9 Ways to be Smarter than What you are Working With

Author: Greg Popham

Being smarter than what you are working with applies to so many endeavors. Whether you are working with cars, space shuttles or baking a cake, you need to be smarter than what you are working with to be successful.
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I first heard about this concept from a friend after I saw him change a tire from a rim without a tool to break the seal loose. When I asked him how he knew how to do that, I got the response “You gotta be smarter than what you’re working with”. It took me a while to really understand what he was talking about and I have been applying it to every new challenge that I tackle since. I’ll get back to this tire rim change later and tell you how he was able to break the seal off of his 20-inch tire without any specific tool for doing so.

First I’d like to share with you the ways to be smarter than what you are working with:

1. Figure out the Easy Way

There is almost always an easy way and a hard way to do something. Try to figure out the easy way if it won’t take too much time for you to think it through. Sometimes the easy way is non-conventional but works better or is much easier. It’s actually easier for me to open a non-twist off bottle cap with a spoon or a cigarette lighter than it is to go find the bottle opener because I know the properties of the bottle cap and the angle needed to pop it off.

2. Make Your Own

If you don’t have a tool to do the job, make one. A little bit of skill and you can usually make a tool to do the task you need. If that doesn’t work out then you can always go get (or borrow) the tool that you need. When I lived out in the country, the nearest hardware or auto parts store was a daunting 35 minutes each way. If I could fabricate my own tool in 30 minutes it saved me 40 minutes of driving (and paying for a tool).
Read: 6 FUN Scientifically Proven Ways To Become Smarter

3. Think Differently

Just because it hasn’t been done that way before doesn’t mean that there is not a better way to do something. Thinking differently may bring on a better way to accomplish a task that no one else has thought of. It could perhaps even lead to a new invention.

4. Ignore the Nay-Sayers

We all have had someone tell us it cannot be done that way. Sometimes they are right but often not. Digest what they have to say and ascertain whether they are right. Determine if they are saying it can’t be done that way based on actual physics, mechanics or if it is just because it is their personal belief. If it is based upon their beliefs, discount their view and forge ahead with your own ideas. Who knows? Maybe you can invent a better mousetrap or something else.

5. Get Creative

Don’t have a Slip ‘n Slide? Make one out of a roll of plastic that’s left over from the last time your roof leaked. Use your creativeness to build and solve problems. We have 100 billion neurons with 100 trillion connections in our brain. All of us are probably underutilizing our brains. Making new connections within our brains helps us to become better at what we are working with.
Read: What Kind Of Smart Are You?
When the Apollo 13 mission was in danger because of rising CO2 levels caused by some equipment malfunction, the engineers had to be creative. Using only the type of equipment and tools the crew had on board (including: plastic bags, cardboard, suit hoses, and duct tape), Ed Smylie, the crew systems manager and his team (while on the ground) conceived a configuration that worked to save the lives of the astronauts on board who otherwise would have died from the excessive CO2 gas.

6. Understand What it is you are working With

Study the object/person/endeavor that you are working with. Try to really understand what makes it tick, what is it made up of, what are its strengths and weaknesses? Perhaps a little research will yield more insight as to the properties of what you’re working with and give you clues or directions about what you are trying to accomplish. Sometimes just staring at an object for a while will give you more insight into its characteristics. It also helps train your mind in concentration and visualization which could be helpful in solving the challenge you are faced with.

7. Relate to what you Already Know

Try to relate what you’re working with to something else that you are already familiar with. Sometimes you can find parallels that are helpful. For example, riding a motorcycle is a lot like riding a bicycle. You need to get moving first to maintain your balance. Steering is pretty much the same, feet must come off the ground. If there are many similarities you are part way to figuring it out. Use those experiences that you already have to more quickly understand new things.
Read: Even Smart People Misuse These 16 Common Phrases

8. Sleep on It

Ashley Bush from Melbourne’s Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health states “The brain is constantly vigilant but we are not aware of this… Even when asleep, most of the brain is active”.
There have been so many times that I have been trying to solve a problem only to realize the solution after I woke up. If you go to sleep thinking about a problem, your brain will work on a solution. It’s like magic.

9. Safety First

If you are working with anything that is potentially dangerous, put extra thought into what you are doing with respect to keeping yourself and others safe. Many ‘great’ ideas do not turn out to work that well and sometimes people can be hurt if safety is overlooked.
Ok, back to how my friend broke the seal off of his tire without any special tool. He set the tire on the ground, made a small ramp up to it with some rocks and then just drove his big three-quarter ton Chevy up on top of the tire. Pooooof, the seal was broke. I’ve seen him do many things like that and it has always amazed me what he comes up with. He was always trying to be smarter than what he was working with and his results have been impressive.

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