How to improve your brainpower and reach your intellectual maximum

Hi and welcome to the brainpower track. If you don’t know what tracks are, please read more about them here. In short, tracks are the recommended order of blog posts you should read to really master the topic you selected. Following a track will help you acquire knowledge step by step in the fastest possible way. Now let’s get started.

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In life, you can never be overpaid, overdressed or overeducated. The “improve your brainpower” track on this blog, is exactly about the latter – how to get madly resourceful, knowledgeable and educated.

Not even a decade ago, being respectfully educated applied especially to formal education. If you didn’t have the resources and intellectual environment that enabled you years of studying, your options to shine intellectually were quite limited. Autodidacticism was rare in the past, exclusive to the most stubborn geek rebels.

Today formal education is only a small part of being smart and educated.  A piece of paper is proof of your academic achievements and domain knowledge to some extent, but today there is a much bigger intellectual potential you can achieve completely on your own.

In current times everyone should be an autodidact, like Leonardo da Vinci, Goethe, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison or Steven Spielberg. Luckily, you don't have to be a stubborn geek rebel anymore. Why and how?

  1. You posses one of the most capable computers ever created (organ between your ears) that you can use for free – a product of billions of years of evolution. Your brains are thinking and learning superpower.
  2. Next to that, you have access to almost all the knowledge ever created by humankind. You can start learning about any topic you want with a single click on the mouse.
  3. On the Internet you can find diversity and structure on different topics. On the one hand there are very structured and professional online courses (free or almost free), and on the other thousands of people are sharing their own experiences and ideas.

These facts present the greatest opportunity you currently have in life! If you acquire knowledge and skills that are in high demand, but low supply, you can absolutely blossom in life. Companies hire more and more for skills and the right attitude, not academic achievements.

Even if you don’t have Einstein’s IQ or you didn’t shine with straight A’s in the academic world, there are many ways to become smarter, more competent or educated and even to fine-tune your overall brainpower. All that can serve you to make more money, communicate better, make smarter decisions and much more.

If you can’t learn you can’t thrive.

This track will teach you how to improve your brainpower to become more successful. I promise you that if you read all the articles in this section and apply the acquired knowledge, you will become a scholar that everybody will envy; with formal education or without.

The five Brainpower track sections, with more than 35 articles are:

  1. Brain manual – the most extensive guide on how to use your brain
  2. How to learn – how to learn twice as much twice as fast
  3. Managing mindset – how to increase brainpower with a proper mindset
  4. Practical advice on brainpower – other practical advice on using brainpower
  5. Make the internet great again – websites that will help you become smarter

Improve your brainpower

Brain manual – how to use your brain and improve your brainpower

In the creative society, the brains are absolutely the most important organ you have. Yet ironically, nobody probably ever taught you how to use your brain to maximize your intellectual potential. Nor me.

That’s why I spent hundreds of hours researching how to get the most out of my brain. Now I want to share this very valuable knowledge with you.

Different types of intelligence and why your IQ is not fixed – Your genes and early development had a huge influence on your general intelligence development that’s hard to improve in the adult age. At most, your general intelligence can be fine-tuned.

But that doesn’t mean you are completely limited in becoming smarter. There are many ways you can maximize your intellectual potential, from improving particular intellectual skills to increasing your crystalized intelligence. Learn how to transcend biological intellectual limits.

Attention span – the ultimate advantage today – A big disadvantage nowadays is the so-called “fast food” characteristic of the society. The “fast food” society brings many problems – from overspending and overeating to shallow relationships and high anxiety levels. But the mother of those problems is absolutely the shortened attention span.

The average attention span of a human today is 8 seconds. With that kind of an attention span, you can’t achieve anything worthwhile in life. Commit to building the longest attention span of all humans in the world. That will enable you to do deep work and thrive. In this article, you will learn how.

