Authentic Signs of Intelligence That Can’t Be Faked

 

Intelligence is your brain’s capacity to deal with a wide range of thoughts and ideas.

Like most things, therefore, intelligence is a process.

It is not a static state.

It is not something you either have or don’t.

Your brain is something you cultivate.

Intelligence stems fundamentally from thinking.

Thinking is a choice. It requires one essential thing: effort.

Thought is work. Thought is effort.

Thinking develops your brain. It increases your intellectual power and range.

Non-thought, corollarily, is something you can change.

You become brilliant.

You learn to be smart.

You are not afraid of new ideas because you know your brain can measure and weigh and test these new ideas — in the same way your brain can create new onomatopoeias.

A cultivated mind is an intelligent mind.

It is also beautiful and strange and rather difficult to find.

Thought is both the source and also the end result: it is the goal. It is the driving force.

It is an end in itself.

Intelligence is your ability to think.

This ability can be habituated and developed, or not, depending on what you prefer to do with your time.

You know you’re in the presence of a brain that’s been cultivated when you see some of the following:

Fast, fluid handwriting that’s legible.

There’s a misbegotten notion that illegibility is a sign of a smart person when in actuality it’s the other way around:

People who write legibly want to be understood. Thus they make an effort to present themselves clearly, which takes brain power. Quick, clear handwriting shows practice and patience, which in turn shows development.

Quick wit almost invariably signals that someone’s mind has been cultivated:

Wit is mental sharpness. It is cognitive acuity. It is keenness.

Similarly — and for the same reasons — people who like to laugh, and who in turn like to make others laugh, are frequently smart.

A sharp sense of time and direction show brain power.

Why?

Because a sharp sense of time and direction indicate attention and focus.

The choice to focus or not is the seat of human thought.

The choice to pay attention is where it begins — and ends. It is the locus.

Smart people, virtually by definition, are also more curious.

They are thus more tolerant of ambiguity, just as they are also more tolerant of differences in others — grasping, as they do, what for many of us is blindingly obvious:

The brain is a complicated place, and largely, for this reason, no two people are alike. This basic act of apprehension gives any person who performs it a more complex and more subtle and more sophisticated mode of thinking.

Obsessive worry is a strong indicator of intelligence because it discloses a racing mind that’s never at rest but always thinking, always considering.

This is why some of the greatest thinkers and innovators in world history were monomaniacal ruminators.

Smart people like to read for fun.

People who take active pleasure in reading, rather than doing so out of duty or reading purely for information, unquestionably have brains they’ve worked to cultivate — which means, among other things, “avid readers have better memory function, communication skills, and focus” (source).

Truly intelligent people like to often be alone.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re introverted (although they can be), nor does it mean they don’t like spending any time with friends and other people.

Rather, intelligent people prefer a lot of privacy and space, just as they prefer to pick and choose the time they spend among others because they are independent and they value their independence, in part because it gives them time to think, as well as time to relax.

Smart people, understand, genuinely smart people, as against the book-smart and the pedantic and all the other imposters, are autonomous and have the authentic confidence that can only come from thought and the comprehension that thinking fosters.

Smart people are self-aware.

And because they are self-aware, smart people recognize their mistakes and failures, and they learn from them.

Self-awareness and insight into self is, incidentally, one of the few foolproof signs of intelligence.

People who can argue articulately and convincingly — and from many different angles — have, to that extent, clearly cultivated their brains:

Their minds through practice are able to move nimbly from one idea to another, like a long-legged river-spider skating upon the water.

Yet they are often slow to speak and swift to hear:

Genuinely smart people almost invariably consider what they’re going to say before they say it. Their brain is honed in such a way that it’s quicker than their mouth.

What, after all, does it mean to be smart?

It means to stylize your brain, like a work of art.

It means to cultivate your thoughts for as long as you’re alive — cultivate your thoughts as if they’re the plants of a living garden.

Cultivate them, yes, before your ideas, only partially thought through, ooze into dogma and then fully harden.

It means to observe the universe around you, as well as the one within: to introspect, as thoughtful people do.

It means to be intelligent, like you.

[This is excerpted from a free video course I recently taught, which you can download here. Please do!]

There are 115 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member

    Get a haircut, Ray. From the looks of it, your hair is even longer than mine, and that’s not allowed.

    Beyond that, I would like to make fun of you, but you’re exactly right. People always have more capacity than they know, and if they weren’t so busy telling us what they can’t do because of this or that limitation, they would be out doing incredible stuff.

