Our bodies and minds are linked. In fact there are many mind/body similarities that aren’t always taken into consideration in assessing the totality of who we are... and by extension what we can do about it.
The Chinese communists said give me a child until he’s six and I’ll have him for life.
I’m thinking more like 17. I think whoever or whatever wonders of nature creates mankind, it has done its mind/body casting by the time the product-person is 17… and what you got at the point is... what this man or woman will be during this lifetime. Period. Not much more of building on that foundation. And you can’t go back and recast that footing. It is what it is. At 17, it’s done. Take it out of the micro-wave.
In golf I know there’s a saying that if you want to improve your game, go back and start playing earlier in your body’s growth, because muscles remember. Riding a bike, swimming, golfing, hitting a baseball. Muscles remember.
Minds do too. You speak one language until you’re three, and then start in with another language… you still got that original language. It’s there, might take some dusting off, but believe me, it’s there.
Your IQ is pretty much set by 17. Check the studies. A person who scores 100 on their Army entrance test, will score about the same thing if he were to stay in the Army and take that test again when he retires in his late 30s.
Einstein had an IQ they say of around 160 when he did that e=mc squared thing. That’s probably what he scored when he was 17, if standardized tests were used.
There’s the popular thought that you only use a small part of your brain… like 20% or something. That’s got something to do with the way we perceive time. I’m amind that time’s relative… I’m 71. It was only like a few hours ago I was 60. Yet when I was 15, I thought 16 would never get here. One year when I was 15 represented 1/15 of my life. A year when I’m 71, is only 1/71 of my life. Nothing. Time goes by ‘bout 5 times as fast as when I was a kid. We learn something new as an adult, it represents some small part of what we know. When we are young, knowledge rattles around an empty head, almost. As we get older we understand our capacity for knowing, and somehow that’s been translated into an urban legend that we only use 20% of our noggin.
There are those freaky things that a body can do under stress, like a mother lifting a car off her child… or similarly in combat when adrenaline surges through your body, you see better, can move faster, don’t realize pain as soon. When you look for those same kind of freaky things in the mind, I think you’re talking love and hate here, where you find you have this enormous capacity to handle touchy/feely in an extra-ordinary way. Love can be as powerful as a mother lifting that car.
And there is a relationship between emotions and cognitive ability. You gotta to have some smarts to have a soul.
I believe that a mind develops in much the same way a body does. That if it was trained and tested when it was young, if it was given encouragement, told to reach for the stars, mentored to in an intellectual way, that that child/person can do amazing things eventually with their smarts. And the inverse also holds true, if an individual with a remarkable head isn’t challenged as a toddler and in elementary school, isn’t taught ways to make the brain work best, then the person will probably still test high 17, but will not have much functioning capability. Be like a highly-charged engine on a weak frame. Ain’t goin’ win many races. Goin’ break down a lot in fact.
So what kind of stuff are we talking about, to help the young mind get organized to make the most of its potential?
Well consider this: Retired from the CIA I went back to work after 9/11 and for about 8 years taught tradecraft to new hires into the clandestine corps. At the same time I was involved in the recruitment of new hires. So I looked at the new guys and gals, who they were and how they went about thinking and doing life, and I judged them against CIA people I had known who did good in this work. And it became clear to me that there were some new hires – all of whom had about the same high IQs – would do better at the spy game than others, for a couple or three very specific reasons.
To understand those reasons, and to further this argument on early intellectual training, let’s look at the spy business: Overseas a CIA case officer has four main jobs. One) Maintaining cover. You become known as a CIA spy, you go home. So job one is making people believe you actually work at something besides collecting intelligence. Two) Is the spotting, developing and recruiting of foreign assets who have access to information of interest to the US gov’t. That takes a persuasive personality and a flexible id, in that you have to adjust your way to be a fit for the person you are pursing. It takes focus on the target, rather than on yourself…. to identify vulnerabilities and access… but first it takes focus and an ability to disengage from social thinking and interacting that is entirely self-center. Third job) you have to handle recruited assets. You have to listen professionally to what these agents have to say, how they are saying it and sometimes what they mean to say, but are not articulating. And Four) you have to make all this a matter of record with regular reports sent to Langley.
Number three and four above becomes easier as you gets experienced in intelligence collection because… as a journey-man case officer when the agent is passing sensitive information you are writing the cable in your head. Getting the topic, the first sentence of the first paragraph and then the rest of that first paragraph, followed by the body of the message. Sometimes you have the luxury of being able to take notes, but in semi-denied areas, or hostile areas, notes becoming incriminating, and are best not taken.
Handling agents requires you to remember things. In order. Like that cable you wrote in your head. To put that meeting information in baskets in your head that you can go retrieve when it comes time to putting your fingers on that word processor, where ever it is that you are writing your reports, and write whatever it is that you’ve collected in those mind baskets. And you got to do it right. There is no picking up the telephone and asking was that 15 or 50 tons? Guessing over facts isn’t an option; Headquarters is remarkably unsympathetic to mistakes.
This isn’t something just anyone can do. No matter the IQ. Some people have better recall than others. Maybe some of that is because of DNA, but some of that is because good listening is a learned skill. Some of the new hires I met would learn how to listen better than other, and that’s the difference maker.
When are youngster told about the birds and the bees anymore? Probably earlier now than before, because all our electronic gadgetry is tied to the internet and today’s kid has the ability to access hard core pornography when they’re just out of diapers. Which must be confusing for preschoolers.
Whatever age the kids are given the how-you-make-babies speech from caring parents, should be about the same age they should be given a speech about doing life good. And number one of the list of things that will make sense to the 5 year old about “doing life good” is listening. Remembering something someone or some internet web site promotes, to put that information into some deep recesses of your tiny little head, so that you can come back tomorrow or the next day and get it.
