clear thinking

Getting Stupid to Get Smart

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.