What are top hobbies that make you smarter?

Watching documentaries on the ancient worlds. YouTube is full of them; so is BBC; so is the History Channel. One of my favorite historians is Bettany Hughes and I loved her series called The Ancient Worlds; her passion for what she does, her interest in this time in history and the details she divulges in each episode are a delight to see and hear. Bonus: you learn about everyday life in ancient Alexandria, Rome, Athens… and about the way society was organized among Minoans, Spartans, and the Moors. Another excellent 3-part series by the BBC is Ibn Battuta: The Man Who Walked Across the World.

Listening to podcasts. We spend a lot of time every day going from place to place; we walk, take the bus, train, we drive for what seems an eternity on the highway. Why pollute your brain with commercials and radio? Take control over the input of information during this time of your day by selecting podcasts that are fun, that feed your imagination, suggest ways to improve your daily life, give practical tips on managing your time, your career, your personal goals. Here are a few I like:

  • Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod (creator of The Miracle Morning, provides ideas to cultivate a morning routine and be productive early in the day)
  • Ask Altucher (Q&A sessions with entrepreneur/investor/writer, where he responds to questions from listeners on a variety of topics)
  • Optimize with Brian Johnson (condensed big ideas from the best books on optimal living and also micro classes on how to apply these ideas)
  • Happier With Gretchen Rubin (a fun show led by bestselling author of “The Happiness Project” with small ideas you can apply to your life to exercise your happiness muscle)
  • Planet Money (stories about smart people, economics, politics)
  • Radiolab (show about curiosity, interesting ideas, science, philosophy)

Reading books. There are writers, and then there are writers. The people who are such excellent storytellers that you are drawn into their world so quickly, so deeply, that you cannot put the book down, and you want to continue following the conversations, you want to befriend the characters because they are fascinating people, you want to learn what makes them do the things they do, go in the direction they choose to go, you want to try their skin on for size and see if it fits. Who are the writers who fit this description for you? Write them in the comments below. Two books that stole my heart recently: Orhan Pamuk’s A Strangeness In My Mind and Elena Ferrante’s The Neapolitan Novels.

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