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Many of my acquaintances have regarded me as highly intelligent. I’ve even been (incorrectly) called a “genius” on several occasions.

In truth, my brain power is only moderately above average. But I’ve always been intellectually curious and I enjoy using my brain. So to compensate for my limited capacity, I came up with a trick that I’ve used since my teenage years:

Recognize people who have superior intelligence to myself and immediately assimilate their mental models into my thinking.

IQ is often compared to processing speed on a computer. People with high IQ can solve complex problems in a matter of years that might take a normal person (in theory) several lifetimes to figure out. Or they can solve a problem in a matter of minutes that would take a normal person years to figure out.

But there’s a shortcut to this process…

If one lacks a super-fast computer (high IQ), he can still process problems quickly by running simpler and more efficient programs. You don’t have to be exceptionally smart, you just have to use the mental shortcuts that get you the same results as an exceptionally smart person.

Here are 16 “programs” I’ve found that have allowed me to elevate my thinking above my default limits:

1. Don’t think about whether an idea is right or wrong. Think about whether an idea is fragile or antifragile.

2. Don’t focus on what someone said. Focus on what they meant.

3. Don’t focus on someone’s conclusion. Focus on the question behind the conclusion.

4. Don’t rationalize against opinions you disagree with. Ask what you’d have to believe for that opinion to make sense.

5. Study the thinkers and professions most vilified by your community. Explore the problems they were trying to solve. This will give you unique insights.

6. Recognize that the vast majority of activity yields no productive (or even harmful) results and act accordingly (80/20 principle).

7. Learn to identify the types of people likely to be giving you bullsh*t: gamma males, SJWs, jesters, (unsubmissive) women, people with no skin in the game. This saves you the tiresome effort of having to fact-check and scrutinize every argument. (Corollary: learn to recognize stuff that sounds like bullsh*t but actually works: mythical, “new-agey”, pseudo-scientific or irrational explanations for stuff that works in the real world.)

8. Do not impose structure where it is unnecessary. You will end up butchering the thing (or person) you are attempting to control.

9. Recognize that you are part of a larger interconnected system. Your personal problems and flaws are not at the forefront of others’ minds.

10. Do not base your identity on anything that ends in “ism” or “ist.” You could be wrong.

11. Admit and learn from your mistakes.

12. Do not try to justify yourself to someone who has no right to judge you.

13. Realize that science and truth are not synonyms. Science is a limited (and often corrupted) tool of discovery.

14. Being aware of the books you haven’t read is more valuable than discussing the books you have read.

15. Making your work/study enjoyable is a better goal than being better than someone else or getting a specific result.

16. Ask “why” before asking “how” or “what.”

Note: most of these “tricks” are my paraphrases of ideas I learned from N.N. Taleb, Vox Day, and Perry Marshall.