How do You Get Smarter?

A shortlist of life lessons to get you ahead

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Source: Saketh Garudo on Unsplash.

Life will mess you up. It messes up each us with its own unique agenda.

If you are lucky enough, you’ll find important lessons within those obstacles.

Here are a few things I’ve done to get to where I am; things that I’m still doing today and things that I learned along the way that made me better.

Go into things without anticipation or expectation.

This teaches you to learn and grow without expecting something at the end. If you end up making something out of your venture, that’s extra. If you don’t, you didn’t anticipate anything. I had a teacher in high school who taught me that you should always anticipate the worst possible outcome. That way, anything that comes out of the project that’s more than the worst ends up being a bonus.

Your closest friends should be smarter than you.

This can be a restatement of being the smartest person in the room. If you find yourself being the smartest in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

You are the average of your closest friends. If they are smarter, you are the weight pushing them down, however, they are simultaneously pulling you up. You are constantly learning, and this is a journey you need to actively develop with time.

Read the words in your mind.

I used to read novels and textbooks in high school and get frustrated as to why the lessons wouldn’t stay in my head. Somewhere in the 9th grade, I learned that if I speak the words in my mind, it stays in my head. This isn’t actually speaking, and I’m not doing any real talking. Sometimes I will move my mouth as if I’m talking, though. You’ll be reading a lot slower this way, but I’ve noticed that if you speak with your mind, your mind will retain the information and your future will thank you for it. You may even force your mind into developing a good cadence for continual reading without fatigue. It’s all about finding the appropriate rhythm.

Fail.

I’ve messed up so many times I have lost count. I used to analyze the stock market between the ages of 14 and 18 before I could legally trade. Four years of learning taught me very little in comparison to actually placing money on the line and understanding risk in action. Especially when I had skin in the game.

With failing, you’ll learn overcompensation and undercompensation. You’ll learn when you could do more with less and when you’re doing less with more. Level-mindedness and widening of perspective go a long way toward educating yourself into success.

Even as a successful trader and fund manager today, I find myself constantly evolving the mathematics of my undergraduate years and using new tools. Perfecting is a series of smaller failures we still learn from. It never ends.

Say yes, stay lean with commitment.

You’re young. Jumping into things should be one and the same with your identity. Don’t be afraid of opportunities — especially if they don’t feel like opportunities. Say yes, and then, when you figure out if it’s something you want to pursue or feel differently about, fix your stance. Or, figure out a way to turn that situation into something you do want to do. Create an opportunity for yourself.

There is never a shortage of surprises you might encounter in your life. What you think you despise might end up diametrically opposite to your original line of thought. Life is full of these, you should always try. There is a learning experience in anything and anyone. Everybody knows at least one thing you don’t.

Don’t challenge your own thinking, challenge what others think.

I’ll give you an example. Analysts on the stock market regularly give out buy ratings on companies that I’ve regularly thought are garbage. I will do due diligence on my own, reading annual reports that amount to hundreds of pages.

AMD used to have many sell ratings by notable banks in 2013–2015. It traded at a dollar or two a share. I had a big position in them, as I used to put together customized computers to sell for extra cash in college. I understood the products that AMD made very well, and understood that analysts have very little actual experience in the industries they have opinions in. Today, AMD trades at nearly $60 a share, almost 30-fold higher than they were 5 years ago. AMD is the same company it has always been, and it makes quality products today the same way it made quality products almost a decade ago. Opinions are a fleeting thing, stay ahead and outside of them unless they’re well vetted. Look for track records, not empty ratings backed by a hollow opinion.

Run.

I was a distance runner for about 12 years, 5 years in high school, followed by 2 years in community college followed by a year at Berkeley. I notice that my thinking is far clearer and my nerves are at ease after a long run. Things that seemed problematic have solutions and webs of stress are cleared as if all I needed to do was blink and breathe. There is a therapy in things that are simple; it can be anything from running to washing dishes.

Learn to get involved in things you might never find yourself doing. Running wasn’t something that I found; I like to think that it found me. Let the things you don’t want to do have a chance.

Listen to the hate and learn to love it.

There is always a bigger agenda behind someone’s hatred. People, in their deepest element, are loving things. Learn the hate and the pain, and figure out how to move from a dangerous place to a place that’s safe. Learn understanding and the pain associated with other people. Everyone’s story is wildly different or similar depending on how you want to think about it. Adaptation is learned in practice.

If everybody is doing it, start taking a step back.

Industries aren’t created instantly. Today, digital advertising and social media has taken over every inch of the internet’s landscape. When something consumes everything, it begins to saturate. That usually means the next thing is underway, and, even though we might not know what it is exactly, we can keep our eyes peeled for it.

Right now, I strongly believe we live in the prohibition era for cannabis. Everybody I know hates the industry and investors are taking a step back from it because of losses. However, given how large alcohol producers and tobacco companies are right now, I stand with the opinion that the cannabis industry will be worth anywhere between 100 billion to a trillion dollars in 5 years. Most people think I’m insane, but most people thought I was insane when I purchased $50,000 of AMD stock in 2013–2015 for a dollar or two a share. Everything is impossible until it isn’t.

Love is free.

This one sounds stupid, but it might be the most important thing on this list. The family that loves you unconditionally is the most powerful motivator you have in your life. I remember nights I studied thinking solely about the life I could give to my little sister and my mom. Little did I know that this love was also reflected in them, and they, too, started to work harder in life as a result.

My sister also attended UC Berkeley with me, and my mom ended up with a better position at her retail job. Love is free and it’s unconditional. It made us all better and stronger over time. Don’t toss away the greatest thing you have. Time doesn’t allow you to go in reverse. Realize this as soon as possible.

Love is contagious. Always choose it.

Written by

UC Berkeley, mathematics. Los Angeles. Long-time runner. Top writer on Quora, 100M+ total content views. New to Medium. Inquiries: Moumj@berkeley.edu

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