Ever look back on your days in college, or even high school for that matter, and truly feel you were smarter back then? That ever since you graduated, your brain has been gradually turning into mush, day by day?  Most people get by with the idea that all the knowledge they crammed into their brain during school is sufficient for the next seventy years of life.

It’s not. Think of it this way: all the education you receive throughout your schooling is not only teaching you the basic fundamentals of your chosen field of study, but it’s also preparing your brain to learn more efficiently later in life.  Unfortunately, most people fall into the dreaded routine of cubicle life and let mundane tasks limit their brain’s potential.

Imagine your brain was a separate living organism, and like any organism, it needs food to survive and grow. The type of food your brain would enjoy most is knowledge.  So, feed it that.  Here are five snacks, or tips, your brain will surely find delicious:

1. Let YouTube teach you

YouTube is littered with high-quality motivational channels you can subscribe to. You can make it a habit to watch a couple of videos each night on your phone or laptop before you go to sleep.  The primary message of each video will be the first thing you think of when you wake up and ideas from the videos may even translate into your dreams.

Within YouTube, you should focus on watching TED Talk videos. When the talk ends, look through the recommended videos that are meant to be similar to the one you just watched.  Through this tunnel, you will discover many vloggers who are determined to talk you into a better life.  All these vloggers are giving so much useful information, free of charge, on a daily basis.

Some of you may be rolling your eyes, feeling sick and tired of this new wave of ‘motivational speaking’ that seems to be all over every type of media these days. Was it like this in the 70s, the 80s?  That answer simply doesn’t matter.  It’s here now, it’s free, and like Buckley’s, it works.  This wave of motivational videos, images, and stylized quotes the last decade is not a fad, or else I wouldn’t be here recommending it today.  They are meant to mentor you, direct you, and teach you what isn’t taught in school.  Did I mention it’s all free?

2. Say it seven times

My former high school science teacher lived by this rule and I lived by it ever since he shared it with me. The rule is to quickly say something seven times to remember it, and it works best when you urgently need to memorize a few words in a row.

For example, remembering a house number and street name after being told it just once is no easy task. But once you get a moment to yourself, say the number and street name seven times under your breath.  Now, remembering this important address will be a walk in the park.

Having trouble remembering that third point on your PowerPoint presentation’s sixth slide, while preparing for an upcoming boardroom meeting? Say that third point seven times to yourself, and by the seventh time, it will stick.

3. Strategically hang out with people

It’s a known adage that you are the average of your five closest friends. I personally believe this quote isn’t to be taken literally, but to symbolize just how influential your closest friends are to you and how much your personality, beliefs, motives, and aspirations are shaped by said peers.

Think of that one ‘more-acquaintance-less-friend’ that you text once a month at most, or chat with by the water cooler at work solely because you want any reason to be away from your cubicle. There’s something fascinating about this person.  It’s the stories they tell you about their weekend (without you having asked), the high-profile people they just happened to have dinner with last night, and the happy-go-lucky, care-free personality they give off every second of the day.  It makes you wonder, could I ever be like that, could I ever live that lifestyle?

Well, befriending this person would sway the five-closest-friends-average in your favor. Assuming you two become great friends and this person eventually overwrites one of your five closest friends (harsh, but would need to happen), that’s technically a 20% increase of your odds to become someone like this fascinating person; a 20% increase of your odds to share this person’s lifestyle.

Furthermore, the concept of Strong Ties vs. Weak Ties is important to understand. Strong Ties are your closest friends, but because you all use the same circle to pull resources from, you don’t personally benefit as much as you could.  Weak Ties are those people you don’t usually hang out with but it is clear to you that they have high-profile connections to others and can offer resources to you that your close circle cannot.  You want to focus on strengthening your relationships with the people you have Weak Ties with.

4. Force yourself to use mental math

Throw that calculator away! When hit with a random mathematical problem that makes you think “I could probably work it out in my head but I’d much rather use my phone’s calculator instead”, keep that phone in your pocket and try to solve it mentally—you know you have the time to.

A common example of when a mental math opportunity presents itself is when you’re out shopping for things on sale. Wondering how much a shirt on sale will cost?  Refrain from using your phone’s calculator.  Going forward, try this simple mental math trick:

The shirt costs $40, but there’s a sale on for 30% off the price. You are to always drop any zeros involved out of the equation, so all you have to do is multiply 4 x 3 = 12.  There you have it; the sale is saving you $12.  In other words, a $40 shirt with 30% off will cost you $28.

Now, if the shirt was a few dollars higher or lower than $40, treat the price as if it was actually $40 and know that your answer will be a close estimate, which is generally all you need to know while shopping.

If it was a $40 shirt with a 25% off sale, simply do 4 x 25 = 100. Now, common sense comes into play here, and by that I mean you wouldn’t think the sale means you save $100 off a $40 item, right?  Nor would you think you’d only save $1 (had you dropped both zeros from 100).  Then at this point, it’s safe (and correct) to assume you’d save $10, no more, no less.

5. Read, read, read

I used to only read books if they were assigned to me as homework. For most of my life, I never considered reading was something you could do leisurely.  That is until I realized how much time I have to read, thanks to all the time spent commuting to live half my life in a cubicle.

Don’t sleep on the train, subway, or in the passenger seat of a car. Read instead, and soon it will become a habit.  Having felt I had no time to read books most of my life, once I comprehended how much time I have to read while commuting to work, I read a lot.

In 2015, I read 29 novels.  How did I track this?  I signed up to Goodreads.  I recommend you do as well.  It lets you make goals for the year in terms of reading quantity, track your reading progress by placing the books into a ‘read’ folder, rate the books you’ve read, and store books you wish to read in the future into a ‘to-read’ folder.  It really enables you to better yourself year by year and visualize your progress.

Fictional books are great to read, because plainly speaking, any reading is better than not reading. Keeping your brain in an imaginative state will assist you in coming up with creative ideas.  However, informative non-fictional books are very beneficial.  You intend for the book’s material to help you add value to a large group of people, a great way to become successful.  But if you find it tough to add value to that large group of people, you won’t lose out on anything because simply put, the more you read, the more knowledge you have, and therefore, the more food for your brain to survive.

– Ryan

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