Getting Stupid to Get Smart

Subtraction, not addition, is the way to clear your brain, stimulate thinking and get smarter.Few blogs start with the assertion: "I'm really stupid," then go on to defend stupidity as a way to get smarter.

"I used to think when I added stuff to my brain, I'd get smarter," writes James Altucher, author of the recently published Choose Yourself! "But this is not true. For instance, if I look up when Charlemagne was born, I'd just add a fact to my brain, which I will forget tomorrow. This won't make me smarter."

Altucher says the way to get smarter is, in effect, to get dumber. "Subtraction, not addition, is what makes the window to the brain more clear, wipes away the smudges, opens the drapes." 

It isn't just facts that require subtraction. Altucher says the greatest obstacles to optimal thinking are feelings, such as paranoia, resentment, regret, guilt and perfectionism.

"I'm imperfect. The shame of imperfection takes at least 20 percent of my intelligence away," he claims. 

Trying to maintain control is another brain blocker. "I want to control everything around me," Altucher says, "But some times things are bad and there's nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you have to surrender. Then a great weight lifts off your shoulders." That can be valuable, he adds, because your brain is already a great weight on your shoulders.

"Give up control and get smarter," Altucher advises. You can sit in congested traffic and curse being late or you can dream up a new opportunity, such as "Can I make a better bacon?" 

Altucher says talking instead of listening impedes thinking. "Sometimes we just need to shut up!"

He drops his biggest hammer on excuses. "For every 'can't,' you should send me $10," Altucher muses. "I can do all those things, particularly if have your $10."

Maybe more bloggers should embrace Altucher's blunt style in "How to be less stupid." Or we can just shut up and let him speak.