Different intelligence, different approaches
Writing, Learning to Learn, Public Speaking, Storytelling, Programming, Spanish, Meditation, Portrait Photography, Playing the Ukulele, Salsa Dancing, Productivity, Drawing…
How would you like to learn these skills and even more?
Don’t be so quick to say that. Let me show you how it was not only possible for me — but it can also be possible for you
Why you previously “failed”
According to the American Developmental Psychologist, Howard Gardner, there are 9 types of intelligence:
Going into the details of each of them would be out of the scope of the article. However, please take a moment to analyze this image because we’ll discuss it below. Or keep it in a separate window to follow along (click the sourceabove).
With that, I want you to realize if you’ve tried learning skills and failed, it may be because the skills you tried worked against your current intelligence.
For me, two of the hardest skills I’ve learned in the past 18 months were Meditation and Salsa Dancing. My existential intelligence was simply not up to the point where Meditation was easy for me to learn. For Salsa, two of my intelligence worked against me: bodily-kinesthetic and musical.
My leading intelligence were logical, intra-personal, and linguistic.
Still, there are important ways you can use them. Here are my two favourite:
For acceptance; and
One of the reasons a lot of people quit is because it’s too hard for them. There’s something powerful in knowing that “it’s not your fault”.
Don’t we all hate starting something at the same time as others and see them all thrive faster than us?
This happens to all of us, leading us to think less about ourselves. But the same is true about ourselves learning other things faster than others.
People are jealous of the early success I’ve had writing. Even though I only meant to improve my written English, due to my “natural” disposition of high linguistic intelligence, I was able to accelerate my learning curve much faster than someone with lower linguistic intelligence.
You don’t believe in it?
I actually didn’t know about it — or I guess I forgot — but I did have that type of intelligence early on. While looking at a souvenir box, I found this:
Who’s this handsome fella you ask?
It turns out, I’ve been writing since high school. I was writing for the school’s newspaper. I had forgotten about it. But looking back, I’m not that surprised Writing wasn’t that hard for me.
Where the magic happens is when you accept that something will take you more time than others to learn and that’s completely fine. When I set out to learn Salsa Dancing back in November 2018, I knew I’d be completely out of my comfort zone.
Have you ever heard of a metalhead dancing to Salsa music?
Neither had I!
I accepted that my learning would be slower. And by accepting it, I didn’t focus on how bad I was but rather on how I could improve.
Guys, I can’t stress enough how powerful that is!
In your head now?
Good. Let’s move on!
Let’s start with two powerful quotes to illustrate the importance of this point:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.” — Charles Darwin
“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” — Robert Greene, Mastery
In a previous article that went viral, I ranked Adaptability as being one of the top 3 skills to learn to thrive and still stand by this today.
How adaptable do you think you would be if you had learned 50 new skills in the short span of 18 months?
If we think back on the multiple intelligence theory from above, how static do you think the different intelligence are?
That’s right, they’re not at all static, for better or worse!
Don’t “practice” one intelligence and you’ll lose proficiency in it. As we grow older and stop “working”, we stimulate fewer of our intelligence, leading our “ability to perform” to deteriorate.
Isn’t it true that an old woman who still does physical activities retains more kinesthetic intelligence than one who doesn’t?
This, my friends, should motivate you and push you to action — you now know that action increases your intelligence, and inaction lowers them. If you previously thought inaction maintained your intelligence, I hope you realize now you were wrong and you’re ready to take your life into your own hands!
In Appendix A below, you’ll see a list of some of the 50 skills I’ve learned in the past 18 months. What you’ll notice is how diverse they are. You’ll also see how each of the skills fit nicely within the 9 different intelligence.
When thinking of a new skill to learn, think about how it fits within the 9 intelligence, and how it works in favour or against your current proficiency in each intelligence.
How to become more adaptable using the theory
There are three approaches you can take, each with their own pros and cons:
1. The Jack-of-all-trades
“Jack of all trades, master of none.”
Somehow the term jack-of-all-trades has gotten a bad reputation, especially after the Industrial Revolution. If we are to believe Darwin’s theory, then aren’t jacks of all trades more adaptable?
Truth is, during a zombie apocalypse (it’s a thing, right?), I’d much rather be with my friend Kenneth who can do all sorts of things like wood-working, blacksmithing, farming, analytical thinking, and many more things!
Whatever you throw at this guy, he’ll do it. He’ll always be happy to do it because for him, it’s a new challenge to take on and a new valuable skill to learn.
I’d argue that he’d be a better programmer than most professional programmers because he’s open to see and hear different perspectives.
Jacks-of-all-trades are arguably the most intelligent overall out of the three types we are talking about here. We’ll dig deeper into that shortly.
2. The Master
The Master is the king of the Industrial Revolution, and remains to this day. The Master focuses on a select few things and excels at them. They’ve got high paying jobs and are in high demand for specific tasks.
A true master though is not one who specializes in a specific skill, but rather on one or two primary intelligence. They learn a variety of skills within the same realm of intelligence.
They’re the people you seek out to get advice from their field of expertise. If I want to learn Yoga, I’ll go to an instructor that has high bodily-kinesthetic, naturalist, and existential intelligence.
You know who to go to if you want to become a master Jedi! :)
The Master is a teacher, a coach, a mentor. Surround yourself with masters and you’ll raise your intelligence by osmosis.
3. The Polymath
The Jack-of-all-trades vs The Master is seeing things in black & white. The Polymath sits somewhere in between.