AgileLeanLife - Must Read - XSmallOptimizing your working memory is more important than your IQ
– The best way to quickly get more out of your brain is to optimize the use of your limited mental resources. The first thing you can do to become smarter is to employ the best learning techniques and consequently optimize the use of your long-term memory (more about that in the next section).

The second, equally important, way to get your brain working at full speed is to optimize your working memory. With an un-optimized working memory, you have problems with learning, focusing, understanding, reading, memorizing, organizing yourself, meeting deadlines, not forgetting things, keeping track of things, finding objects, and so on. That’s why it definitely pays off to get the most out of your working memory.

Memory types

The best advice to optimize working memory:

  1. Work in a flow without distractions as much as possible and take regular breaks
  2. Don’t multitask, and start with the most difficult task first thing in the morning
  3. Learn to manage your negative thoughts, emotions and arousals
  4. Free your working memory by simplifying your lifestyle and being a minimalist
  5. Train your working memory with a “dual n-back game” and other brain games
  6. Regularly learn and improve your competences
  7. Take good care of your body and meditate

Become smarter with these seven tips, tricks and fun exercises – Whether you’re a more creative or more analytical person, you have to train both types of thinking. When both hemispheres work at full potential and in harmony, you get the most out of your brain.

Thus, let's look at different tricks and exercises that will train your left and right brain hemispheres and help you become smarter. Ultra-smart. Here are the seven tips and tricks described in the article:

  1. Ask yourself and others thousands of questions like a curious child
  2. Write down hundreds of ideas
  3. Play with ideas and concepts in a ridiculous way
  4. Build, prototype and put things to the test immediately
  5. Do the usual differently and always try new things
  6. Spend time with smart people
  7. Constantly read and learn new things

How to become more creative – Every single human being possesses a flow of creative energy, including you. It’s not even a question of whether you can be creative or not, since the answer is absolutely yes. The much more sensible question is how to learn to identify, nurture and express the creative energy that resides in you.

In this article, you will learn exactly that: how to become more creative. And when you learn how to get more creative, it’s time to put creativity to use by generating hundreds of brilliant ideas.

AgileLeanLife - Must Read - XSmallHow to generate great ideas that everybody will envy you – If you want to have a successful career in today’s creative society, you must have a constant flow of great ideas. You must become an idea person with an execution-oriented mindset.

When a new problem appears, you must have the skills to come up with unique solutions and bring them to life. At every step, you have to see the potential for how things could be improved. Even more, from time to time you should “live in the future” and then help build what’s missing. In this article, you will learn how to achieve all that.

How to get business ideas One special type of ideas you must have are business ideas. In reality, having a good business idea is a tiny part of success in business. Much more important elements of start-up success are finding a sustainable and scalable business model and execution, together with a superior strategy, resilience, building a winning team, and so on. Nevertheless, a good business idea presents the beginning of everything. It’s the first step you make.

Life is just a dream, so make sure your brain works 24/7 – In this blog post, I talk about how perceiving life as a dream can be a good mental trick you can use to stay more flexible and creative. The problem is that because life feels very real, you take yourself and the world around you very seriously, including your limiting beliefs, assumptions, convictions and values that you’re emotionally heavily invested in.

To free yourself, to open your mind and to play with different ideas, versions of yourself and potential future realities, it sometimes helps to see life as nothing but a dream. The bottom-line question is: if your brain works 24/7 and dreams for several hours every night, why not keep this function working even when you’re awake?

How to improve your analytical skills to make smarter life decisions – The post-information age we live in today is called the creative society. The name already implies how important and cherished creativity is. Everybody talks about constant innovation, visions for the future, brainstorming brilliant ideas and expressing your unique artistic soul.

But innovations must be in line with market paradigms and people’s needs, visions must be backed up by strategic plans, brilliant ideas have to be systematically tested, and it’s never enough to only be different, you also have to be better. That’s where analytical skills come into play. Luckily, much like anybody can become (more) creative, so you can improve your analytical skills.

