Expand Your Crystallized Experience
When you ride a bike, you’re depending on crystallized intelligence to keep you upright. The facts and skills acquired over a lifetime represent the crystallization of what you know.
Crystallized knowledge differs from what we call fluid intelligence, which is the ability to reason and think through a problem. Crystallized intelligence is the capacity to learn new things, store that knowledge, and, later, to act on it.
While fluid intelligence declines with age, crystallized intelligence continues to expand throughout adulthood—if you feed it by continually mastering new skills. For leaders, investing in learning new things amplifies natural curiosity and encourages the creativity that prevents fluid intelligence from deteriorating too quickly.
Expanding your crystallized intelligence is hard work, but well worth the effort. Anytime you begin to learn and master a new and complex endeavor, one that requires mental and physical dexterity, you enhance your crystallized intelligence.
When learning something hard to master, the brain responds by reorganizing neural pathways and making powerful new connections. This increase in brain plasticity improves memory and allows for faster learning when it comes to everything else.
Learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, completing a sommelier exam, discovering how to sculpt or paint, soaking up gardening, attaining flower arranging skills, experimenting with calligraphy, mastering rock climbing, experimenting with flyfishing, learning to code. Likely, you can think of many other learning activities that should make the list.
The bottom line is that we need to master new skills throughout our lives. The busy schedules leaders keep often prevents the necessary investment of diving deep into a new learning arena. While we may be making more progress in the short term by focusing exclusively on work tasks and projects, the consequence of not finding and mastering a new creative activity inhibits our intellectual development over the long term.
A mind capable of great leadership always has something new to learn.