In the early 1900’s, a Chicago newspaper editorial labeled Henry Ford an “ignorant pacifist.” Ford was offended and sued the newspaper for libel. During the trial, Ford was asked a series of questions meant to prove that he was ignorant. Finally, Ford told the lawyer who was questioning him that he surrounded himself with intelligent men who could answer any questions that needed to be answered. Although both sides spent $500,000 in attorneys’ fees, the jury returned a verdict in Ford’s favor of six cents. By proving that he knew where to find answers, Ford proved that he was not ignorant. Fast forward to a new century and it has never been easier for us to be informed and well rounded. Consider these ways to get smarter faster:
1. Enroll in Mobile University. Use your commute to improve your skills. While you’re driving or using public transportation to get to work, you can listen to books, TED Talks, and podcasts on dozens of different subjects. You can learn a second language, memorize Bible verses, or learn marketing strategies during the hours a week that you spend getting to and from work.
2. Take classes online. Visit www.oyc.yale.edu. From this site, you can take classes in economics, African American Studies, English literature and several others for free. These are classes that were taught by Yale University professors. Harvard University and MIT created www.edx.org. On this site, you can choose from over 1400 free courses taught by professors from Harvard, MIT, and several universities across the globe.
3. Get a mentor. A mentor will help you address your weaknesses and blind spots. A mentor or coach can also help you improve your strengths. You can have one mentor or several. A mentor doesn’t have to be someone who has conquered every challenge that you have. For instance, if you are 45 years old and you just became a foster parent or stepmom, your 30 year old girlfriend who had children in her early 20’s can mentor you in parenting. What if there is no one available to mentor you one on one? No worries. Going back to the parenting example, you could check out blogs, podcasts and books on parenting. Once you find someone whose advice is helpful, and whose style you like, follow that person. Read her books. Subscribe to her emails. Become a student of everything she has to offer. Once you have immersed yourself in the information that she offers, she has become your mentor.
4. Associate with people who know more than you do. Want to get ahead at work? Ask Mr. Superstar if you can take him to lunch or to dinner. Ask him how he exceeds production goals. Planning to become an entrepreneur? Join virtual and real life groups for entrepreneurs. Go to their events. Ask questions. Offer to assist with their projects.
5. Get uncomfortable. Eleanor Roosevelt said that every day you should do something that scares you. There isn’t much growth in your comfort zone. Thinking about going back to school, but you’re a little nervous? Register for a class at your local community college and force yourself to attend. Are you a hopeless introvert? Join Toastmasters and make your first speech. You know what you fear and how it limits your progress. As long as you stay comfortable, the fear wins.
You can get smarter faster than you ever thought possible. Where will you grow today?