How to Be Smarter
Life and business are both based around making smart decisions. That's not as hard as it sounds.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
When we're young, life just seems to happen without us having much say in the matter. Then responsibility begins to shift from our parents to us. From that point forth, our own decisions and circumstance dominate our lives. Those two factors are largely responsible for how things turn out for us. And the two are intimately related.
We often observe how successful people make their own luck, but that's really just another way of saying they make smart decisions when it comes to taking risks and creating or capitalizing on opportunities. So success in business – and in life, I would argue – is primarily a function of making smart decisions.
Since every decision you make is based entirely on your own thoughts and feelings –how your brain processes experiences, events, and information from a variety of sources to draw conclusions – it's actually not that complicated to determine how to make smarter decisions. This is how you do it.
Be present in the moment.
The first time I told the story of how an ex-girlfriend's father took me in his Porsche to visit his startup company, where I learned about the coming wave of digital electronics (that was the late 70s, mind you), I remember thinking, what if I hadn't been paying attention to the guy?
There have since been maybe seven or eight similarly critical random events that changed my life. And if I hadn't been engaged in the moment they would have simply passed me by. I never even would have known I missed them. And where would I be today? It's a sobering thought.
Related: Success Does Not Follow a Time Clock
Trust your instincts.
Using the same example, what if that simple event hadn't resonated with me the way it did? What if I hadn't jumped right on it without hesitation and capitalized on the opportunity? I never would have gone back to grad school, gotten into the high-tech industry, and had an awesome 20+ year career.
When it comes to decision-making, listen to what smart, knowledgeable people say but, in the end, you have to make the right call. If you learn to trust your gut, you won't hesitate when what you're hearing is right. And when you do hesitate, you'll know it isn't right.
The more you allow yourself to be overloaded by information, interrupted by communication, and bombarded by distraction, the less time and attention you have left to focus on what really matters and question the accuracy, efficacy, and applicability of what you're learning and experiencing.
Let me say it another way. By opting for quantity of information, communication, and possessions over quality, you sacrifice deep understanding through logical reasoning in favor of the next shiny object, inspiring post, or other feel-good nonsense that grabs your ever-shrinking attention span.
You would not believe how much dumber that makes you. Without logical constructs like deductive reasoning and the scientific method, our society would never have progressed. There would be no technology. We'd all be stuck back in the dark ages. Stop and think about that for a minute … without checking your phone.
Related: Your Product Is Your Brand
Every time I see some popular and unsubstantiated nonsense about a miracle diet, pill, vitamin, or nutritional supplement that's supposed to do magical things like make you thinner or smarter, it drives me nuts. None of that stuff works, folks. They're all scams – moneymakers courtesy of our quick-fix culture.
Look, your brain is part of your body, right? Think. Just eat a good variety of reasonably healthy stuff, don't eat too much, get out and exercise once or twice a week, and you'll be fine. If you keep your body in pretty good shape, guess what? Your mind will come along for the ride and maintain its plasticity as you age.
One last thing. There's been some negative stuff about caffeine from questionable sources, lately. Don't believe it. It's an amazing and, read my lips, naturally occurring stimulant. For the vast majority of you, a cappuccino or a few cups of tea a day will not harm you. And it will make you sharper. No kidding. As with anything, just don't overdo it.