Which three simple hobbies can make you smarter every day?

ONE. Watching documentaries on the ancient worlds. The best part? You don’t need cable TV, just an Internet connection. Go to YouTube and search BBC and History Channel documentaries. One of my favorite historians is Bettany Hughes whose series The Ancient Worlds is full of details she divulges passionately in each episode. 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.

TWO. Listening to podcasts. As you keep moving from place to place every day (walking, taking the bus or train, driving to and from work or school), chances are you’re polluting your brain with commercials and radio. Why not take control over the input of information during this time? Choose podcasts that are fun, 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:

  • Optimize with Brian Johnson (condensed big ideas from the best books on optimal living and also micro classes on how to apply these ideas)
  • 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)
  • 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)

THREE. Reading books. Why should you read? It’s the equivalent of living multiple lives; reading can stimulate your imagination, build your critical thinking skills, and ultimately give you food for thought on how you could respond differently to what is happening in your life. Pick fiction, non-fiction, or both, depending on what you enjoy:

  • Fiction: Dive deep into the lives of others and get lost in private lives of fictional characters, find out what makes them tick, ask yourself what would you do in their place.
  • Non-fiction: Learn from the experiences of others in their quest to live a happier life, become healthy, start a business, excel at a skill, overcome an obstacle, live a life with more meaning and a sense of purpose.
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