What would you do if you were twice as smart?
The first person I asked this raised his eyebrows.
The second person responded that it would make it harder to deal with idiots.
(Would it, though? What if being twice as smart suddenly made it seem obvious not only how to deal with them - if there is such a thing as an ‘idiot’ anyway - but also how to change their perspective in such a way that they quit annoying you?)
The more I thought about this question, the more I wondered whether I would still be working on the same problems in my life that I do now.
For instance, would I still have a backlog of reading material? Probably. Would it be twice as long as it is now? Equally probable.
Would I still struggle with insomnia, probably yes, possibly more so.
On the other hand, if I were twice as smart, maybe I could finally figure out the answers to certain problems that I now find pressing, such as the desire to overpack on trips or try to do “one last thing” before leaving, making myself short on time. Or the pull to visit more and more attractions on vacation, thus changing cities too often and stressing myself out.
My image of being twice as smart is one of frenetic mental activity.
What if it were the opposite, though? What if being twice as smart meant more mental calm, as I realized that there was no reason to stress about certain things?
How about you? How do you imagine being twice as smart as you are today?
Another way of thinking about this mental game is to change the attribute. Instead of ‘smart’ we can think about being ‘attractive’ or ‘rich’ or something else. Funny?
Thinking about having twice as many family members, roommates, or pets would clearly be a little messy, even if you also have twice as many bathrooms.
Two parrots, two box forts...
Going back to those other suggestions, personally, I would not want to be “twice as attractive.” Presumably that would put a lot of people within range of a professional modeling career. I have always thought that being so physically attractive that people would insist on stopping you and demanding your attention - I have always thought that would be completely awful. The very Hollywood concept of being “discovered” was something I found alarming as a child.
You’re just sitting there minding your own business, and then someone comes along and wants you to stand still for hours so they can take pictures of you or film you? Do your hair and put you in false eyelashes?
Actually that sounds like something that people do for themselves these days, trying to become social media influencers, and it still sounds just as boring and unfulfilling to me today as it would have in the 1930s.
No thanks, I’d rather be ordinary looking.
“Twice as rich” is another interesting concept. For most people on the planet, doubling their net worth would still not make them “rich.” If I had twice as much money, I still couldn’t retire yet. Worse, I still couldn’t buy a house in my neighborhood, either.
This sort of raises the question, if everyone on Earth doubled some characteristic such as wealth, beauty, or intelligence, would it be noticeable?
Think about this for a second, if you haven’t already. If everything in the Universe doubled in size overnight - would anyone know? How could you prove it, if even your tape measure had also doubled in size? Relatively, everything would still be the same. Your car would still bump over the same potholes and your cat would still want the same amount of treats.
Would a cat sleep twice as much? If it could? That’s basically 24 hours a day.
Some of us could probably sleep twice as much, and it might not be a bad thing. Those of you in the sub-six-hour range might give this some thought.
Some of the same people could probably consume half as much caffeine at some benefit to themselves.
This idea is infectious. What if I spent half as much, or twice as much, of my attention, time, money?
Thus we return to the concept of being twice as smart, and what it would change.
How much celebrity gossip would Smarter Me follow? Is there something that I don’t find all that interesting today, that Smarter Me wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about?
Would Smarter Me still be into gator news? Yes, of course, who wouldn’t be?
Right now something interesting is going on at work. Well, lots of things are, most of which I probably don’t know about. One of them, though, is that my boss told me to follow up and file an invention disclosure on an idea I had.
This is not something that I currently know how to build. I am not an engineer. But innovation doesn’t work that way. You don’t have to have a working prototype, or even be totally clear on how to make something, in order to get a patent on it.
I love my idea. I am sure that if I were twice as smart, I would be building it. I don’t know how to make it right now - material selection, design, etc - but I like to fantasize that if I were twice as smart, I would.
I often quote Nick Hanauer with a directive that I use as my personal motto: “Solve the biggest problem you can.”
The trouble here is that you have to choose your problem - unless it chooses you, which problems often do, in the same way that a stray cat might choose you, only with less purring.
This is why I work where I do. I figured my company deals with the most interesting problems. I could be working at the animal shelter, or I could be working here, and there are plenty of other people drawn to the rescue space who could not or would not do my job.
I assume that if we were all twice as smart, we would be solving some of our biggest personal problems by working in jobs that are appropriate to our gifts. We would all choose to go toward the problems that we find the juiciest. Instead of feeling stressed by our bosses and our commutes and our colleagues and our customers and money and all of that, we could instead be animated by interesting challenges.
Or maybe not. I don’t actually know, because alas, all I have are the mental gifts that I have today. And all the rest. Just the one life, no doubling of anything that I have noticed.
Unless the entire Universe did get twice as big, just last night.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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