The best foods for your brain – to improve memory and focus – One way to additionally optimize your brain’s performance is to eat healthy brain foods. Now, eating brain foods won’t double your smarts, but it might fine-tune your mental performance just a little bit. Most of all, you will have more energy to perform mental tasks during the day. Imagine your brain like a high-end car that needs the best gas and oil. Your brain deserves the best, like you do.

Great creative minds think like artists but work like accountants.

Never stop learning

How to learn like the smartest people do

The average person goes to school for more than 10 years. Yet nobody teaches how to learn properly at school. Nobody teaches tips, tricks and formulas to learn quickly, efficiently and for practical long-term use.

In this section, you will learn exactly that – how to learn and study like the smartest and intellectually most successful people.

Curiosity is the number one trait of awesome people – Curiosity is one of the most important values you must develop and nurture if you want to be successful intellectually and overall. With curiosity, you can easily get engaged in things, commit to understanding, acquire new knowledge and deliver results (without real effort).

People see that very quickly, love it and want to be a part of it. Not many people are utterly obsessed with understanding something and then using it in some productive new way. That’s probably what makes curious people so special. So always stay hungry, always stay foolish.

The most effective way to learn new things – When you think of learning, you often first think of reading or even listening to lectures. But in reality, there are 7 different methods of learning, of which reading and listening to lectures are actually the least effective.

Amongst the seven methods of learning, the first four methods encompass the so-called passive learning, while the other three fall into the category of active learning. In this article, you will learn more about the different ways to learn new things and which ones are the most effective.

AgileLeanLife - Must Read - XSmallHow to study, learn & master things faster than people with the highest IQ – Real learning today begins after you finish formal education. If you want to be successful, you have to know how to study and how to use your brain properly, especially after you finish school; because real learning and studying never end.

That doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from knowing good learning practices if you are still a student. This blog post is a collection of all the best learning practices and basic rules that you should follow when it comes to formal and informal learning. Reading the blog post will help you become a better learner – an outstanding learner.

You will learn the best learning practices like:

  • Spaced repetition and distributed practice
  • Mixing different learning styles
  • The semantic tree and structuring a learning plan
  • The chunking strategy
  • Elaborative interrogation and self-explanation
  • Mnemonics, analogies and imagery for text learning
  • Recall, self-testing and notetaking
  • Interleaved practice
  • Learning transfer and others

AgileLeanLife - Must Read - XSmallTop 10 ways to learn or improve any skill fast – If it’s knowledge, it can be acquired. If it’s a skill, it can be learned or improved. Period. As we said, even if you don’t have the talent or IQ of a genius, you can get dramatically better at almost anything you want in life. It might take a lot of willpower, persistence and deliberate practice, but you can do it.

There’s nothing that can stop you, if you’re determined enough. A tremendous help when it comes to knowledge and skills acquisition is to do it the right way. You want to shorten the learning curve as much as possible. When you’re going for new knowledge, it’s good to know the best learning practices; and when it comes to skills, you want to know the best tips and tricks for learning and improving any skill fast. In this article, you will learn exactly that.

You will learn the best skill acquisition practices like:

  1. Get emotionally, financially and time-wise invested in the skill
  2. Timebox regular practicing sessions
  3. Make sure a lack of talent isn't your excuse
  4. Get a mentor or a coach and several role-models
  5. Have realistic expectations and mind the dip
  6. Set very specific goals what you want to master
  7. Do a preliminary research and build a skill acquisition plan (with example)
  8. Practice at the edge of your abilities and make sure you practice the right way
  9. Build yourself a supportive environment
  10. Immediately start with a practical projects
  11. Have a strong feedback system
  12. Know the four stages of learning and that every beginning suck

A short practical guide to creating professional and beautiful mind maps – Two of the most efficient learning tools are flashcards and mind maps. While flashcards are great for practicing recall (the mother of learning), mind maps are an excellent tool for building semantic trees of knowledge, connecting core ideas and remembering key facts more easily.

When it comes to learning, the core idea of mind maps is that they don’t only help you learn the individual dots (or the so-called knowledge chunks), but also to connect the dots in the right way. Learn how to create professional and beautiful mindmaps.

