I Learn Therefore I Am

“A genius! For thirty-seven years I’ve practiced fourteen hours a day, and now they call me a genius!” ~ Pablo Sarasate, Spanish composer and violinist

Picked up a book on the weekend called “Study Smarter, Not Harder” by Kevin Paul.  Now, I was not really looking for a book of this genre—but it sort of made itself known to me while I was looking through a stack of books in the reference section of the bookstore I was “visiting”. (I don’t just go to bookstores or the library, I visit them—I feel at home among books).  

My youngest son is entering second year at college, and he has asked me the same question on numerous occasions: “how do I study?” Now, of course you are thinking, the kid got to second year in college—he must know how to study. And he does, but he does not feel his methods are totally effective. He thinks that there must be a better way—a way where he learns, not painlessly (though true learning should not be painful), but in a better and more effectual way. (Yes, I have told him to turn off his music when he studies). This book kind of “popped out” at me (ever notice things have a habit of doing that—sometimes life just hands you what you need, even if you did not know you needed it) so I sat down and looked through it to see if it was worth buying.

As I was flipping through it, I came to a section called, “You Can Learn Anything”. Well, I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure there are a few doors shut (and locked) to me, such as quantum physics and brain surgery—but I was willing to give this chapter a chance. After all, if it didn’t convince me, would it convince my son? The author made a rather outrageous statement. Unequivocally he stated: “You are a genius”. According to Paul, “Acquiring a language and walking are two of the most complex activities in which humans engage.” (This is good news—I can talk and walk–sometimes at the same time!) He goes on to say that “it is not yet possible to get enough computing power to synthesize these basic human achievements. It takes a very sophisticated learning capability to achieve language and walking”. Research also shows that “even driving a car takes more brain power than piloting the lunar excursion modual that landed on the moon.”

Spanish composer and violinist of note, Pablo Sarasate made an astute observation in his statement that his genius took “practice”, which illustrates that untapped, genius is undiscovered. Paul believes that we need tap into our genius, and he provides some pretty good information about our three brains: the reptilian or most primitive part of our brain and home to our famous “fight or flight” response to danger—which is our safety and survival instinct, to the limbic brain, which is where our emotions live. Then there is the cortical brain—or our “thinking” brain, where we reason, set goals, make plans, develop language and “conceive abstractly”.
Paul is convinced that we all have “the same brain capacity and potential as Einstein or da Vinci” and geniuses can be “made.” I don’t know about you, but I find this all very comforting. And although I picked this book up for my son, I am going to give it a thorough read through (as opposed to my original thought of just perusing it superficially and handing it over with the simple instruction: Read It).
The author says that if spending countless hours in front of the television can lower your IQ, then it just follows that by heeding his advice, your IQ can be “coached into the positive.” He answers the question of “why should I bother” by saying that “being a successful learner is no longer a matter of choice or mere preference. It is a necessity in order to survive and thrive in the ‘information age’.” And he says “it is never too late to increase your intelligence”. That is good news for those of us no longer in school, but still involved in the process of never ending learning.

“Common sense is genius dressed up in working clothes.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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