Intelligence is a result of behavior, not IQ.
Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are widely considered extremely intelligent humans. I love what Charlie said on intelligence.
“Other people are trying to be smart. All I’m trying to be is non-idiotic. I find that all you have to do to get ahead in life is to be non-idiotic … It’s harder to be non-idiotic than most people think.
Here are the behaviors to model to become more intelligent.
Remember: humans are fundamentally good
I once met an extremely smart person with a Ph.D.
He ended up in jail trying to break basic laws like thou shalt not steal property that isn’t mine. He believed all humans were stupid except for him. He said humans are purely motivated by self-interest.
“Individualism will destroy the world.”
The fancy university should take back his Ph.D. What a joke.
You can be smart and understand how the world works. But you only become a highly intelligent human when you live the life you want. Living the life you want puts all those smart insights you learned into action, and proves that you understand them.
Instead of thinking humans are motivated by self-interest, you can simply choose to see that humans are fundamentally good. Because they are.
Remember: You’re an unappreciated genius surrounded by idiots who think they’re unappreciated geniuses surrounded by idiots — Noah Smith
Don’t do what pretend smart people do
Pretend smart people confuse the crap out of you with big words and complex terminology. They don’t ask many questions because they think they have all the answers already. Oh, and they refuse to change their mind. They feel being wrong makes them look dumb.
Highly intelligent people simplify everything so everyone in the meeting room can get it. They use 5th-grader English so that those who aren’t native speakers can understand too. They listen more than they talk because their goal is to learn, not look smart.
The best part about them is they know they’ll be wrong.
In fact they love it when they’re wrong. Being wrong means they’re learning, and boy do they love being learning machines!
Don’t think you’re highly intelligent. Act like it.
Use history to show human flaws
As humans, we think we’re damn smart and the rest of the species on Earth are dumb because we control them.
If you study history you see how stupid humans can be. It gives you perspective on your intelligence.
I mean look at 2020 and the whole “this health crisis will disappear by winter.” Here we are. It’s still wreaking havoc everywhere. Or look at the atomic bomb, or Hitler. What a clusterf*ck those evil plans are looking back.
Highly intelligent people understand history doesn’t repeat, but it’s full of different versions of past mistakes that look crazy similar.
Human behavior is predictable.
The highly intelligent human test
Fake smart people often pretend to be humble. Angela Jiang says there’s a way to test it.
Make a smart person look dumb.
In the process, they’ll react and tell you whether they’re truly humble.
If they blow up, they’re a moron, not a genius. You see it on Twitter all the time. A smart person gets proven wrong so they block all the people who made them look stupid.
Learn from people you want to set on fire
Social media has forced us to live in bubbles. People we agree with we follow. People we don’t agree with we haul abuse at.
A highly intelligent neighbor in my apartment block said to me “follow people who you strongly disagree with.”
So I do.
I follow people who hate cryptocurrencies. I follow people who say the global economy will collapse. I follow communists. I follow people who make me angry with their unkindness, so I can learn to be a little kinder.
Hearing the other side of an argument helps you see your blind spots. It all boils down to this idea from Matthew Kobach:
Become smart enough to realize how stupid you are.
Time allocation is a sign of intelligence
It’s why all those back-to-back meeting heroes think they’re smart when they’re actually misinformed.
The ability to manage time slowly rots away your intelligence. You don’t have time to think deeply. You don’t have time to do the real work. You don’t have time to have the conversation that will change your life. Instead, you’re stuck in busy quicksand waiting for death by sand in the mouth.
Invest your time wisely. You know what you should say no to. Do it.
They can talk to people they disagree with
One mark of a smart person is the ability to learn from people they don’t like — Shane Parrish
Have you ever met trigger people?
They’re those strange beasts that log into Twitter and blow up at every little thing a person says and then clock off for the day. They get triggered by anything and everything.
When you spend time with highly intelligent people you can shoot your mouth off without having them explode. They can hear ideas they don’t agree with and not get emotional. Most importantly, they don’t take offense to every little thing you say.
Let me give you an extreme example.
I once worked with a mad football fan. Before every meeting he’d go round the room to ask what football teams everyone went for.
If you didn’t barrack for his football team, he’d make broad statements like “anyone who goes for the Brisbane Lions is an idiot.” (I often think the whole obsession with sports teams is dumb. But that might just be me.)
Imagine thinking someone’s choice of football team should be the reason you do or don’t work with them. Crazy.
People are so much more than their opinions. The opportunity is to look behind the mask and see the person worth listening to.
The Keanu behavior to boost your intelligence
Keanu Reeves says highly intelligent people play a game.
They try to be wrong once in a while.
Why? It does their ego good. This advice has helped me a lot. When you succeed in any field, your ego can easily become unusually large. It happened to me in my 20s.
I lost everything.
Practice being wrong more often to reset your ego.
Watch how you react to new information
The pandemic is an intelligence test.
Many failed, badly.
The stream of new information came so fast that you had to get good at changing your mind. At the start it was all about washing hands. Then it was about wearing masks. Then N95 masks proved to be much better. Then social distancing helped slow the spread.
Vaccines were the ultimate intelligence test. Most looked back on history and saw that they ended prior health crises. A few went off the deep end and started talking about 5G and Bill Gates’ microchips. Then the booster jab test got launched. The jury is still out on this one.
In Australia, we did the lockdown experiment for longer than any other place in the world. We eventually stopped because it didn’t give us zero cases. Now our numbers per capita are similar to America.
A lot of the new information contradicted the original information. Highly intelligent people were able to do their own research and study what science proved. The unintelligent let the social media algorithms serve them junk food misinformation fulled by ‘likes’ so big tech could collect ad rent.
Changing your mind quickly can save lives, including your own.
Because if you think the experts have failed us, wait until the world is run by people who think they’re experts
— Joel Stein
The final behavior to model for greatness
Let’s finish where we started with Warren Buffett.
Warren doesn’t value intelligence when it comes to a complex topic like finance. He values temperament. Temperament is the ability to maintain a good mood despite external drama.
You can’t behave intelligently when nuclear bombs are going off in your head every five minutes. Staying calm allows you to make intelligent decisions. Intelligent decisions add up to greatness if left long enough to compound.
Be obsessed with being in a good mood to become highly intelligent.