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What Is Smart? : Rethinking the Idea of Intelligence

Updated: Jul 20, 2021


A Tale of a Test

The teacher walked about the room almost as if in slow motion. My hands were sweaty, and I nervously glanced at the students around me as I awaited my turn. The teacher was handing back our most recent test, and anxious thoughts jumped around in my brain:

"Looks like Jimmy did pretty well."

"Did I make that same mistake as him though?"

"I feel like I got a decent score. Or did I? I had no idea had to do the last one."

"Ahh...I really hope I get a good score on this test. I really need to bring my grade up!"

And on they went frantically dancing around in my head until it was finally my turn. The teacher handed me back my test...I didn't want to look. I had to take a peek though, so I painstakingly tilted my head down...andddddd...a 62%, a D. I groaned and hung my head as a wave of tightness swept over my body. I was crushed.

I looked over at Jamie, the smartest in the class. There wasn't a single red mark on her paper except for the big circle around the 100% at the top of the page and the grinning smiley face next to it. "I'll never be as smart as her," I thought to myself. Or would I...?


What Being Smart Really Means

We all want to be smart. Smart gets you good grades in school, it gets you rewards from your parents, praise from your teachers, and admiration from your friends. Even more importantly, it saves you from the embarrassment of being "the dumb one". I used to have nightmares about being "the dumb one" that would scare the piss outta me. My mom definitely did not enjoy having to change the sheets every night. Sorry, Momma. Love you!

As an adult, smart makes you more money, gets you better jobs, and STILL gets admiration from your friends. I mean who wouldn't love all that, am I right? Sounds pretty groovy, dope, or pog depending on what era you are from. But what is "smart" exactly?

On the surface, it looks like there are kids that just have it and other kids that don't; like smartness is a fixed quantity that is handed out at birth, and the best the rest of us can do is struggle and hope to keep up with the ones that get all the A's. Well Wilfred, that just ain't facts.

You have to think of intelligence like raw material, unformed and unshaped. Just a big blob of mass representing your potential for smartness. Potential is the keyword here.

Certainly there will be some people that start out with a bigger blob than others. But if you don't do anything with your potential, if you don't take your blob and shape it, then it doesn't matter how big a blob you start with.

Michelangelo (the artist, not the turtle) carved his famous sculpture David from a single block of marble that weighed over 20,000 lbs. That's a mighty big hunk of marble. (I could definitely bench press it though.) If Michelangelo had never carved out the marble, then it would remain just a huge hunk of rock rather than a masterpiece.

If you haven't heard me yet, then listen up! Intelligence can be a predictor of future success in life, but ONLY if it properly developed. There are many people that are given great natural gifts with 1000 IQs, and yet they are not successful because they never bothered to develop their blob. Then there are others that might have a smaller blob to begin with, but with practice and careful carving, they create something incredible. You can be one of the masters. Want to know how? Just keep on reading.


How to Improve

Now we know that being smart is something that you aren't just good at or not and that to get all the smartness, you gotta improve upon it. And if we look at the "smart" kids, maybe it's not that they are sooooo much smarter than you, but maybe they just found out some ways to carve out their blob that you haven't discovered yet. So what are some of these ways that you can use to make a masterpiece out of your blob of potential?

1. Growth Mindset

First off, you gotta believe that you can get smarter. Henry Ford famously said, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't -- you're right." So if you think you are stuck the way you are and you can never change, then just stop reading now because there is nothing I can do for you. Belief comes first.

Be open to the fact that you can become smarter with determination and practice, and funny enough just allowing yourself to believe that simple fact will make you smarter right away. If you want some specific techniques on developing a growth mindset, follow the link below.

2. Organization

Tidy up your room and you'll tidy up your thoughts. Organize your backpack and you will organize your mind. It is so simple, and still so powerful. If your room or backpack are messy, then you lose things. Things feel cramped and chaotic. This reflects into your mind. When your environment is messy, you lose thoughts. Your mind feels clouded and confusing.

But the opposite is also true. If your environment is neat and clean, then your mind will be too. You will be able to access information from your brain easily. Your thinking will be clear and sharp. So clean your room, clean your backpack, and clean your locker. If you want some extra tips for organization, check out the link below.

Also, here are some great ways to organize your notes too:

3. IQ Boosters

The first two tips on this list really help you take your "smartness" blob and shape it into a work of art. This final tip will actually add a little bit of material to your blob, so you can make your work of art even bigger and better.

Your intelligence quotient (IQ) is a measurement of the size of your "smartness" blob. You can help boost your IQ by doing fun puzzles such as crossword puzzles, sudoku puzzles, and jigsaw puzzles. Do all the puzzles. If you prefer a phone app, Lumosity offers a bunch of really fun brain games that help stretch your mind and strengthen your brain.

If you want some more ideas for boosting your IQ, this link has a bunch of ideas:



So next time you think that you will "never get it," just remember that intelligence is not a fixed quantity. It can be improved by using the tips included in this article: believe you can improve, organize your life, and do puzzles to boost your IQ. Oh and about that story at the beginning...the next time the teacher came walking around with a graded test, I was one of the ones that got a smiley face next to my score. You can be too.

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