Quit Trying To Make Yourself “Smarter” And Do These Three Things Instead

This post first appeared in Fastcompany

There’s no shortage of brain teasers, training tools, and even pills you can take that claim to improve cognitive functioning and allegedly make you “smarter.” There is a certain logic to this. For one thing, our brains operate better under some conditions than others. For another, practice really does improve our performance on just about everything, at least up to a point.

But asking whether such cognitive “improvements” actually work is missing the point. The better question is whether task-related gains in performance (for instance, at Sudoku, chess, or a video game) can carry over to another task, and other areas of life: Does becoming better at X also make us better at Y or Z?

The answer is that instead of trying to get “smarter,” you’re probably better off pursuing one of these three goals instead.

1. AS YOU GET OLDER, FOCUS ON KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE

Although there’s some debate as to whether we can significantly enhance our raw mental capacity, most of the scientific evidence suggests the answer is no. Scores on fluid intelligence tests, which represent the best single measure of our abstract reasoning and learning ability, remain quite stable over our lifetimes. In fact, there’s strong evidence for age-related decreases in this form of intelligence after our late 20s, which means that even if there were some exercises to boost our brain power, the best they can do is slow our decline.

On the other hand, as we grow older we can afford to rely less on our learning potential and more on what we already know. So you may be able to stay sharp (or even get sharper) overall simply by deepening your knowledge base over time, for which age is clearly advantageous. Expertise—and therefore performance—doesn’t just depend on intelligence, it’s also a function of our curiosity and motivation, which can make up for slower brain power as we age. Unsurprisingly, age typically confers higher levels of knowledge and expertise. As psychologist Daniel Kahneman noted in the New York Times in 2011, “True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes”—which also means 
remaining well aware of your limitations
.

Imagine you have to pick between an experienced surgeon in her 60s who’s performed thousands of operations and a 26-year-old rising star in the same field. Or between a sharp young pilot who’s flown 20 flights and a seasoned 55-year-old pilot who’s flown thousands of times. Most people would pick the older, more experienced professionals—and rightly so. While you can become “smarter” by boosting your knowledge at any age, older individuals have an advantage simply because of the wider range of experiences and opportunities they’ve had.

2. SKIP THE BRAIN-TEASERS AND PRACTICE YOUR PEOPLE-SKILLS

Most real-world problems are ill-defined and require dealing effectively with other people. While the personality characteristics that determine how well you get along with others are partly a matter of genetics, there are still habits you can practice to get better at social interactions.

For example, getting feedback on how other people see you can enhance your self-awareness, which really comes down to how well you understand the way your behavior affects other people. It generally involves being more other-focused than self-focused—or at least seeming that way. As Mark Twain noted, “Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.”

Likewise, being aware of your stress triggers can keep the dark side of your personality at bay—those less-desirable qualities that get in the way of building healthy relationships. Contrary to popular belief, the most likable people are not authentic; they just manage to come across as genuine enough, while paying close attention to how they’re perceived. In other words, they’re just expert reputation managers. This may sounds controversial, but while we tend to be wary of those who seem “fake”, the reality is that we’d much rather deal with them than with people who clearly show they don’t care about social norms and good manners.

3. SHIFT YOUR FOCUS FROM SMARTS TO SUCCESS

Efforts to get “smarter” often stand in for another desire—which is just to be more successful. There are millions of self-help books dedicated to this subject, and most of the strategies they lay out work better than intelligence-boosting gambits. The downside, of course, is that the glut of success formulas out there tends to inflate people’s hopes.

Perhaps the problem is that we keep searching for a simple, universal solution where none exists. If you look at the most successful people around, there aren’t too many generalizations you can draw from their experiences; those you can extract aren’t easily replicated. As academic reviews (and my latest book) point out, there are really only a few core ingredients to career success: ability, likability, and drive. More specifically, if you can persuade other influential people—those who make decisions that affect your career—that you possess those qualities (whether or not you actually do), you’ll probably be successful.

The problem, though, is that—like intelligence—ability, likability, and drive aren’t all that easy to fake. It’s hard to fool all the people who matter, all the time. Likewise, if you’re obsessed with chasing success, others will catch on (Henry David Thoreau was right to say that “success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it”). Still, it might make more sense to take a broader view of what’ll make you succeed, and fixate a little less on how smart you are, or would like to become.

In the grand scheme, it’s one of the smartest things you can do.

