My father has frequently said the following: "The more words one knows, the clearer one can think and articulate." He sourced it from someone else he heard the phrase from. It is so true. The greater one's vocabulary the more effectively they can think. No longer are things the black and white of good and bad, but the many shaded colors of magnificent, repulsive, glorious, or disdainful. Yes, all are good and bad, but so many variations and levels of this "goodness" or "badness."
To sharpen ones mind to operate on not just the literary level--it is important to be able to articular oneself on the written and spoken level. It is important to be a well balanced individual, to truly know ones mathematics, history, science, and literature. There is much more that the term "academics" covers, but those four preceding shall suffice for now. With those four elements, one can operate, wield and funcitons at much greater levels in society, in ones job and in the common every day interactions and encounters along Main Street.