Cultivating Intellectual Wealth on the Hottest Days of Summer

Wolcott, Marion Post, photographer. Parishoners of St. Thomas Church resting after spending many hous preparing food for a benefit picnic supper. Near Bardstown, Kentucky. United States Bardstown Kentucky, 1940. Aug.?. Photograph.

At 41°C (105°F) in an apartment with four children under 12 years old stuck at home all day and no air conditioning, this situation would not initially strike anyone as an opportunity to cultivate wealth. Such a day would certainly be grounds for my wife (who is in the apartment with the kids) to award me a coveted ‘Worse Husband of the Year’ certificate and my children to unanimously nominate me for the ‘Worse Dad Ever’ award. Fortunately for me, such accolades were never received. Instead that day, and the several hot days that followed, reminded me that the cultivation of multigenerational wealth can happen under the most unlikely circumstances. Such uncomfortably hot days are perfect times to think, reflect, and take action; in other words, these days should be marked for cultivating intellectual wealth. As with all types of wealth, however, cultivating intellectual wealth requires consistent effort and access to resources. What does that consistent effort look like? The following paragraphs provide some insights for you to consider on your next hot day. 

Think about problems & curiosities

Unlike physical exercise, mental exertion does not require physical movement on hot days. From the comfort of sitting on a couch or while lying outside in a shaded area, you can be still with your thoughts. In that stillness, you will find that your thoughts will frequently center around a problem or curiosity that you want to address. This interest in addressing a problem or curiosity serves as the initial source of motivation that prompts you to cultivate your intellectual wealth. For our household during the Summer, my wife’s desire to reduce the heat in our apartment and give the kids something to do served as an initial source of motivation that prompted my kids to cultivate their intellectual wealth.

Regardless of how intelligent you or others may think you are, we all possess gaps in our knowledge. Pursuing interests in addressing a problem or curiosity can help you to discover what the gaps in your knowledge may be that are preventing you from determining how best to resolve a problem or explore the full depths of your curiosity. By identifying your knowledge gaps, you gain a better awareness of the value of your current intellectual wealth and what type(s) of additional knowledge may be needed to fill your present knowledge gaps going forward. Knowing the limits of your intellectual wealth and its present-day value, put you in a position of privilege that no amount of money can buy and can indicate where you might need or want to cultivate your intellectual wealth in the future. Therefore, even if this is as far as you are able to get on really hot days after lounging around, know that you have increased your intellectual wealth a bit. To increase your intellectual wealth even more, however, will undoubtedly require you to make consistent effort to fill your knowledge gaps. There are few places I can think of that are better places to increase your intellectual wealth on a hot day (or any day) than at your local public library.

Federal Art Project, Sponsor. For Greater Knowledge on More Subjects Use Your Library More Often.
Illinois Chicago, None. [Chicago: illinois wpa art project, between 1936 and 1941] Photograph.

Visit a library

In addition to providing a much-needed refuge from the heat in the middle of Summer, public libraries (as well as those accessible online) are the among the best depositories of intellectual wealth in our time which require little to no financial cost to use. They provide potentially unlimited ways to cultivate wealth in all its forms be it financial, health, spiritual, intellectual, and/or any other type of wealth you are seeking to grow and sustain. The books, periodicals, reference guides, maps, as well as audio and visual media on hand contain vast amounts of wealth that has been accumulated over a single generation or multiple generations by various author(s) and/or editor(s). The value of this wealth, however, will remain untapped by you until you visit your local library or one online to see what is on offer and begin to consume your selected material.

In our household, we visit our local library on an almost daily basis during the Summer and have at least 40 books checked out at any given time among the six of us. A quick review of the topics covered by the books and videos indicate how diverse our curiosities and interests are, as well as what problems or concerns that are most pressing for each of us at the time of check-out. Over the years around the dinner table or while driving home after getting picked up from work or school, a wealth of knowledge obtained from our library books has been freely shared among us all and has contributed to everyone’s personal intellectual wealth. Although the relevance of the knowledge shared is not always applicable in my daily life (e.g. my wife’s knowledge of watercolor painting techniques or one of my son’s knowledge about a Minecraft world he built), knowing this knowledge may become more relevant to me later in life or at the very least provide a basis for discussions that enable me to connect with others on a hot Summer’s day regardless of age, interest, or background year round.

Harris & Ewing, photographer. Life begins at 70. Washington, D.C., Feb. 3. Retired from the Bureau
of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Interior, after 33 years of service, Mrs. Isabelle Haggett at 75 is
now a co-ed at George Washington University, proving the old adage ‘one is never to old to learn’ still
holds good. She retired from the government service inat the age of 70. Her worried expression in this
photograph can be attributed to the fact she is now boning for the mid-year exams in English Romantic
Poetry, 2-3-39. Washington D.C. Washington D.C. District of Columbia United States, 1939. February 3.

Reflect on newly acquired knowledge

As mentioned above, the immediate relevance or importance of any knowledge you currently possess and will acquire may not always be clear regardless of how hot the day may be. Only after spending time reflecting on how the new knowledge contributes to your existing knowledge, are you able to determine the value of your updated intellectual wealth. Skipping this crucial step or rushing through it tends to limit the short-term and long-term benefits you can gain from your accumulated intellectual wealth and how this wealth can grow over time. Recognition of the benefits and importance of the reflection process is not lost on older generations. These seasoned generations use their abundance of life experiences to hone their abilities to determine:

1) What type of intellectual knowledge is needed in particular situations
2) How best to fill any knowledge gaps  
3) When to deploy their intellectual wealth most effectively

Younger generations can benefit from periods of reflection as well. These generations are fortunate to have an abundance of time that allows them to accumulate vast amounts of intellectual knowledge from older generations and consider its value before it is needed or lost over extended periods of time. Additionally, they can use their periods of reflection to update any seasoned intellectual knowledge received from earlier generations for themselves and future generations. What better time to reflect on your intellectual wealth than on hot days with a glass of homemade iced tea or lemonade in hand.

Take action

Thinking, frequent trips to the library, and reflection, while important for cultivating intellectual wealth, are not enough to unlock and appreciate the full value of any intellectual wealth you may have obtained. The full value can only be realized when your intellectual wealth (or any other type of wealth) is used to improve your life or the lives of others. To avoid being one of the many individuals who go through their whole lives accumulating intellectual wealth without ever putting it to use, consider making the effort today to change. Begin by identifying ways you can use your intellectual wealth today to:              

1)  Address one immediate problem, concern, or curiosity for yourself and someone you know. 
2)  Take action on a long-term issue or interest for yourself and someone you know.       

The above suggestions are a good start to discovering the unknown value of your intellectual wealth. Repeatedly taking action is even better, but if you want to limit it to hot days at first that’s okay too.

Bowen, John T., Approximately ?, Lithographer, Frederick W Greenough, Thomas Loraine McKenney,
and James Hall. Se-Quo-Yah / R.T. ; drawn, printed & coloured at I.T. Bowen’s Lithographic
Establishment, No. 94 Walnut St. , ca. 1838. [Philadelphia: Published by F.W. Greenough] Photograph.

For those of you looking to maximize the value of your intellectual wealth, consider periodically documenting the knowledge, insights, reflections, and outcomes of decisions and actions you have accumulated over the years. This documentation can take the form of a journal (hand written or online), audio recording, or video clips and enable you to preserve your intellectual wealth for your future self and future generations. The most important action, however, is to never stop cultivating your intellectual wealth, particularly on those hot Summer days when you find that your cultivating efforts help your kids to build a homemade cooling unit for your wife in an apartment with no air conditioning on the hottest day of the year.      

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