BY TOMAS CHAMORRO-PREMUZIC

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling, people analytics, and talent management.


African Women in Leadership Conference 2017: Unleashing the Power, Inspiring Greatness

This year’s African Women in Leadership Conference (AWLC), organised by African Women in Leadership Organisation (AWLO) held in Accra Ghana, from the 29th March – 1st April 2017, and was themed; Unleashing the Power, Inspiring Greatness.

In the words of the founder of African Women in Leadership Organisation, Hon. Elisha Attai; “We all have a Voice, We need to be heard. We need to overcome our fears, insecurities, and stereotypes. There in Lies our Power…” This he proactively reiterated in his address, on how women should empower themselves and unlock their potentials to greatness.

The First Lady of Ghana, H.E. Mrs. Rebecca Akufuo-Addo, also emphasized on women becoming active participants in leadership. In her keynote address she rightly observed, “If we do not drive, we’ll be driven. If we do not control, we’ll be controlled. The only thing that the driven and controlled get to do is complain.”

The Second lady of the republic of Ghana, Mrs. Samira Bawumia was also present at this event. In attendance at the Conference were also: Zimbabwean Ambassador to Ghana and Dean of Diplomatic Corps in Ghana; Amb. Pavelyn Mukasa, UN AIDS Country Director; Girmay Haile, Deputy Governor of Rivers State Nigeria; Dr. (Mrs.) Ipalibo Harry-Banigo and AWLO Global Executives.

The speaker sessions began with Fatima Alimohamed; CEO of African Brand Warrior speaking on the topic; ‘The Brand Called You’, followed by Agnes Emefa Essah; CMO Vodafone Ghana on ‘Authenticity: A Power from Within’, then Mrs. Dayo Keshi; on ‘A Woman Enough‘.

This year’s conference also featured two panel discussions; having Girmay Haile, Prince Etornam Attipoe, Elisha Attai, and Dr. Alaa El-Halwagy speak on The role of men in gender equity, and Renee Boateng, Udeme Etibensi, Gugulethu Makhari, Freda Addu, Nora Bannerman speak on; Is a Woman just a Pretty Face?

Dr. Alaa El-Halwagy of Innovative Group USA introduced the use of the True Colours Resource- A resource that uses a simple but fun personality intervention and communication tool to enhance understanding of one self and others- in a workshop, to teach women how to overcome emotional intolerance thereby enhancing their leadership potential.

This event drew to a close at a gala event on the 31st March, where outstanding leaders were honored with awards. Her Excellecies, Mrs. Rebecca Akufuo-Addo; first Lady of Ghana, and Dr. Ipalibo Harry-Banigo; Deputy Governor, Rivers State Nigeria were awarded the famous ‘Woman of Worth‘ Award. Hon. Elisha Attai, the founder of AWLO was also awarded a well deserved ‘The Gentle Man’ Award.

Here are the pictures from African Women in Leadership Conference 2017.


Communique Issued by the African Women in Leadership Organization (AWLO) at the close of her 9th Regional Conference held from the 29th March – 1st April, 2017 at the M-Plaza Hotel, Accra, Ghana.

Introduction:
The 9th Regional Conference of the African Women in Leadership Organization with the theme ‘Unleashing the Power, Inspiring Greatness’ held at the M-Plaza Hotel, Accra, Ghana from the 29th March – 1st April, 2017. It was a homecoming for AWLO and quite nostalgic as the conference venue was where AWLO started 9 years ago.
Click Here to Download Full Communique


Welcome Address by AWLO Founder/President, Hon. Elisha Attai at the 9th Edition of African Women in Leadership Conference 2017 in Ghana

It is my honor, privilege and pleasure to welcome you all, great African Women of Worth, to this year’s conference. I extend greetings from our regional offices worldwide, whose members are unable to be with us, for reasons which we well understand.

Today’s gathering evokes a deep and intense feeling of appreciation and gratitude to Almighty God. Many years ago, precisely in 2009, the African Women in Leadership Organization (AWLO), berthed in Ghana for the very first time on its maiden voyage at this same Hotel. It was then referred to as the West African Women in Leadership Conference (WAWLC).

As many of you know, we were young, filled with dreams, excited at the specter of new beginnings, totally blinded, but hopeful of the future. It is obvious and interesting to note that we have, along the way, shelved the limitations of a regional association to embrace the diversity presented amongst all women of African descent. AWLO welcomes change. AWLO drives change. AWLO thrives on change!

