, and remain focused as long as possible without becoming distracted. It’s difficult, but it’s one of the most effective methods I’ve come across to help deal with anxiety as well as many other common issues.

Lastly, be aware of your thoughts. Try to think better. Try to think about what other people are thinking. Think about why you’re thinking what you’re thinking. Think about what might be making you think the way you do. Think about how you’d like to be thinking, and what might help you think that way. I think about thinking a lot, which is probably because I’m an emotionally retarded autistic guy. Or maybe I’m just smarter than you. Just kidding, you’re obviously smart because you’re reading my blog. I like you. Other people like you. Try to like yourself more than everybody else combined.

Redundancy, Success, and Supervillians


Often redundancy is viewed negatively, seen as a waste of time, energy, or resources. Why do something twice when it’s already being done once?

Take the words of fictional multibillionaire and mass murderer Malcolm Merlyn:

“If I’ve learned anything as a successful businessman, it’s redundancy.”

Mr. Merlyn set up a machine to destroy the impoverished ghetto that he believed to be the root of his city’s problems. When the hero swooped in and disabled the machine, Merlyn ultimately succeeded even in defeat because he had actually placed two earthquake machines. Pretty smart. Why don’t more supervillians count on the good guy fucking everything up? I mean, every Hero has a long track-record of royally screwing up every perfectly crafted evil scheme, so inquiring minds should wonder why more Bad Guys don’t just plan to fail. 

Now, most of us don’t have to worry about our WMDs being disabled by a hooded vigilante. This quote, though, illuminates something many of us can implement into our daily lives. Often to create consistent, effective patterns in our lives, we must take certain steps to prevent interference from outside sources. There are myriad possible causes for external interference, though typically much more mundane that Mr. Merlyn’s.

Here are some

Multiple alarm clocks-

Most of us have overslept. Some of us habitually get up, turn off our alarms and go right back to sleep after lying down Just for a Minute™. This is one of the best examples of redundancy in action: setting one alarm clock for 15 minutes after the first one will motivate you to get up and stay up at the first alarm, and will wake your sleepy ass up again if you fall back asleep. I use a mildly annoying radio station for my first alarm, but my second one is a blaring siren. Needless to say, this is a real kick in the ass to get out of bed within 15 minutes.

Redundant Reminders-

Here’s another excellent strategy that is already pervasive throughout self-improvement culture: remind yourself to do what needs doing. I put notes on my walls with positive affirmations, reminders, and triggers to tweak my thinking. I even have a note on the ceiling above my bed to remind me to focus on meditation as I fall asleep. These are all excellent resources, but to be really effective you must take advantage of another source for reminders: other people. If there’s one thing people are good at, it’s being redundant. Ask your neighbor, your girlfriend, your roommate to text, call you, or bang on your door with a reminder to read, write, or make abstract art out of old ashtrays. Ideally, you could have a reliable accountability partner (or five) who would work with you to mutually keep each other on the right track. Whatever your mission is, be it a fitness goal or a writing career, employ your peers (and your environment) to help you make it a reality.

Redundant Planning-

What do you want to do?

Figure out what you would like to accomplish, and decide a reasonable path towards that goal. Start with something easy and work your way towards your ultimate goal. Make a list of attainable action items to get done to bring yourself closer to success. Now, think about what could happen that might completely fuck up your goals. Maybe your computer could get fried and you’d lose your work. Maybe there could be a death in the family. Maybe your psychotic other personality blows up your apartment. That’s unlikely, but the idea is that you should figure out precisely what you’re going to do, how you’re going to get there, and what could possibly go wrong. Prepare for these eventualities and take action each day towards the achievement of your ambition. This last bit sounds rather lofty, and might be difficult to implement in “Real Life”, but making real, planned, attainable progress is the best way to get moving in whatever direction you choose for your life.

Calm, cool, and collected


Greetings friends. Let’s talk about keeping our heads in the game.

We all want to be successful, whether in relationships, work, or our private ambitions. Unfortunately, many of us can get stuck in a cyclical negative mindset. Obsessing over the things in your life that you can’t have, whatever they might be, benefits nobody. Think instead on how you’re going to fix whatever problems can be fixed. Cast out your mental focus on these detriments; it will bring you no joy to wallow in your misfortunes. Remind yourself of the good things in your life. Remind yourself that you are truly someone worth being. If anyone does not like you, does not appreciate you, or disrespects you, they are no longer a concern. Move on with your life. If that person turns into a threat, you can then deal with them accordingly. Judge others by their benefit to you, and do not succumb to illogical flights of fancy.

Think of the last person you saw who made you feel happy when you were around them. Think about what that felt like. If people don’t give you that feeling, what other benefit are they providing you? Is it worth the investment? Are they actually worth your time?

Focus, gentlemen. Take three deep breaths. Learn about meditation. Focus on that thing that lives in the back of your mind, that little voice that knows exactly what you want in life. Feed that voice, and ignore the rest of the world. The only person who matters in the whole wide world is YOU, my friends. YOU are the only one who really, truly will always be there with your best interest at heart. Remember that, and focus your energies into forging yourself into a weapon to fight off the forces that oppress you.