Flashcards - cardboard

Flashcards – Flashcards are an extremely effective and popular way to learn and they’ve been used since the 19th century. Flashcards are a set of cards where every card has a question written on one side and the answer on the other.

You choose a card, read the question, try to recall as much as possible (it’s called active recall), and then you compare your answer to the correct answer written on the back of the flashcard. People most often use flashcards to learn new languages, but you can use them for studying almost any topic you want.

How long you should practice when you’re learning something new – In test-driven development, there is a rule of thumb to “test until fear turns to boredom”. You can use the same exact principle when you’re learning a new block of knowledge – practice until fear turns to boredom.

After you practice enough, soon there is nothing new to understand and master in that specific block of knowledge. A challenge slowly starts changing into boredom. Then it’s time to move to the next block. No fear and boredom, these are the signals that you’re a master at something.

Personal Infostructure – Infostructure is a system and a process of how you consume, manage and share information. In the creative society, a quality infostructure has become as important as a quality infrastructure. What you feed your mind with matters a lot.

A quality (good) infostructure will help you become more creative, competent and resourceful. A bad infostructure, on the other hand, is the biggest time waster ever, killing your creative potential, making you into an obedient consumer and a zombie – something that you definitely don’t want to become.

Why you should read every day – I can honestly say that reading is the number one thing that forever changed my life to the better. If I can only recommend two things to anyone in this world, they would be exercise and reading. I know it’s hard to find the time to read books. But with good time management techniques, it can be done. You just have to see all the benefits and be motivated enough. The intention of this blog post is to encourage you to read more.

How to read more every day, a lot more – If you’re an extremely busy individual like most people are nowadays, you probably have a hard time finding the time to read as much as you’d like. That’s why you need a strategy and a system for reading as much as possible every day, before your daily obligations run your batteries empty. Don’t rely on self-discipline when it comes to making time to read. Have a superior reading strategy and system. In this article, you will learn how to set it up.

Blinkist Review – Read one book a day. Blinkist is a web and mobile app that offers more than 1,000 summaries of non-fiction books. They cover different non-fiction categories, from science, politics and economics to personal growth, investing, different business topics, health and biographies. They add new books summaries to their library daily, adding up to around 40 new summaries per month. It’s an app I absolutely recommend and here you can read the review.

Managing your mind and your mindset

Now you know how to get the most out of your brain and learn as quickly as possible. And now you know the main ways to reach your intellectual potential. But that is only one part of the equation.

The second part of the equation is your mindset. Knowledge and the right mindset are not the same thing; and you want both. Your mindset is about the right attitude, healthy underlying beliefs and focusing your mind on positive. That's many times much harder than learning properly.

Let me give you an example. You can waste your brainpower by constantly thinking negative thoughts. Negative thoughts lead to severe negative emotions and that hinders your attention span and working memory. Negative thoughts most often also lead to ill actions, which is definitely not a smart life strategy.

In this section, you will learn how to operate out of the right mindset. You will learn how you can take control over your mind, and make sure your negative mind doesn’t control you.Upgrade your mindset

AgileLeanLife - Must Read - XSmallUpgrade your mindset to the superhuman version – You become what you think. Changing your thoughts is the only way you can really change your life to a more positive course and it’s the only way to live the good life you really want.

If you want to make positive changes in your life, you really do have to start by upgrading your mindset and the way you think. In this ultimate guide to mindset management, you will get access to all the necessary hacks that can help you live your dream life, simply by managing your thoughts more properly.

You will learn about exercises like:

  • Mental feedback
  • Emotional accounting
  • Cognitive reframing and holding your frame
  • Self-reflective journaling
  • Creative visualization
  • Transformational vocabulary
  • Body language and more

Growth mindset vs. Fixed mindset – The biggest difference between successful and unsuccessful people lies in the mindset. You can either have a fixed mindset or a growth one. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe that your character and potential are unchangeable, have been “written in stone” since birth. On the other hand, the growth mindset means that you believe in personal evolution and that you can improve your character by working on yourself.