Why do I say blinded, you may ask? Who really, amongst humanity can lay claim to such powers of clairvoyance except the omnipotent, omniscience and omnipresent God who directs our paths? We have travelled these number of years guided, led, sustained and powered only by His mercies. We have set new precedents, traversed Continents and planted regional chapters across the shores of many countries. Wherever we’ve berthed, our focus has not deviated from our primary purpose of integrating, empowering and motivating African Women everywhere across the world; unleashing the power and inspiring greatness.

We salute our host country, Ghana; positioned on the threshold of fresh leadership under the newly elected President, Nana Akufo-Addo and his amiable wife, Her Excellency Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who kindly granted us audience and assured AWLO of not only attending the conference but accepted to open the gathering with a keynote address. Thank you, Your Excellency, for this singular honor and recognition.

Together, our focus on how women can actively play a part in economic diversification under a new economic and development agenda for Africa has become a driving compulsion of unwavering desire and steadfast hope. The future, a great one for African Women beckons as we write our names in the annals of history as initiators and drivers of positive change. More than ever before, for the sake of our youths and children, we need to lay a firmer, stronger and deeper foundation for the future that will encourage their potentials to be effectively and efficiently harnessed.

How do we unleash the latent power within us?
A favorite quote by Tim Fargo reminds us that, “Until you cross the bridge of your insecurities, you can’t begin to explore your possibilities.” We all have a voice. We need to be heard. We need to overcome our fears, insecurities and the stereotypes that hold us back. Therein lies our power to inspire others to greatness. In marking this years United Nations International Women’s Day, the world heard the echoes of the theme, “#Be Bold For Change” on every lips. It was a call that struck deep inside my heart. I realized then, that greatness is actually a possibility that is fully explored.

Therefore, in choosing our theme for this conference, AWLO understands that “Unleashing the Power”, requires boldness; a steady affirmation of positive motive and confidence. It is courage dressed for purpose. It is a voice raised from inner belief to address change. Interestingly, AWLO had years ago, painfully realized that some women need to fight for this right; to find their authentic selves long buried underneath other people’s needs and societal stereotypes. This need for self expression remains the fulcrum of our mission, the underlying motivation for our vision, and the driving force of our goals.

How do we inspire greatness?
The truth is, in order to unleash the power, everyone deserves somebody who helps them look forward to tomorrow with courage and hope. Within someone else’s story of fear, struggle, doggedness, awakening and transformation that our speakers reveal during our conferences, life becomes a mirror whereby we can see clearly. When we listen to them, their experiences and challenges quickens, clarifies, illuminates and validates the path to choose for change in our career, business, leadership goals and plans for future growth and achievements. In this way, we become great assets to Africa, and indeed the world.

Looking ahead in excitement to next year, it gives me great honor to announce that AWLO will celebrate its decade long existence and achievements in the grand style that is typical of all our events. Together, we will mark the highlights, milestones and ideals that characterize our organization. We will light a torch of commendation for our partners, decorate our patrons and matrons, award medals of recognition to our state and regional coordinators, and applaud our members with accolades. May, the day come! I confess to being over excited already, just speaking about this.

I invite you all, dear delegates to enjoy the pleasure and history of this great country. Let her strengths summon your strength. Let her quest for transformation rouse yours. Let her conflicts unravel your conflicts. Let her resolutions call forth your hope. Let her journey in history unleash the power, and inspire the greatness within you all.

I thank you for your patience and kind audience.

Great African Women of Worth, I salute you!
AKWAABA!!!!!!

#WeAreAwlo
#UnleashingThePower
#InspiringGreatness
#WeCare


AWLO Woman of Worth 2017’ Award Conferred on Ghana First Lady; Her Excellency Rebecca Akufuo-Addo

Her Excellency, Mrs. Rebecca Akufuo-Addo; First Lady Of the Republic of Ghana with her AWLO WOMAN OF WORTH 2017 award in recognition of her tireless efforts over the past 12 years to eradicate malaria in Ghana through her INFANTA MALARIA PREVENTION FOUNDATION (IMPF).

AWLO recognizes her efforts, and of such women who are making bold to add value to Africa, through our ‘Woman of Worth’ Awards.

Other women of worth who have been decorated in time past by AWLO have been, Human Rights Activist;Naomi Luther King, Liberian Consulate to Nigeria; Chief. Dr. Opral Benson, Business Mogul; Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija, and other outstanding women Leaders such as Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, Dr. Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, and others.


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