    • #1
    • November 28, 2017, at 1:12 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. sawatdeeka Member

    I’m with you on this view of intelligence, Ray.

    Parents give their children a huge boost when they cultivate their intelligence from babyhood into early childhood. They do this by talking to them, reading to them, taking them on walks and outings, etc. That takes much time and thoughtfulness, but it’s the springboard into adult intelligence.

    • #2
    • November 28, 2017, at 1:20 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. Valiuth Member

    Ray:Fast, fluid handwriting that’s legible.

    There’s a misbegotten notion that illegibility is a sign of a smart person, when in actuality it’s the other way around:

    People who write legibly want to be understood. Thus they make an effort to present themselves clearly, which takes brain power. Quick clear handwriting shows practice and patience, which in turn shows development

    I disagree with this. The primary factor contributing to this is practice. In a world where most people type all their professional work handwriting is a poor indication of anything anymore if it ever was. Now fluid legible sentences, that is a sign of a working mind.

    • #3
    • November 28, 2017, at 1:25 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  4. Ray Inactive
    Ray Post author

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    The primary factor contributing to this is practice…. Now fluid legible sentences, that is a sign of a working mind.

    We agree! That’s what I’m saying:

    “Quick clear handwriting shows practice and patience, which in turn shows development.”

    Thank you for reading, and thank you for dropping by.

    • #4
    • November 28, 2017, at 1:31 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. DocJay Inactive

    I’m playing this for my 15 yr old son later.

    Don’t listen to Arahant, he’s trying to steal your hair power.

    • #5
    • November 28, 2017, at 1:34 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  6. MarciN Member

    Great post.

    • #6
    • November 28, 2017, at 1:55 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Ray Inactive
    Ray Post author

    DocJay (View Comment):
    Don’t listen to Arahant, he’s trying to steal your hair power.

    Don’t worry: I’m onto that son-of-a-gun!

    P.S. Thank you! If your son likes it, have him tell all his friends.

    If his friends like it, tell him to get new friends.

    • #7
    • November 28, 2017, at 2:08 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. Ray Inactive
    Ray Post author

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Great post.

    Thank you!

    • #8
    • November 28, 2017, at 2:11 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Wisdom, Ray! Unlike @arahant, however, I’d merely suggest employing a comb, slightly…Unless you’re emulating Einstein, that is. :-D Thanks again! (I dove into Pale Criminal last night…Chandler, Hillerman, and Francis Thompson seem to have stopped in just to say hello to me…What fun I’m going to have!)

    • #9
    • November 28, 2017, at 2:41 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Profile Photo Member

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Wisdom, Ray! Unlike @arahant, however, I’d merely suggest employing a comb, slightly…Unless you’re emulating Einstein, that is. :-D Thanks again! (I dove into Pale Criminal last night…Chandler, Hillerman, and Francis Thompson seem to have stopped in just to say hello to me…What fun I’m going to have!)

    I disagree. Men who don’t care what their hair looks like are charming; my Dad is 93, and still has a beautiful, thick head of hair. Too often, it takes too long for me to bring him in for a haircut, and he never ever applies a comb; at these times, he really does look kind of like Einstein, and it’s awesome. I hate it when he gets his haircut.

    Don’t listen to these people, Ray: you have far more important things to worry about than your hair :)

    • #10
    • November 28, 2017, at 2:47 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  11. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Wisdom, Ray! Unlike @arahant, however, I’d merely suggest employing a comb, slightly…Unless you’re emulating Einstein, that is. :-D Thanks again! (I dove into Pale Criminal last night…Chandler, Hillerman, and Francis Thompson seem to have stopped in just to say hello to me…What fun I’m going to have!)

    I disagree. Men who don’t care what their hair looks like are charming; my Dad is 93, and still has a beautiful, thick head of hair. Too often, it takes too long for me to bring him in for a haircut, and he never ever applies a comb; at these times, he really does look kind of like Einstein, and it’s awesome. I hate it when he gets his haircut.

    Don’t listen to these people, Ray: you have far more important things to worry about than your hair :)

    Except that, when mussing it themselves, they deprive another of the opportunity… :-)

    • #11
    • November 28, 2017, at 2:51 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Mike Rapkoch Member

    Thought is both the source and also the end result: it is the goal. It is the driving force.

    It is an end in itself.

