Are You Really Smart or Just Really Experienced?




10 minute read.


Has anyone ever said to you “You’re really smart.” Feels pretty good, huh? But what does “smart” actually mean?


The definition of the vernacular “smart” is “intelligence; acumen.”


Although smart is most often used to describe someone who is intelligent, you can also use it to describe the cause or being the cause of a sharp stinging pain.


You want to know what can cause stinging pain? Presentations and public speaking. For people who have incredible difficulty with this, the sharp pain starts in your gut and can extend all the way out to your extremities.


You could also call someone a smart chic dresser, a smart alec, or a smart ass (which I’ve been called many times, and I always respond with “It’s better than being a dumb ass!”).


“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein


I can remember each one of my kids when they were learning how to read. Just about every night, we’d lie in bed or sit in the rocking chair and I’d read a picture book, or let them read to me depending on how far along they were. It was a beautiful transition to watch. A rite of passage.


When they were toddlers and even younger, it was just about getting them familiar with books.


My wife and I wanted them to know the look and feel of books in all shapes and sizes, as well as the texture of the cover and pages. We wanted them to be familiar with the words, pictures, shapes, and colors of objects on the pages.


Sometimes all they wanted to do was stick it in their mouth or grab it and crush the pages. So, we’d get soft books and thick hard page books. And soon enough, they turned into storybooks and eventually chapter books.


“Don’t worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” – Sherman Finesilver


But what it really boils down to is spending time on an activity where you can share learning experiences together with your children and connect on a deep intellectual level.


Whether you realize it or not, your child is learning language skills and the structure of stories just by hearing your voice read books on a consistent basis while you are showing them the pages, even when they are very young.



So if your child is not in school yet, and are not reading to her every night, start now. Doing this fosters their love for learning now, and sets the base for a lifelong love of learning.


It’s never too early to begin.


When my kids were actually old enough to read, sooner or later they would run into a word that was new and needed help.


For example, I could tell by the look on my daughter’s face when she learned the word “dog” how difficult it was to first understand the concept, but then I noticed how amazed she was at herself when she finally “got it.”


She’d say to me “Daddy, did you feel that? My brain grew a little bit just now.” What a fantastic thing to hear your child say! She was experiencing the growth mindset.


“Try a thing you haven’t done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time, to figure out whether you like it or not.” – Virgil Garnett Thomson


One of the most important things anyone can learn in life is not taught in any school, college, or academic institution.


Whatever you want to learn depends on your perception of learning.


As evidenced by research, you have trillions of neural connections, and they continue to grow in large number your whole life. But the only way to keep growing those neurons is to continuously challenge yourself and explore the learning mindset.


My daughter is now in college and embracing the growth mindset more than ever, as I watch her exceed my wildest dreams, not only with high grades but she has a zeal and enthusiasm for learning advanced science, math, culture, humanities, sports, and many other subjects that will be extremely useful in her life.


In addition to academics, she amazes me every day with her mental fortitude in running sports as well as her mastery of piano.


Our intelligence is not fixed.


Until all of us realize that intelligence is not a fixed predetermined genetic box, our children are doomed to endure unfair judgement and shame over perceived success or failure on standardized test scores.


“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill


The brain is like a muscle, and with proper exercise, we can learn to be successful by realizing that mistakes are a necessary part of learning, and there is never any shame in that.


Too often we encounter people with rigid and fixed mindsets.


We all know people who focus only on sticking with something they already know, and never breaking through current comfort levels. They never understand that tenacity and effort can change their learning outcomes, and expand their entire outlook.


You may know people like this in schools, colleges, at your employment, and in social circles. Their behavior toward learning is unmistakable.


Our brains are malleable and can be shaped to embrace struggle and mistakes without fear and anxiety. It is a learned behavior.


“He who wrestles with us, strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skills. Our antagonist is our helper.” – Edmund Burke


Praising someone who you may think has an innate trait, talent, or skill is the worst thing you can do, because it reinforces the idea that only success matters, and not effort in overcoming the challenge of learning something new.


Praising someone’s progress, tenacity, and determination is much more productive.


Ever since the Internet has become accessible to ever increasing populations all over the world, websites like Udemy, Coursera, Khan Academy, Moodle, W3Schools, and legions of independent teachers have been an absolute blessing for students of all ages. More people have access to individualized course learning than ever before in history.


“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford


How you manage your team at work, teach classroom instruction to elementary school children, run labs for college students, play team sports, or communicate to your children at home, we all need to embrace the struggle of learning, and realize there is no limit to our learning ability. The potential is limitless.


Embrace the growth mindset.


More great content on research, interviews, writing, design, presentations, and public speaking is coming your way.


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