You know what FOMO is, right?
Fear of missing out on the fun things your friends are doing.
It’s the worst.
But, do you know what’s worse than FOMO?
For me, its the Fear of Not Knowing Something. Ya know. FONKS.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate not knowing certain things. Not being smart or at least somewhat intelligent on something I think I should be. Not understanding a political process. Not understanding how a certain mathematical concept works. Not knowing anything about another culture.
I’m not concerned with understanding astrophysics or knowing the GDPs of the world’s nations. But I am concerned with not knowing things that I certainly should be familiar enough with to simply explain to others.
I think its a crazy concept that we can dedicate the first 20 years of our lives to learning. Learning history, information, skills, talents, languages, sports, music, etc. and then once we hit “adulthood” this comes to a screeching halt.
Very few continue their self-education. And that is sad.
Come on man! Turn your brain back on!
I totally get it though! Life’s priorities fundamentally shift when you’re out of school and there is less emphasis put on mental and cognitive self-development. There is pressure to grow the skillset and cognitive areas associated with our jobs… our livelihoods.
At the same time, I think if you put your weekly routine into perspective, you’ll realize how much ample time you have on your hands that, if actually utilized, could help you continue to develop your brain, get smarter and improve your cognitive abilities.
You find the time to exercise and watch your diet. So, why are you turning your back on your brain?
It’s your brain that’s going to make you successful in life.
Your brain and the knowledge and skills it curates and builds is going to significantly outlast the strength and appearance of your body.
So, what are some simple activities you can do in your free time to train your brain and get smarter in the process?
The first step? Figure out the areas in which you can and should get smarter.
“Half of being smart is knowing what you are dumb about.” – Solomon Short
I think the best way to embark on your brain quest is to, as always, start with what you’re passionate about or at minimum, curious about.
This is the most direct way to begin building knowledge. If you choose something at random, what incentive do you have to continue? None really.
If there is something you are interested in or have always wondered about, start there.
I have put together a list of quick and easy ways that you can exercise your brain.
…first, a note about mindset.
You have to crave learning new things. It is a complete 180 from how you are likely living your life currently (your 9 to 5 will do that to you!)
I know a lot of people get frustrated easily when learning new subjects. You have to put yourself out there, acknowledge your shortcomings and start from zero. It can be a humbling process. But, if approached with the right mindset, it can be an enjoyable journey.
Be curious. Don’t settle, and most of all, be willing to always try new things.
Here are 9 quick ideas for exercising your brain when you are at lunch, during your commute, at the gym or just sitting around. Make these daily habits, get smarter and embrace the fact that being smart is cool.
1. Subscribe to a daily newsletter
This one is easy and takes minimal effort. Call it lean-back brain training instead of lean-forward.
Choose a daily newsletter that appeals to the areas of interest that you identified above or simply find one that generally exercises your brain each day. Here are some of my favorites.
- The Skimm: For your daily rundown of current events
- Now I know: Learn something new each morning
- Finimize: Have trouble understanding financial news? This is for you.
2. Play more golf
Seriously though. Golf has been proven to make you smarter. You are actively engaging in memorization skills, repetition, estimations, math and of course physical skill/coordination improvement.
3. Learn a new language (duh!)
You probably figured learning a new language would be included on this list. That’s because it works. Learning and practicing a new language stimulates the brain. I dedicated the last 6 years of my life to learning new and unfamiliar languages – Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Hindi and Urdu. The process is extremely rewarding from a cognitive aspect. Exercising this aspect of the brain not only results in learning a new language, but also refreshes your native tongue’s vocabulary, which can have lifelong benefits.
Here are a couple great ways to learn new languages.
– Duolingo – The gold standard for learning a new language online.
– Babel – A great online resource for learning a new language
4. Take some online courses
Not only does it sounds impressive to say you are taking MIT courses (if you’re into that kind of bragging thing), but the benefit is tangible for your brain.
Harvard, MIT and several other very well-respected universities and colleges offer free online courses. They run the gambit subject-wise from engineering, mathematics, health and medicine, to social sciences, marketing, etc.
Definitely check these out:
5. Listen to podcasts
You know I’m all about podcasting! We have our own (The Hustle Sold Separately) and I learn something new each day when producing and recording it. Imagine the potential if you simply listened to a podcast on your daily commute, at the gym or as you walk around your city.
Here are two of my favorites at the moment.:
6. Watch more documentaries
Did you know that watching Netflix or HBO Go doesn’t have to be a mindless time and brain suck?
There are fantastic documentaries available on a crazy amount of subjects. For example, I love watching World War II documentaries and find myself watching them often.
I have also watched documentaries on quantum physics, the history of the automobile, the history of fonts (Helvetica – check it out), and on and on. The point being, there are a ton of great documentaries you can watch to give you new knowledge, know how and perspective.
7. Play brain games
This is a lean forward activity you can do for a couple minutes a day. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, online chess and apps like Lumosity.
8. Switch hands
I mentioned this before as being a great 30 day challenge because, well, it’s freakin’ challenging! But beyond that, using your non-dominant hand has been proven to activate different areas of your brain in ways that you wouldn’t normally. Give it a shot.
9. Memorize your friends’ phone numbers
This is a fun challenge and way to exercise your memory muscles. Simply make an effort to memorize the telephone numbers of those you use often. I recently realized that I didn’t know a single number by heart so I adopted this challenge and habit. It has taught me how to quickly memorize and retain long strings of numbers.
I’d love to hear the daily habits you use to grow your brain power. Let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org
in your inbox everyday at 10am CST.
No fluff or "pie in the sky inspiration." Just real stories.
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