    Well, no. Thought is not an end in itself. The formal object of the mind is the truth. The Latin intellectus means “to read through,” which is to seek reality in its depths. We don’t just sit around thinking. We think about something. But it is that “something” that determines whether my conclusions conform to the truth. I can think my way to the conclusion that the rock I’m staring at is a kumquat, but at the first bite reality bites back and sends me to the dentist.

    Thinking is not a private enterprise. Everything we know we learn from someone else. When my granddaughter was two she handed me a rock and asked what it was. She kept bringing me new rocks and asked whether they too were rocks. Then she brought me a pine cone and asked if it was a rock. I explained to her that a rock was hard and rested on the ground, while pine cones were soft and fall from trees–unlike rocks, pine cones comes from living trees . Over time she began to differentiate between rocks, pine cones, flowers, etc. But only because older people taught her differences. This is one example of how children learn to reason, but they cannot do it alone.

    Let’s say I want to learn about poverty in the Sudan. I can read about it, watch television shows dealing with the subject, or talk to people in the know. I can travel to Sudan and see the suffering first hand, but even that requires others. I see the poverty by seeing them live in dreadful conditions–they are my teachers even if they say not a word to me.

    Introspection might seem to be an exception to the rule, but only if we sink into solipsism. To really know myself I must first consult those around me. I learn from others to distinguish the true from the false, the good from the bad, the ugly from the beautiful and to thereby determine whether I am heading down the right path. It won’t do me much good to examine myself unless I truly seek the truth about myself from outside myself. To paraphrase an old saying, a man is a lousy judge of himself.

    For example, Catholics are required to confess their sins. That cannot be done properly unless we examine out consciences. But if we only rely on our inner thoughts we will surely miss something. So we examine out behavior by referring to the Ten Commandments, Church teaching, the Beatitudes, etc. Sources outside the limited confines of the inner self.

    The truth sets us free because it fixes us in realty. A man is in a limited sense free to leap from a building, but he is a slave to the error of his belief that he can survives the fall. Only by looking outside ourselves can we know truth, find beauty, and gain wisdom. The self by itself is a slave.

    • #12
    • November 28, 2017, at 3:22 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  13. Sisyphus Member

    And then there are guys who work hard to have their hair disarrayed in just the way they want. And the hair stylists that aid and abet them.

    • #13
    • November 28, 2017, at 3:28 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. PHCheese Member

    As for hair Ray,enjoy it while you can. If you are intelligent and witty your brain grows up through your hair like mine.

    • #14
    • November 28, 2017, at 4:22 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Arahant Member

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    As for hair Ray,enjoy it while you can. If you are intelligent and witty your brain grows up through your hair like mine.

    I’m pretty sure that is more to do with genetic heritage on your mother’s side.

    • #15
    • November 28, 2017, at 4:24 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Ray Inactive
    Ray Post author

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):
    Men who don’t care what their hair looks like are charming;

    Clearly a woman of great discernment! ;-)

    Thank you. And thank you for dropping by.

    • #16
    • November 28, 2017, at 4:31 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Ray Inactive
    Ray Post author

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    If you are intelligent and witty

    I have nothing to worry about, then — concerning hair, at any rate.

    Thank you for dropping by.

    • #17
    • November 28, 2017, at 4:32 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Ray Inactive
    Ray Post author

    Mike Rapkoch (View Comment):
    Thought is not an end in itself. The formal object of the mind is the truth.

    “Veritas est adaequatio rei et intellectus. Truth is the equation of thing and intellect. Truth is the accurate identification of reality” — to improvise a little on Thomas Aquinas, who, like his most influential teacher, believed that “a judgement is said to be true when it corresponds to external reality.”

    I, too, subscribe to the correspondence theory of truth.

    “We don’t just sit around thinking.”

    Some people do.

    But even for those of us who don’t, thought, I say, is still an end in itself. It’s not the only thing. But thinking is the human quiddity. This doesn’t contradict the obvious fact that humans live in societies and interact with each other. It’s only to say that the choice to think or not is a choice each individual must make, and this act is, in my opinion, an end in itself.

    Thank you for reading and commenting, and thank you for dropping by.

    • #18
    • November 28, 2017, at 4:48 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Ray Inactive
    Ray Post author

    Sisyphus (View Comment):
    And the hair stylists that aid and abet them.

    HaHa!

    They should be punished the maximum extent of the law. Give them the horsewhip!

    • #19
    • November 28, 2017, at 4:50 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. Ray Inactive
    Ray Post author

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):
    Don’t listen to these people, Ray: you have far more important things to worry about than your hair :)

    Thank you, you lovely human!

