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December 29, 2019

How You Are Smart

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The conventions we use limit our ability to think, and words are at the root of it. So, if we change the words, we violate the conventions and can explore new ideas. The reason I say all this is because I am going to share an example brought to my attention in a podcast episode featuring Jim Kwik that leverages this concept.

Typically, we ask the question, "how smart are you, or how smart are they?". With this question, you’re using the standard definition and metrics for intelligence, and seeing how they fit into that general expectation. Someone might respond by referencing their IQ, or talking through a time when they thought they were clever or creative. Sure it could help as an ordinary point of reference, but it doesn’t add much beyond that. The question in itself is limiting because it asks you to answer with standardization.

But let’s change the order a bit. "How are you smart?". Sounds different doesn’t it? It’s open ended, which lends the respondent to really showcase something about themselves. It helps you get to the real quality of it and uncover the areas where someone is at their best. I mean, that’s what you want to know about, what makes someone different or special, not just how they compare to the average, right?

The same goes for our internal messaging, and piggybacks off of Albert Einstein’s famous quote, “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a goldfish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it’s going to live its whole life believing it’s stupid”.  Don’t fall for it, and don’t ask yourself the question, “How smart am I?”, ask yourself the question “How am I smart?”. That’s where you should be spending your time and attention.

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