Related reading:

Thoughts on Productivity


Many of you out there probably beat yourself up trying to force yourself to do things that are beneficial to you. You say to yourself, “I should go to the gym more”, or “I should read a book instead of jerking off to tentacle porn all day”. These are natural thoughts, as most of us are constantly in an endless cycle of worthless media and instant gratification. Here’s what you need to do in order to break this cycle:

Find things that are good for you that you actually like.

I know, right? Seems pretty simple; you’d think people would do this on their own. Unfortunately, most people just aren’t in the habit of doing things that are both healthy (in whatever way) and enjoyable. Instead, some guys force themselves to hit the gym, hating every minute of it. Some people starve themselves trying to get thin, then eventually binge-eat 24 donuts.

Trying to force yourself to be productive is the perfect way to become unproductive. 

Personally, I really enjoy jogging in the park. I love feeling the fresh air on my face. Running has always been my favorite form of exercise. Something about the way you lose yourself in the heat of it resonates with me. Other guys love to play basketball at the gym. If fucking street luge or parkour is your jam, then get out there and do that shit. Find the type of exercise that you love doing, whether it’s mud wrestling, skeet shooting or pole-vaulting.The way to NOT get into shape is to force yourself to drudge through a workout that you flat out don’t enjoy.

This line of thinking translates perfectly into anything you want to do. Figure out what the thing is that means something to you. Most people already have some “dream” that they think of or dream about while they waste their lives at their day-job. When you begin to chase that dream, you’ll feel a surge of productive energy that you’ve never felt before. Quit doing useless shit that doesn’t help you in some way, and turn that time into useful hours of work towards achieving your goal. When you put your time towards becoming the best version of yourself, you’ll find yourself enjoying the time you spent working on it. You’ll find yourself simply enjoying life more, and that’s something worth working for.

Related reading:

The Power of Persistence


Buckling down and sticking with your ambitions is imperative for success. Without determined persistence you will forever have a vague ambition in your mind without ever realizing it. My greatest fear is dying without first leaving my mark on this world. I imagine those of you who see this will be able to relate to this fear. We die twice in this world, first when we stop breathing, second when we’ve been forgotten. I believe most would prefer to leave a lasting legacy, and persistence is the way to achieve that.

So how do we gain persistence? Essentially, we must force ourselves to break the patterns of our past negligence. We must frame in our mind exactly what we wish to accomplish, then set out to accomplish it. There’s a lot more to be said on figuring out exactly what you want to do, but that’s a whole other topic. In order to be persistent, we must believe in what we are doing. We must know that the things we do are beneficial not just to ourselves but to some greater cause. We must build something that will last, something bigger than ourselves.

Now, obviously you can’t go from smoking weed and masturbating every day straight to building the fucking Empire State Building. What can we do in between legacy ground zero and the achievement of our ambitions? First of all, we must cultivate a success environment. Eliminate the cancer of your laziness from your life. At all stages of your day, ask yourself if what you are doing is beneficial to your goals. If it is not, remove that thing from your life. Spend all hours of the day committed to working towards bettering yourself and achieving your goals. This advice seems vague; obviously we should always be doing things that are good as opposed to things that are not good. This is common sense, however most of us do not abide by this rule. I’m not advocating a complete abstinence from all entertainment, but I am suggesting that we replace as many non-productive activities as we can with other things that directly help us to achieve our ambition.

My personal goal in life is to be a writer. I don’t know what drives you, but more than anything I want to establish myself as an author and a creator. Figure out what the thing is that you’d like to do with your life, then do things that are relevant to that. Read books, blogs, and guides relating to the subject you’re interested in. Improve your skills not just in the area you are interested in, but also in all adjacent skill areas. If you want to be a mechanic, start working on cars. If you want to be a famous dancer, play some fucking music in your living room and jam it out. If you want to be a writer, WRITE SOMETHING! The key to persistently achieving what you care about is every single fucking day to do that thing.

Somebody said to the famous cellist Yo-yo Ma, “I’d give my life to play like you”. He replied, “I did”.

That’s what it takes, gentlemen. It’s hard. It’s going to be harder than anything you’ve ever done to put yourself out there and to chase your dream. It doesn’t matter what your dream is; if your dream is worth dreaming about it is not going to be easy. What I can tell you from experience though, is that the first step is the hardest. Get into the groove of bettering yourself and going after your ambition. You’ll find yourself doing the things that used to seem like work just out of habit. You’ll begin to enjoy jogging every day. You’ll begin to feel idle if you aren’t working on something. You’ll develop this urge in your bones to go out there and do whatever it is that you care about. It’s a good feeling gentlemen, and you can have it before too long. All your dreams are within your reach.

Related reading:

Check out this book by Brendan Burchard, one of my favorite motivational Youtubers:
The Motivation Manifesto