What separates humans from other species? It’s not language, tool use, culture, teamwork or even most forms of intelligence.
(Chimps do surprisingly well at modified IQ tests.)
One of the things that makes us unique probably shouldn’t define us. It’s not as romantic as our intelligence or adaptability… but it’s something no other animal does to the same extent.
What is this mysterious (and kinda boring-sounding) thing that separates us from the animals?
Our ability to take internal processes and outsource them, literally.
Millions of years ago, some clever apes started playing with fire. They learned that cooking, soaking, cutting and grinding food made it easier to digest. This allowed their digestive systems to become smaller and more energy efficient.
If that doesn’t sound like a big deal, remember that guts are energy hogs. These processes freed up the calories we needed to evolve our big brains.
In other words, we outsourced a lot of digestion to the world around us. All the hard work was done before the food ever touched our lips.
Early hunters started carrying waterskins, which outsourced big, bulky bladders.
Then somewhere along the line, humans started telling stories and writing on cave walls. That’s right, we outsourced memory.
Today, with computers and big data, we’ve outsourced certain kinds of thinking.
And every one of these developments changed what’s possible.
You can’t be too smart if you eat by pulling wild, undomesticated veggies from the soil and shoving them in your gob.
You can’t hunt for long distances if you need to stop every couple of hours to find water.
Knowledge doesn’t accumulate fast enough if you have to invent and remember everything.
And the world would look a lot different without computers. If we had to do all these calculations and other tasks by hand, we’d be living in a smaller world.
But it’s not all good.
Our small stomachs mean we can’t process poisons as well as other species. We’d keel over from something a giraffe would happily chow down on.
If you lose your waterskin or forget how to make fire, you’re in for some hurt.
And outsourcing our thinking risks making us mentally lazy. The smartest people use the best of humans with the best of machines. Too many of us blindly follow our digital navigators, literally and figuratively.
I’m not saying you should forsake technology. No, if anything you probably need to use more.
And more of your internal processes too.
You become more complete when you embrace the subtler human skills – instinct, intuition, relationships, drive, enthusiasm and wisdom.
Like anything else, these take practice and focus.
So learn how to practice them and focus, with exercises so simple you can do them almost anywhere.
Yet so powerful they rebuild your mind from the ground up.
Here’s everything you need to learn one of the most unusual and effective mind training disciplines on the planet:
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