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What Kind of “Intelligent” Are You?

Let’s try to be all the kinds.

Seriously no idea how to do this thing yet, but it’s not too late. | Magic Room Brand

I love hearing about interesting stories or ideas that make me think. There are a lot of places to find them: radio, internet, and social media, to name a few.

My favorite source is my wife, who told me about a story she heard on NPR a few days ago.

The piece examined the evolution of intelligence in people, more specifically, the two main “types” of intelligence that people go through: fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.

I’m not entirely sure I agree with the whole idea, but there are ideas here that resonated with me.

Fluid intelligence

The study states that “fluid intelligence” is the ability to think, analyze, and learn quickly. It’s this kind of intelligence that is at the root of creativity and innovation.

But the study goes on to say that fluid intelligence starts to wane in your 30s. This point is used to explain why people tend to hit a wall in their careers a few years later when in their 40s.

I mean, I can see that, I guess…but it’s hard to accept as a universal, hard truth — coming from someone who left corporate life to start a business which requires a ridiculous amount of creativity.

But wait, there’s more…

Crystallized intelligence

This kind of intelligence is what the study says replaces fluid intelligence, and is what allows an older age group to instruct or teach. This, though, is often missed or ignored by professionals in their 40s and 50s because their too busy freaking the F out about all that lost fluid intelligence.

But crystallized intelligence steadily grows through your 40s, 50s, and even 60s, and stands on the strong foundation of all the things that you’ve learned. You’ve gone through the shit and lived to tell about it, so you have a vast intellectual library of references and knowledge that enable you to now teach and directly impact those with fluid intelligence coming out of their ears.


Ok, I like this. I like this all a lot and agree with the premise of how our brain evolves from learning, to applying, then to teaching. I get it.

But, it loses me with the implication that once you hit a certain age, your ability to think creatively, or execute with innovation, wanes. That’s a bold claim because if you’re focused on using your brain in those ways — regardless of your age — it’s my belief that you will be able to keep effectively contributing in that way. I mean sure, maybe it gets harder to use your brain in that way, but if you go out of your way to do so…then that type of intelligence should remain.

Then, perhaps it’s possible to have a healthy mix of both fluid and crystallized intelligence.


Learn by teaching

If teaching, or the act of passing knowledge on, is the defining character of crystallized knowledge, then it should be known that being able to do that effectively requires innovation and creativity — in a big way. So, fluid intelligence is not only a predecessor of crystallized intelligence, but also an important ingredient of it.

So, with all due respect to Arthur Brooks who drafted the initial discussion on these kinds of intelligence, I’m not on board with the idea of one kind of intelligence replacing or morphing into the other. I agree that crystallized intelligence is a thing, but it’s possible — maybe necessary — to have both kinds of intelligence in order to instruct, manage, or direct the younger generations who are willing to listen.

When I was in college, I discovered that the best way for me to study for an exam was to teach someone else the material. That same idea is present here. Using your crystallized intelligence can nurture, and extend the shelf-life, of your fluid intelligence.

As a founder of a business, I don’t think I have the luxury of having only one kind of way my brain works. I mean, not to assume that my brain works at all…but if it does, it needs to work in a lot of ways. As a parent…yeesh, even more so.

But I’m a big proponent for exercising creativity and nourishing its appetite. It gets more difficult, I know, but the more we can do it as we age, the more we might be able to learn fluidly and then teach crystallized concepts…even if only to ourselves.

Now, go learn something.


Vijoy Rao || Founder // Magic Room Brand
Sound. Strength. Sustainability. Eco-friendly music accessories for today’s musician. | Magic Room Brand



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Vijoy Rao

Vijoy Rao

Drummer • Painter • Father • Founder of @magicroombrand • Lover of records, ballpark nachos, and bad puns — sometimes all at once.