Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 23, 201211:17 PM

Thinking Smarter

I've been thinking a lot about thinking lately.

I know, that's very "meta" of me. When was the last time you spent five minute thinking about not only how you learn, but where it's all taking place? People often laugh when they hear that I am reading all of my books exclusively on my iPhone with the Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks apps. In fact, most people scoff at the notion (as if I'm doing some kind of retinal damage or that it's heresy). The truth is that technology has not only facilitated our ability to learn but it has sped it up. I read over thirty books last year, and it would have never happened if I had to carry them all around with me in my backpack.

It's too bad that most people don't realize this and/or take advantage of it. 

I love our local library. They have everything there  - from books, magazines and newspapers to CDs, movies and activities for the kids. I wouldn't want it to go anywhere, but the truth is that I have most of the information available in that massive space in my smartphone. An exaggeration? Hardly. Do you know how many books I've looked for to no avail at the library, only to pop open my iPhone and buy it through one of book apps that I use? Instead of trolling through the pages of Harvard Business Review, Fast Company or Wired Magazine, I simply subscribe to their feeds and I'm able to not only know when an new issue is on the newsstand (and, for the record, I'm starting to prefer the digital versions of the physical magazines), but their websites are complimented with additional reporting, Blogs, Podcasts and more.

The Internet is nothing new.

...But every day new content comes online that can (and will) make you smarter. Most people don't even know about iTunes U, where you can download, watch and/or listen to some of the best lectures from the most prestigious universities in the world... for free. I can understand why people don't take/make the time to go to their local library to learn, but really, what's the excuse now?

Thinking smarter.

Education is your own problem. I sucked at school (from the beginning until I dropped out of university). It just wasn't for me. Thankfully, my parents instilled in me the importance of education from an early age. That being said, I was much better at playing video games, watching TV and reading comics books than I was at delivering a book report to my teacher's on time. Thankfully, I didn't let my lack of motivation for school interfere with my education as I got older. Yes, you can take courses, add some degrees to the old resume or attend conferences (all powerful and useful ways to keep educating yourself), but you can also set your own curriculum like never before. From text and images to audio and video and it's all (mostly free). Curious about physics? Modern literature? Architecture? Marketing innovation? It's all here. Right here. Just waiting for you.

The brutal truth. 

People will often tell me that they can't wait to go on vacation so that they can catch up on their reading. They'll also talk about the sabbatical that they're taking to spend time learning. Here's the truth: you can't catch up on reading and you don't need a sabbatical to learn. In our hyper-connected and competitive business world, you need to be thinking about getting smarter as an iterative and critical part of your day-to-day regiment. Every day that you're not reading or learning something is a waste and you can't "catch up" on vacation. If you make time for the gym, you better make time for the brain too. Thanks to the Web, mobile and touch, it's never been easier.

What do you do to get smarter?

By Mitch Joel