Hi there,

What’s the Story?

As we get closer to summer, the weather is starting to dress itself up a bit better. Meanwhile, I have a busy schedule of training over the next few weeks and some epic podcasts coming to a YouTube channel near you!

Next week, we have the first episode (of two) on the work of Jordan B. Peterson, a psychologist who has stirred plenty of controversy. This week we just released a very cool episode all about the topic of this week’s article below… how to get smarter. Check it out at video.owenfitzpatrick.com.



The Smartest You in the Room

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes 4 seconds


What might be possible if you were even smarter than you already are? What might be possible if you could solve problems better? If you had a better memory? If you were quicker at thinking and figuring things out?

In this week’s Inner Propaganda, I want to explore the world of intelligence. I want to look at the various ways we think about intelligence and being ‘smart’ and identify specific strategies to become smarter. We’re going to unpack all of these areas, drawing from some of the greatest minds in history and the latest scientific research.

One of the most important bits of advice I’ve ever gotten is to do my best to avail of every opportunity NOT to be the smartest person in the room. It’s critically important for our growth to be around people who challenge, test, and help you revise your perspectives. What’s helpful is not for you to be smarter than everyone else but to be the most intelligent version of yourself that you could possibly be.

Defining Intelligence

What do we mean when we say ‘intelligence’? It’s not just about acing a test or demonstrating academic prowess. Intelligence involves a range of cognitive abilities. It includes learning from experiences, adapting to new situations, conceptualizing complex concepts, and using knowledge to navigate the world effectively. It involves your memory, creative thinking, and decision-making skills.

Historical Insights on Intelligence

Intelligence has been talked about since the days of Plato. Back then, intelligence was seen as connected to the rational soul, with a strong emphasis on the ability to grasp forms and ideas.

Moving through the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, thinkers began to explore the relationship between intelligence and morality, suggesting that to be truly intelligent also involves ethical decision-making. So being smart is not just about being logical. It seems there was also a ‘judgment’ aspect to it. We use both our emotions and logic to think through things.

The Brain Efficiency Hypothesis

There is a theory in the area of intelligence called the ‘brain efficiency hypothesis’. In a nutshell, this suggests that smarter individuals have brains that work faster and more efficiently, using less energy to process information and solve problems. So it’s not about having a bigger brain, but it’s about your ability to use your brain in more efficient ways.

This also explains why the old idea of men being smarter than women just doesn’t hold up. One of the explanations that used to be thrown around was that because men’s brains were bigger that suggested they were smarter. Today, women tend to be ahead in most measures of academic performance across the world. We could now make the reverse argument and suggest that the smaller your physical brain is, the smarter you are. Of course, both of these suggestions are nonsense. While there are some gender differences, the idea that one sex is smarter than the other is redundant and inaccurate.

Boosting Cognitive Function through Neuroplasticity

Instead of seeking to figure out WHO is smart, it is much better to examine HOW people get smarter.

Building a more efficient brain is about building better connections. Your brain contains more than 86 billion neurons. These neurons have trillions of connections to each other. Every time we learn something, that is the product of connections being reinforced which makes the pathway between them faster to access.

The brain’s ability to change and make new connections is known as neuroplasticity— your brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.

Your brain can change and adapt, becoming more efficient as you learn and experience new things.

You can enhance neuroplasticity in many ways from learning a new language to engaging in complex problem-solving tasks. These activities not only improve specific skills but also enhance your brain’s overall efficiency.

The Growth Mindset and Pygmalion Effect

What’s important to understand first and foremost about building more connections is that the belief that you can is a crucial first step to doing it. This is known as the ‘Growth Mindset’. Research by Carol Dweck and colleagues has shown that if you believe you can become smarter then you can. If you believe that you are stuck at the level of intelligence that you are at then you’re likely to stay there.

Not only do your beliefs about your intelligence impact you but the way people treat you can also influence your ability to become smarter.

In a brilliant study in 1968, what became known as the ‘Pygmalion Effect’ found something startling. Teachers were told a group of students in the class were intellectual bloomers. A year later, those same students improved their IQ significantly. This was seen to be very much influenced by how much the teachers treated them.

Believe that you can become smarter and you can.


Mental Training Techniques to Sharpen Your Mind

Once you believe you can, what can you do to boost your intelligence?