Abundance mindset vs. Scarcity mindset – The abundance mindset consists of three crucial elements: seeing all the possibilities the world has to offer in order to create, connect, grow and enjoy; knowing that you deserve love and prosperity; and realizing that if you experienced only plentitude in life, it would be boring as hell and you wouldn’t appreciate anything you have at all.

The opposite of the abundance mindset is the scarcity mentality. The scarcity mentality doesn’t only lead to an impoverished life, it also makes you take malicious actions towards yourself and others.

Negative thinking vs. Positive thinking – You simply can’t live a positive life with a negative mind. With too many cognitive distortions, you’re trapped living a zombie life, seeing the world as very dark and full of terror. It’s true that positive thinking is an important part of a happy and successful life, but you can’t just decide to think positively.

If it were that simple, everyone would be happy and optimistic and super positive in life. First you must become aware of 10 typical cognitive distortions (different types of negative thoughts) and then evict negative thinking with emotional accounting and cognitive reframing.

Optimal thinking vs. Suboptimal thinking –When thinking and using your brain, there are three very basic levels of mindset you operate from: negative thinking and the victim mindset (aka suboptimal negative), suboptimal thinking (mediocre, average thinking, sometimes even positive thinking), and optimal thinking.

The more optimally you think in life, the more optimal actions you take, and that leads you to the best possible results. Optimal thinking starts with you asking yourself the right questions. And the right questions usually involve the word “the best”. Learn more about it.

Problem-solving mindset – You can’t be focused on a problem that’s pissing you off, negatively think about “how hard” your life is, and look for a creative solution at the same time. Thus, every time you encounter a problem that pisses you off and you just want to start to bitch, whine and complain, pause for a moment.

Instead start managing your emotions and open your mind to creative problem-solving. That’s how you direct your mental energy in the most constructive direction possible.

Supportive environment for skill acquisition

Practical advice on brainpower

This section is about other interesting topics connected to “increasing brainpower” and how you can get the most out of your brain and put your intellectual potential to use. It’s a collection of all different types of articles that will help you directly or indirectly improve your brainpower.

Free your mind with your own digital brain – In order to innovate, create, improve yourself and enjoy life to the full, you need to be as free as possible on all four levels: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. On the intellectual level that means you need to free your mind.

One way to free your mind is by keeping your brain as unburdened as possible with unimportant things and the best way to achieve that is to organize your own digital brain.

Save space, time and money with asset-light living – Asset-light living means that you can easily buy digital goods (or upload them) online, store them in your personal cloud system, and access them in the right place at the right time. Cloud computing and smartphones are the main enablers of asset‑light living.

Asset-light living helps you save space, time and money. With asset-light living, you save tons of physical space. A decade ago, you needed to have physical books, CDs, tapes and other media. Today, everything can be in your cloud, without using up any physical space. Your brain can also benefit from asset-light living, having your main educational resources only one click away.

AgileLeanLife - Must Read - XSmallLearning is useless, validated learning is everythingKnowledge is not power. Applying knowledge is power. Learning is useless. Validated learning is everything. If there is a single skill you have to learn to be massively successful in the 21st century, it’s validated learning. It’s the only way to build a superior life strategy.

Validated learning in personal life is a process of acquiring a new chunk of knowledge, immediately putting it into practice, and then measuring results to validate the effects – whether there is any value or not. Validated learning is about immediately implementing new knowledge to practice.

Your competence level – Your competence level is basically an accumulation of internal resources in your past, including intellectual skills. The more internal resources that you accumulated in the past, the more competent you are. The good thing is that competences accumulate over time, and thus a potential for exponent growth and compounding exists.

Today, in the creative society, competence is the biggest safety and advantage you can really have, and the main source of self-actualization, meaning doing work you really enjoy; and it doesn’t matter if you’re starting your journey as an independent entrepreneur, freelancer or are employed.

