‘Smart’ is a Study Toxin

Forget about intelligence/natural ability, it literally doesn’t exist.

And I don’t even care if that’s a “true” statement. It’s a useful statement. The concept of intelligence wastes a lot of your time. Consider its toxic effect on your study habits.

Scenario 1: you’re really struggling with a problem. You feel stupid. You get depressed. Ugh, you groan, I’ll never get this and everyone else seems to get it so they’re smarter than me. Your ego-rescue mechanism kicks in and you go do something else.

Scenario 2: you solve a tough problem for the first time. Wow, you think: I’m effing smart, look what I did! Your brain floods with all-natural, homegrown narcotics. Studying sucks, it makes you feel stupid and you’re actually smart so you can stop and go do something else.

No matter what you think of yourself, framing learning in terms of smarts encourages you to go do something else before you’re ready.

The most infuriating thing about school is that students compare their performance with each other then attribute the differences to something barely related and impossible to change.

Consider an extreme scenario: you’re studying calculus, a tricky bit of math. Here are two things you can do to get better at it:

1. Allocate 10x the amount of time you’re currently allocating from your life to figuring this out.

2. Spend that extra time on the concepts that calculus uses but have nothing to do with derivatives. Get better at algebra, get better at exponents. Get better at logarithms. Now go back to calculus. Guess what, it’s easier. You’re faster. Stronger on all the ‘hard’ topics. People suddenly think you’re smarter but you know that all you did was work your can off.

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