Which habits should you practice (and avoid) to become smarter? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by John L. Miller, software engineer/architect and veteran of Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, on Quora:

I differentiate three types of 'smart':

  • Wise. The opposite of foolish. Good judgement based on lots of experience and knowledge.
  • Learned. Possessed of rote knowledge, a set of facts and information the person can recall at will to apply to the situation.
  • Intelligence. The ability to learn, a nice spice that makes learning easier.

You can be intelligent, but lack the discipline and ability to be wise or learned. You can be learned without being intelligent or wise, and so on.

To become wise, ask the question 'why' for each thing that you see, and get an understanding of why things are the way they are, and how they fit together. Gain life experience that guides you to understanding the ramifications of different choices, hopefully before they have to be made again.

To become learned, study and memorize. Learn how to learn, where to find facts. Figure out ways to relate those facts to the situations you care about, be it work or day to day life.

In my opinion there's little you can do to become more intelligent. Accept that there is no such thing as an absolute fact, question everything, but not in a manner which delays your ability to act. Observe the behaviors of people who you believe are intelligent, and try to find a reasonable way to emulate them. Find heuristics for solving common types of problems, so you can quickly do so.

Above all, realize that intelligence is an enabler, and being wise and learned are better things to strive for: they have significant value on their own, where being intelligent without them does not.

This question originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

Published on: Mar 19, 2018