    I’ll be honest with you: I’ve been quite surprised at the controversy my hair has generated in these videos. Quite surprised indeed.

    • #20
    • November 28, 2017, at 4:52 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. Ray Inactive
    Ray Post author

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Except that, when mussing it themselves, they deprive another of the opportunity… :-)

    Oh, I like that!

    • #21
    • November 28, 2017, at 4:54 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Ray Inactive
    Ray Post author

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    I dove into Pale Criminal last night…Chandler, Hillerman, and Francis Thompson seem to have stopped in just to say hello to me…What fun I’m going to have!

    Thank you very much.

    • #22
    • November 28, 2017, at 4:55 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  23. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Wisdom, Ray! Unlike @arahant, however, I’d merely suggest employing a comb, slightly…Unless you’re emulating Einstein, that is. :-D Thanks again! (I dove into Pale Criminal last night…Chandler, Hillerman, and Francis Thompson seem to have stopped in just to say hello to me…What fun I’m going to have!)

    I disagree. Men who don’t care what their hair looks like are charming; my Dad is 93, and still has a beautiful, thick head of hair. Too often, it takes too long for me to bring him in for a haircut, and he never ever applies a comb; at these times, he really does look kind of like Einstein, and it’s awesome. I hate it when he gets his haircut.

    Don’t listen to these people, Ray: you have far more important things to worry about than your hair :)

    I disagree. I believe that the most sure sign of intelligence in a man is short hair. Trust me on this…

    • #23
    • November 28, 2017, at 5:30 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. PHCheese Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    As for hair Ray,enjoy it while you can. If you are intelligent and witty your brain grows up through your hair like mine.

    I’m pretty sure that is more to do with genetic heritage on your mother’s side.

    Are you saying my mother had hair on her side?

    • #24
    • November 28, 2017, at 5:41 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  25. Profile Photo Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Wisdom, Ray! Unlike @arahant, however, I’d merely suggest employing a comb, slightly…Unless you’re emulating Einstein, that is. :-D Thanks again! (I dove into Pale Criminal last night…Chandler, Hillerman, and Francis Thompson seem to have stopped in just to say hello to me…What fun I’m going to have!)

    I disagree. Men who don’t care what their hair looks like are charming; my Dad is 93, and still has a beautiful, thick head of hair. Too often, it takes too long for me to bring him in for a haircut, and he never ever applies a comb; at these times, he really does look kind of like Einstein, and it’s awesome. I hate it when he gets his haircut.

    Don’t listen to these people, Ray: you have far more important things to worry about than your hair :)

    I disagree. I believe that the most sure sign of intelligence in a man is short hair. Trust me on this…

    You sound biased :) My father has been getting a buzz cut since he was in the military in WWII, but his wife and his daughter, especially his wife, prefer his hair a little longer, so he humors us some of the time :)

    • #25
    • November 28, 2017, at 5:49 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. Ray Inactive
    Ray Post author

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):
    You sound biased

    There actually is a real prejudice against men with long hair.

    It’s not super prevalent, but it unquestionably exists. You can feel it — and sometimes you can hear it and see it, as when a customer refuses to be served by you because your hair is long.

    • #26
    • November 28, 2017, at 5:59 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  27. Jimmy Carter Member

    tl;dr

    • #27
    • November 28, 2017, at 5:59 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Judge Mental Member

    • #28
    • November 28, 2017, at 6:00 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Profile Photo Member

    Ray (View Comment):

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):
    You sound biased

    There actually is a real prejudice against men with long hair.

    It’s not super prevalent, but it unquestionably exists. You can feel it — and sometimes you can hear it and see it, as when a customer refuses to be served by you because your hair is long.

    This is unfortunate, because some men are just more attractive with long hair. I went out with a guy once who had a beautiful long mane of chestnut brown hair; he looked like something out of Braveheart, and was very striking, but I really don’t think he would have been anywhere near as good looking with short hair. And the reverse is often true for women: not all women look good with long hair, and some of us can’t even really grow it. My hair is very thin and fine. I wear it medium length, and even that might be a stretch. If I tried to wear it long, it would just look stupid.

    Both men and women should wear their hair the way they want to :)

    • #29
    • November 28, 2017, at 6:07 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. Ray Inactive
    Ray Post author

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):
    Both men and women should wear their hair the way they want to :)

    Yes!

    • #30
    • November 28, 2017, at 6:14 PM PDT
    • 1 like
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