I call myself a polymath. A polymath is best described as a master of some. They have maybe 3–5 very strong intelligence, with the remaining being probably a bit lower than the jack-of-all-trades.
A polymath is someone good enough to perform in several industries and thrive in them. The most famous polymath was Leonardo Da Vinci, who performed incredibly well in painting, engineering, and many other fields.
I consider myself a polymath because I can easily find a job as a programmer, photographer or writer, for example. As such, these are the intelligence where I rank very high:
In the remaining four, I currently rank lower than a jack-of-all-trades.
Who’s the most intelligent really?
People think intelligence works this way:
Masters > Polymaths > Jack-of-all-trades
Is this really the case?
Let’s examine abstractly how each would fare on the learning curve for 4 different intelligence:
Can you make a decisive conclusion reading these graphs?
Neither can I.
This is, essentially, a fruitless question. It’s circumstantial. There are situations where jacks-of-all-trades have the upper hand. Other situations are better handled by masters or polymaths.
One thing I’d note though is that when it comes to creativity, 1+1 ≠ 2. Remember combining two skills together in creative ways can make you “successful”. As such, one would think the jack-of-all-trades and polymaths would have the advantage here.
What’s the difference between someone who’s 85% logical and one who’s 100% logical (if that even exists)?
On anything logical, the master will go way beyond the surface level and will make fewer mistakes jacks-of-all-trades or polymaths might make. And there are certainly tons of professions better handled by masters.
As such, here’s how to view intelligence:
Masters ≠ Polymaths ≠ Jack-of-all-trades
You wouldn’t compare apples to oranges, would you?
How can you learn 50 new skills in 18 months?
I hope you paid attention so far because the answer was hidden in plain sight!
The “easy” approach
If you want the easy approach, work with your current strengths.
Figure out which of the 9 intelligence are more prominent for you.
Find skills that work in favour of your strong intelligence.
Learn a few of these sub-skills every month.
With this approach, you’ll soon become a master of your top intelligence. This is very much the popular “focus on your strengths” advice you’ve been hearing for years now. This is still solid advice.
The world needs hyper-specialized people like that.
The balanced way
This is the path I’ve chosen. This leads to either polymathy or becoming a jack-of-all-trades.
Find skills that work different intelligence.
Choose sub-skills based on how they work your different intelligence, independently from your own strengths or weaknesses.
Learn a few of these sub-skills every month.
By following this path, you’ll essentially become what Emilie Wapnick calls a Multipotentialite.
The world needs people like that who will step up and do things even if it doesn’t come naturally. They’re your best chances of survival in crisis situations.
The masochist way
This is the path of those who love a hard challenge. These people are the most adaptable. They tend to become polymaths.
Find skills that work with your weak intelligence.
Choose sub-skills that are most against your favourable intelligence.
Learn a few of these sub-skills every month.
This path goes against the popular “focus on your strengths” advice. But you know what, both are good advice, even if contradictory.
The world needs fearless people like that— people who’ll take on any challenges. They’re your problem solvers. They’re the people you go for a listening ear and for thinking creatively about solutions to problems.
As you can see, there’s no right or wrong. Everyone has a role to play. I can’t tell you that the balanced way is the way to go, because it’s really a matter of choice.
What’s also encouraging is that you have the power to decide. If you’re a master who’d rather be a polymath, you can be. Before becoming a polymath myself, I was a master at software engineering. I was a deeply logical person and did well for myself.
Am I doing better as a polymath?
It really is just a matter of perspective. I’m poorer wealth-wise, but I’m damn happier! And that, my friends, has no price!
And on the wealth subject, there’s no reason why I couldn’t be richer than I was when I was Master. I just haven’t fully figured it out yet. And that’s part of the fun — figuring that out!
I’ve written deep guides on how to more specifically learn any skills in previous articles. Check them out after this one:
So, can you learn 50 skills in 18 months?
I hope by now you realize that the answer is:
*Caps intentional, picture a wild scream here!
Increase your self-awareness. Know your levels in each of the 9 intelligence. Decide if you want to be a jack-of-all-trades, a master, or a polymath. Decide from these three learning approaches: easy, balanced, or masochist.
Remember, there is no right or wrong, and the beauty is that with the right self-awareness, you can make any of the above work for you. And the good new is: the world has a place for you in it no matter which choice you choose to make!
So when’s the best time to get started?
Here’s your answer:
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” — Chinese Proverb
You can do this!
Thanks for reading, sharing, and following! :)
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Appendix A: Some skills I’ve learned in the past 18 months
I’ve intentionally not categorized them in the 9 intelligence. Can you guess where each of them fit?
Line Art and Coloring using Photoshop
Spanish vocabulary for the workplace
Classification using Machine Learning
Gaining mass as an ectomorph
Health nutrition for maximum muscle regeneration
Best storytelling practices
Public Speaking best practices
Dropshipping and the art of selling physical goods for a niche
Basics of Danish & Norwegian language
Basics of Tagalog
Learning to Learn
Video production for Personal Branding
Video post-production using DaVinci Resolve
Video game trailer creation
Social Media Marketing on Facebook
Executing effective serves at Tennis
Landscape photo editing using Lightroom
Portrait photo editing using Lightroom
Portrait photo editing using Photoshop
Making Kickstarter projects that work
Epic music composition
Basics of Ukulele
Basics of accounting
Basics of investing
Riding a bicycle
Persuasion / Sales
Basics of marketing
Proper customer service
Learning to learn
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