Henry David Thoreau
When I was eight, I remember riding in a car with other Cub Scouts. My Cub Master was driving us home after an event at a local church. Before we started the trip, I remember giving him general directions to my home. But as we neared my house, he asked me a question that still haunts me to this day: “Should I turn left or right?” At that moment, my mind went blank. I was shocked and baffled. One second I was talking and laughing with my friends and the next I was solely responsible for the immediate destiny of the car and all its occupants. I felt like Captain Kirk on the Starship Enterprise. All eyes in the car were on me and I was (and still am) horrible with directions.
Why does it haunt me?
After some stuttering, I murmered, “I think it’s to the left.” I could tell my lack of confidence annoyed the driver. He commented, “Don’t you know where you live?” to which I replied with a nervous laugh, “Yeah! Sure!”
That was on the surface. Underneath I wasn’t too happy with myself. “How could I be so dumb? So slow?” “What was I thinking?” “I’m 8 years old and I can’t tell my right from my left.”
I knew at an early age that being smart means keeping one's mind focused. Unfortunately, I was using the only technique known to me at the time. Only later did I find out the technique damaged my self-image.
Over the years, I’ve learned that the only difference between a mind regarded as slow and one regarded as quick is its level, frequency, and duration of focus. If you’re upset, hungry, anxious, love-starved or sleepy, then you’re going to be unfocused. However, if you have a clear head, healthy body, and free spirit, you’re most likely quick-witted. A focused mind thinks in a manner that is not random and not impulsive. It’s articulate, decisive, and knowledgeable.
What does it take to become smart?
In one word, consistency. But I’ll leave that topic for another post.
In my case, my thinking is crystal clear at times, but more often than not it’s definitely fuzzy and uncentered. Take the story from above. My priority as an 8 year old was not to give street directions to others. So I never really practiced telling my left from my right. Of course today, I can quickly give others directions (usually by gesturing with my hands), but I still have higher, more pressing thoughts and feelings going on inside my head. I believe I am smart, but it’s more of an internal intelligence. I have the uncanny ability of controlling my temper, my appetite, and my alertness. I am the captain of my ship. Again, much like Captain Kirk.