Do you think there’s a way to increase intelligence/cognition?

Samuel Gearhart ‏@samuelgearhart: Do you think there’s a way to increase intelligence/cognition?


I had lost not only my job but all prospects for getting a job. I had a new kid and I’ll be honest: my monthly burn was about $40,000. I had been like a drunken rock star and then I went broke. I had to learn daytrading with a gun to my head in 2002 or I was going to go broke. I once wanted to borrow $1000 just to make sure I could feed my kids in an emergency (this was shortly after 9/11 so every day felt like it could be an emergency). This was just two years after I had $15 million cash in the bank.

The family member I wanted to borrow from said, “no”, after I had given her over $300,000 the year before. So I was angry. I hung up. I was in couples counseling, personal therapy, reading self-help books, whatever. None of that worked. I needed to develop my own method.

I needed to get my life together. I needed to get smarter.

Every morning I started waking up around 4:30. I stopped drinking all alcohol. I would take a big walk around all of southern Manhattan. I would sit on the empty deck at South Street Seaport overlooking Brooklyn. Then I would go to a cafe when they started to open around 6 or 630. I’d bring 3 books with me. One fiction, one book about games (scrabble, chess, Go, or backgammon), and one non-fiction book to learn more about some area. I’d read for awhile while I drank coffee.

Then I’d pull out my waiter’s pad and start writing. I had no ideas at first. Or just bad ideas. I remember some of my initial ideas. They were so bad. I can’t believe now I was in my 30s and coming up with such bad ideas. 34 years old.

My idea muscle had atrophied. It had been in an accident and had been laid up in bed for years. Maybe decades. Who knows? So I needed to build up and it hurt. I would write down “10 ideas for books I could write”. or “10 ideas for trading systems” or “10 ideas for businesses I could start.” The ideas were horrible. And it would hurt my head to come up with 10. Sometimes 3 was hard. Because an idea is not just the “idea”. An idea is not real unless it has a next step, a timeline, a specification.

After a year I started coming up with decent ideas. Maybe it was six months. And after 2-3 years I started coming up with ideas that were good enough to start businesses around. And I did. And I got smarter. And it saved my life.

But now, after 10 more years of writing down ideas every day I look back on those ideas and see how I could’ve trivially made them better, made more money out of them, had less stress from them, been happier from them. I see how I could’ve made my life better if I had just tweaked the ideas a little more. I see what happiness I gave up back then that I desperately regret and I’ll never get back.

Would I wish to be anywhere else than where I am right now? Do I have regrets? Of course not.

Because now I’m more intelligent.