First, you need to recognize that there are different types of intelligence. Learning about the various ways in which you can become smarter offers you the chance to work on each area.

Fundamentally, there are several very cool techniques and practices that can help you boost your brain power and improve your intelligence.

1. Problem-Solving Practice: This involves challenging your brain regularly with problems that require your mental effort. This includes engaging in puzzles and problems that test you and force you to work hard.

2. Memory Exercises: The more you practice memorization the better you will get at it. There are so many techniques that can help you with this. This is about using strategies such as mnemonics and a memory palace to improve your recall.

3. Spaced Repetition: This is a learning technique that involves increasing intervals of time between subsequent reviews of the material learned. Study the material and review it after a day, a week, a month, three months, six months, and a year. This will improve the likelihood that it will become part of your long-term memory.

4. Interleaving Practice: Interleaving is about mixing different topics or forms of study in one session to improve learning. This works because it keeps motivation high and provides our brains with multiple opportunities to go back to the same topic in the same session. You are training your ability to remember as opposed to just focus.

5. Self-testing: Testing yourself frequently is a powerful way to reinforce your learning and gauge your understanding. When you test yourself, you are enhancing your recall as opposed to just your ability to remember.

6. Asking Questions: You can enhance your understanding by curiously exploring the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of various concepts. Always try and ask WHY DOES THIS MATTER? And HOW DOES THIS WORK? and WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? For everything you learn. This makes it much easier to input.

Then there are the Fundamentals

Of course, while these techniques are all powerful, to become smarter you need to work on your brain fitness. The best way to do this is by getting the fundamentals right.

This means getting enough sleep, regular physical exercise, having a healthy diet, and practices like meditation, continuous learning activities, and social interactions. The better you treat your body, the better you treat your brain. The better you treat your brain, the better it will work for you.

Applying Intelligence Enhancements in Everyday Life

The key to becoming smarter is knowing you can, how to do it, and taking care of the fundamentals. But the other thing to remember is the importance of being consistent.

Whatever you do regularly pays off in the long run. Just like information that you’ve crammed usually doesn’t have a great retention rate, practicing techniques as we’ve mentioned above can only get you so far unless you do them regularly. Find a way to incorporate these practices into your daily life. Set aside time every day to work on your brain.

Getting Smart from Playing Dumb

When I say playing dumb I mean having more questions rather than trying to be the one with all the answers. In the earliest part of my career, one of the things I was known for was asking more questions than anyone else. I would test my knowledge and check with people their perspectives and always try to learn and understand from every conversation.

When you are not trying to be smart in front of everyone, it gives you the freedom to learn and acquire so much more knowledge. You also handle setbacks and negative feedback so much better. Instead of getting wrapped up in feeling bad about it, you are using it as data to help you succeed.

This links to the final key. To be the smartest ‘you’ in the room, it’s important to constantly challenge your assumptions. Critical thinking is one of the fastest routes to being smart. The more wrong you can accept you are, the more right you will eventually become.



The Brain Prompt

What is the area of focus that you’d like to invest time in getting better?

When can you do that over the next six weeks?

How will you know you are where you want to be at the end of the six weeks?

Put it in your schedule.


If you know someone who would find this newsletter interesting, please pass it on. They can sign up at owenfitzpatrick.com/newsletter.



P.S. To watch this week’s Changing Minds podcast episode on how to be smarter than everyone else, check it out here.





You may also like

Inner Propaganda Podcast - Owen Fitzpatrick

Your information is protected, and I never spam, ever. You can view my privacy policy here.


Almost every single personal development approach I’ve studied over 30 years comes down to this solitary principle which I call the 4 and 2 principle. In this FREE PDF, I break down exactly what it is and how you can use it to transform your life.

Success! Check your email for details


You have the expertise but how do you put it together in such a way you can turn it into a business? For years now, I’ve been asked many times to reveal what I would do today if I was building my expert business from scratch. In this video training, I break it down step-by-step, in order, and walk you through exactly what I would do today if I was to start from the beginning.

Success! Check your email for details


This life changing video training explains the 8 steps that you need to take if you want to conquer adversity, handle change, manage your emotions and be at your best. I will explain some of the most important lessons I have learned from working with many thousands of people in more than 30 countries.

Success! Check your email for details