My Octopress Blog

A blogging framework for hackers.

I Think I'm Getting Dumber - Thoughts About Focus

I think I’m getting dumber. Let me explain.

When I was younger I was pretty bloody smart. When I was 2, I was taking apart appliances with tools from the garage. When I was 11 I was challenging the math teacher to brainteasers. When I was 16 I was teaching computer science 12. (Well, ok, I wasn’t *teaching* it… but the teacher would literally send anyone with a hard question my way… and he would usually ask me about his own work as well) When I was 18, I was winning debates with psychology majors. The point of all this gloating is this; I think that the fact that I was smarter when I was younger had a lot to do with my mental focus.

When I was a kid, I didn’t really have any friends. Because of that, I didn’t spend a lot of time going to sleepovers, dating girls, playing sports and the rest of the things that the “cool” kids were doing. Instead, I would read and think a lot. The majority of my mental focus was directed at gaining intelligence, and I had very few other things to distract my mind from that focus. However, these days I haven’t felt the same amount of intelligent thought going through my head.

I think that perhaps now that I’m dating a lot, worrying about my car, getting in shape, going to clubs and all these other things that are non intellectual I have lost the mental focus that was previously present on a day to day basis.

Now, I don’t mean that I’m loosing the ability to think. I feel that there are so many little things to think about that I’m not putting any effort into being smart, at least not “smart” as in large-scale thinking.

Wait a minute. That means I’m not getting dumber, I’m just not thinking smart due to so many small issues for my mind to focus on. Well, that’s a relief. :P

I wonder if that is the same for everyone. Your “typical blond” is always deemed as dumb, right? Well, what’s to say that she’s not extremely smart, and is just spreading her mental focus too thin with all her “issues” like what hair spray to use and what she’s going to wear.

Another example is a friend of mine. We’ll call him Bob. Bob is extremely smart. He has done very well for himself and has helped others do the same. He has an incredible business sense and is a born leader. I lent bob my old car one day because his was being used at the moment, and I told him that in order to use it he needed to change the tire. He had no idea how to change a tire. He didn’t even know how to get a tire filled with air. I had to walk him through the process.

Now, to me, that’s pretty stupid. It seems like something that most people know, and if they don’t, it seems relatively simple to figure out. But to bob, it just wasn’t something that he’d ever needed to think about.

Does this mean that it’s not a matter of intelligence, but of priorities? If it does, then that means that almost everyone is capable of intelligent thought if they are just able to control their mental priorities. A blond could have an intelligent debate if she just stopped thinking about that Gucci dress that she’s dying to buy, and Bob could fix a tire if he just took a break from thinking about his latest venture.

To put this into perspective, have you ever been at work or at school and had a ton of tasks thrown your way? Twenty different people ask you to do twenty different things. Unless you have your priorities properly organized, you become scattered and you don’t get much done. You keep getting distracted by all the other tasks assigned to you. However, if you have properly prioritized them, then you are able to manage them one by one with very little distraction. Thought processes seem to work the same way. :)

If what I have come up with is correct, then the issue must not be forming intelligent thoughts, but instead, training your mind to prioritize itself properly. Sounds pretty simple, eh? It’s not. North Americans in general have not been brought up with the knowledge that we control our own minds. I mean, of course we know that they are ours, but not a lot of people actually realize that they are in control. We always just assume that the brain controls us and doesn’t really accept input very well, when in fact; the brain’s primary function is dealing with input.

The hard part is figuring out how to properly input new thinking techniques into our own brain. But if you do manage to figure it out, then you will then be able to be in full control of your own body and mind. Of course, priorities change for everyone.

When I was younger, I really wanted to be smarter than everyone else. I wanted to be able to think people in circles, and stump people who thought that they were smart. Now that I’m older, I’m focusing on my career and my social life. Although my priorities are no longer focused on being smart, that doesn’t mean that my priorities are out of whack. For the typical blond, maybe buying a Gucci dress just might be the most important thing she has to think about. For bob, running a company is a great thing and all the power to him. In order for you to be as productive as you can possibly be, your personal goals must be in sync with your mental focus. Once you have achieved this, you really can do anything you put your mind to.

Think about it. ;)