The Myth of Geniuses
"Genius is seldom recognized for what it is: a greater capacity for hard work."
"Genius often really is just persistence in disguise."
Do you believe in geniuses? I don't. The idea that some people are geniuses and the rest of us are destined for mediocrity is an idea that many believe but would not admit. This belief in geniuses has given people an excuse for a lack of success, mastery, and or fulfillment in their lives.
Growing up I was obsessed with "geniuses" I remember watching shows like "prison break" "scorpion" and "limitless" and being captivated by the brilliance of individuals. I knew this is who I wanted to become. Whenever a question was asked in school that no one knew the answer to, I would raise my hand with confidence. If I got it right, I’d congratulate myself by saying brilliant (in my head) to confirm I was on my way to genius status. When I got the question wrong, I felt no shame because no one else knew it and I knew genius would not have been easily discouraged. In my 4th-grade math class, we often did multiplication races, where everyone was given 100 problems and the first to finish won. I always strived to finish 1st. Anything I could do to prove my genius, I tried to do.
This belief in genius was more toxic than I'd realized because, where I saw an opportunity to become like the brilliant people I had admired, others saw an elite class of human beings. Though I didn't think this initially, this sentiment started to weigh on me, especially as the innocence of my childhood started to fade.
In 6th grade, I was moved to a much bigger school. Though I was still in advanced math, I was no longer at the top of the class. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but that was the beginning of the end of my math dominance. By 8th grade, I was struggling to stay afloat, rarely getting A’s. I told myself that though I’d fallen behind, I was still ahead because I was in an advanced class, but soon I lost that excuse when I was put in a standard math class in 10th grade.
“The only genius that's worth anything is the genius for hard work.”
Had my "genius" faded? Was it there to begin with? It wasn’t till the summer of 2020 when I got my answer. When I read Limitless by Jim Kwik; "Jim Kwik’s Limitless is a revelation in learning how to learn. You’ll discover new possibilities to challenge your mind and live your best life". This is a quote directly from his website, but it encapsulates the ethos of the book well. It was not just Jim Kwik; authors like Ryan Holiday and Scott Young, amongst others, showed me that genius is not binary. genius is cultivated. In that way, genius is more of a habit than a state.
Creativity and Curiosity-Leave no stones unturned, practice thinking outside of the box, ask yourself what aren't others seeing? How can I simplify this problem so that it resembles something I'm more familiar with? How do I break this down?
Curiosity: the need to ask questions, especially when no one else is asking them, a thirst for knowledge and exploration. Curiosity, in this way, is at the root of sustainable performance.
"The future belongs to the curious, the ones who are not afraid to try, explore, poke at, question, and turn it inside out."
Leaning in X Perseverance: - The Art of Finding Motivation (Hint: Start with Why)
Simply asking "How will this make me better?", can be of tremendous help. Whether it’s how will this make me a better father, student, wife, or leader, embracing hardships, especially when trying to learn/grow, is like fertilizer for the mind.
Stop believing others are destined for greatness.
Genius is more of a habit than a state of mind.
Genius can be cultivated.
The characteristics of genius are creativity, curiosity, perseverance, and courage.
I hope this article finds you when you most need it.
Sincerely and with gratitude,