AgileLeanLife - Must Read - XSmallT-shaped skills in every area of your life – While the concept of T-shaped skills is not that new, it is now more important than ever. The world is becoming more and more complex, and T-shaped skills are a razor that can cut through all the complexity.

Your T-shaped skillset must constantly become broader (- general knowledge) and narrower (| specialized knowledge) as the world becomes more complex. Nevertheless, having T-shaped skills is one of the biggest competitive advantages you can have in the creative society when contributing value for the markets or achieving your goals.

Develop intellectual skills that are in high demand and short supply. That is the best financial and career advice ever.

The only way to really improve your English skills – The world is becoming one big global village and English is its official language. Being a native English speaker is thus a really big advantage, but only a small percentage (approximately 5.5 %) of the world’s population are native English speakers.

The rest of us have to work hard and try to develop English skills that are as close as possible to the ones of the native speakers. Let’s now look at some semi-efficient and very efficient ways of really improving your English as well as at some additional general advice, no matter if you want to improve your reading, writing, speaking or listening skills.

Tips for improving your English speaking skills and pronunciation – Writing and reading definitely help improve your overall English skills, but if you want to get better specifically at speaking and pronouncing, you must do a lot of deliberate practice exclusively for speaking and pronouncing.

Writing, speaking and reading skills engage different parts of your brain. In this blog post you will learn the best tips and tricks to perfect your English pronunciation very fast and even more – become a fluent English speaker that everybody will admire.

Make the internet great again

Let’s make the internet great again

Technology is nothing but a tool; and every tool is like fire. You can cook yourself dinner with it or give yourself a nasty burn. What I’m trying to say is that we live in the most exciting times ever with all the possibilities and technological advancement.

You can access almost all the knowledge known to man with one click. You can learn so many skills online for the price of a coffee per day.

Still, the most popular websites online are entertainment and mental masturbation websites. The vast majority of people use technology to become:

  • Dumber – social networks, stupid videos, negative news etc.
  • Poorer – online shopping, giving away attention etc. or
  • Lonelier – talking with other people while holding a phone in their hands

Internet is getting people burned and they don’t even know it. That hurts me a lot.

While a little bit of entertainment is completely okay, make sure you use technology to your advantage instead. Use it to accelerate the development of your business or career, use it to become smarter, constantly learn new things and connect with ambitious people from all over the world.

Make sure that the computer and internet are making you smarter, not dumber.

That’s what this section is all about. “Let’s make the internet great again” is an initiative to promote educational and useful internet sites – from quality (free and paid) online courses to educational sites and forums, namely everything your brain can really benefit from.

Educational subreddits – Reddit is one of the most popular social news aggregators, online community forums and discussion-rating websites. Reddit is one of the few social networks that has really useful subreddits and can be worth your time, if you know how to use it in a productive way.

I tried to list all useful educational subreddits, even if they are small or not very active. They are ranked from subreddits with the most members (approximate number) to the ones with the fewest members (but that doesn’t necessarily mean that bigger is better).

500+ personal development blogs –  Here you can find a list of more than 500 relevant personal development blogs. If you’re  interested in new personal development content, outside of the scope of this blog, you'll find many awesome websites on the list. The blogs are objectively ranked by AlexaScore (December 2016).

The next steps

This is the end of the brainpower track. I’m sure you’ve acquired many ideas and insights into how to reach your intellectual potential and become a scholar everybody will respect.

But remember, learning is never enough, you also have to apply the knowledge. Really apply it. It’s better to know one single concept and apply it than to know ten of them and apply none.

So I encourage you to always take action. Start reading, studying a new topic, or systematically develop your creativity, analytical skills or curiosity. And when you achieve all that, there are many other life areas where you can grow and shine.

Check out the other tracks on this site and don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter, so you’ll be the first to receive new quality blog posts; including new epiphanies and eye‑opening content on how to successfully manage your brain and your intellectual potential.