Plenty of ways for mentors to teach listening. One, ask the kids what TV program they watched last night that they liked. Get him or her to tell you about it. Couple of days later ask them about it again.
This is my bet: The more they train their brain to retrieve information, the better they’ll get at it. I don’t know all the scientific and medical stuff, but I know if you work on remembering stuff, you brain learns and it gets better at remembering and better at retrieval. The brain can be taught to develop strong links to pockets of information. And just like any athlete will tell you, the more you train the better you get. The more you travel those links, the more they become superhighways and the more you know turnoffs and shortcuts. How you can reconcile this pocket of info with that one and come up with new stuff. Takes practice. And the more you practice, the better you do in a “life” situation. Starts with focused listening and then retrieval. Mentors can come up with their own games to get preschooler listening, remembering, retrieving.
The CIA teaches me that this skill of focused listening can be learned as an adult, but also like the golfer, you want to get real good, start when you’re four.
Can a stupid person do this? Sure.
No! You can’t fix stupid!!
Yeap. You can.
When it comes to learning, my starting point is always my Aunt Wilma. She and my mother encouraged me as a young man to charge those windmills in my mind. Aunt Wilma taught me to listen. Mother taught me to imagine, she encouraged me to take the funny pages and make up my own stories. Both told me to think, listen… reach for the stars.
Two stories about my Aunt Wilma that I may have already mentioned somewhere in these Rants and Yarns. She taught school in NC classrooms for more than 70 years. At the tail end of her life, into her 90s, rich into the multi-millions with farm land on the edge of Raleigh, NC, she would travel the back roads of Johnson County to pick up dependents of migration Mexican workers and take them to the local community college to teach them English as a second language. And then take them back to the shacks where they lived, getting home sometimes ’bout midnight.
Once we were talking and I said Aunt Wilma you have been teaching for a long, long time, I bet you’ve had some pretty smart students over the years. And she said that she had. And I said I’ll bet you’ve had some real dumbards too, huh? And she said no, every one of her students was special. Every single one. Never had a “dumbard.” She said there was one black boy in an 8th grade class she was teaching in Selma, NC and he was not cracking a book or studying when he left her class room. She asked him to stay after school one day and she asked him, when it was just the two of them, why he wasn’t studying. He said he had to hustle on the streets when he got home, ‘cause his mother drank and if he didn’t provide his younger brothers and sisters wouldn’t eat… and anyway Aunt Wilma didn’t know what it was like being a black boy in a small southern farm town, where he got a daily dose of absolute no respect. She was an old white woman, she didn’t know nothing about his life, and he emphasized Nothing. Aunt Wilma told him to listen to what she had to say… that he had no choice but to be born black… no choice about how tall he was goin’ to be… what his momma did or didn’t do… what others around him did or said… he had no choice about that… being born here or China…but his life would be defined by the choices he made… not by anything over which he had no choice… he could choose to be happy or choose to complain about things he could not fix. Use them as any excuse he wanted. But better she said he should choose to study and learn and give happy a chance. Wrestling over things over which he had no choice – would not improve thing – and he won’t be happy. I love you, she said, and I want you to realize you are in charge of your own life. You. And you are not restricted by anything over which you had no choice.
Listen. There’s all kinds of wisdom out there. Listen. And put the information away somewhere, and then go back and get it. Do it again, and again and again and again and again. You 4, 5, 6, 7 year olds. Shut up. Listen. Practice. Practice. That’s my Aunt Wilma talking to you.
You have no choice about the IQ you are born with, but you can make a decision to improve on what you got. Listen, maybe say the information you want to remember aloud, then put it in a box in the back of your head and sometime later go get it. The more you do that, the easier it gets. And the more baskets of stuff you stored in your head…. the smarter you become, regardless of your IQ.
And here’s another clue, it’s fun socializing with friends, and you can dazzle them with listening skills they don’t cultivate – just like an American spy – but do serious focused listening with positive people who know something. Ultimately a person’s value is what he can do and what he knows.
Your friends don’t know squat; all that twitter and facebook chatter’s fluff. Don’t spend all your time there.
Identify people outside your normal circle of friends who know things, can do things… like, oh, say, a teacher for example.
Listen to them. Plus people who knows the arts, farming, the outdoors, nursing, cooking, auto mechanics… Having airhead friends is cool. Really it is. Having contacts who really know something and have time to talk with you is also cool. Listen to them. You 5-year-old girls, ask your Dad how the car engine works… the internal combustion engine. What does the carburetor do? The battery? Let him show you and listen. Ask maybe about going to a garage or car salesroom and ask a pro there. They will love to tell you how car engines work. And I promise you no other 5-year-old friend of yours will know as much. You 6-year-old guys… ask your mother how to make brownies and listen to her closely. Make a plate of brownies once a week for a month and you’ll know how the rest of your life, and you’ll know every time how good you are. You’ll taste the results.
And eventually a life’s achievement like e=mc squared can be yours.
And an inner sense of feel-good.
Believe me on this.
On another subject entirely, You ever notice how a newly born horse will get to his feet pretty soon after he is born. Whales and dolphins also come into life pretty much rearing to go. Dogs, bear cubs and birds, take loner.
Human... well they cannot live on their own for years. They're different from all the rest, what with their cognitive abilities, and imagination. They almost need post birth time to develop a soul, most warmly conceived at their mother's breast so near a beating heart.
I believe that humans go through a post birth gestation period that effects their minds and emotion in ways not clearly understood by modern medicine.... or accepted as critical in our society. I believe in our life process there is a post delivery mental birthing/awaking/acclimation period. Think about it and it'll lead to other thoughts, which we'll save for another post.