Source of genius

Is being a genius something we get at birth, something we acquire by hard work or some luck that comes to people who are prepaired for it? Can someone willingly become a genius? There is simply not enough statistical evidence to decide one way or another. Take this article for example. From looking at it we can easily understand that risk-taking and being a genius come together. Does that mean that taking risks will make you a genius? Not by a long shot. Let us consider this from different angles.

  1. Power of perspectives.Genius people see things other people are blind do. This is because genius can take a perspective others cannot take. A disproportionately large number of geniuses were immigrants or refugees. Many geniuses changed their professions. Some had mental illness issues or severe social problems – things which did not allow them to be average people.
  2. Superior productivity. Not all of geniuses worked harder, but most of them are very prolific. If great discoveries come from luck, to get that luck one needs to be prepared to try much more often then the peers. Failing comes with the territory, learning from failures is something that not everyone can do. If you learn from your failures, you will fail each time differently, thus increasing the chances of something extraordinary to happen.
  3. Creative noise. Quiet simple life is not building geniuses very often. Periods which created geniuses were periods of tremendous wealth and tremendous turmoil, power redistribution, rise of new ideas. Italy in the time of renaissance, Athens in the time of Pericles, Europe between the two world wars – these were not quiet times and places, yet there was enough stability to generate great things. A feeling of something huge that about to take place makes people restless and more creative.
  4. Lifelong learning. Most geniuses do not stop learning. Understanding of how far we are from what we can be is a strong driving power. If you are content with who you are and the way the world works, how can you become the engine of change?
  5. Extreme resilience. None of the things listed above is comfortable or pleasant. To thrive in the sort of environment that builds geniuses one needs extreme resilience: ability to fail, take criticism and ridicule, take career risk, invest months of work without seeing results… Extreme resilience is required to survive that.
  6. Meeting extraordinary people. Geniuses are seldom standalone, they are quite often outstanding individuals within clusters of extraordinary people. The best chance to winning a Nobel price have people close to other Nobel price winners. Ideas do not come from vacuum, they come from prolific discussions. Some people are good at generating questions, others are good at answering them.
  7. Natural gifts. We all have some things that are natural for us, things which we do best without even noticing it. Given the right person, adequate training and the right environment – these skills can be of tremendous value. There are so many things we do, that each of us is probably highly talented at least in some of them. Most of us are too busy trying to achieve what everybody wants to develop the things that makes us special. Genius are lucky to develop the skills that make them special, and quite often have to endure a lot as a result.

All of the traits above are common or can be learnt given enough motivation. There are many people who have all of the traits above, yest very few accomplish something great. Most of the great discoveries of 20th century were made not by a single individual, but by a team. Being an individual genius is not a happy life, accompanied with high risks. Being a part of a successful team is less risky and more rewarding. Probably if you truly want to change the world, think how to contribute as a part of a great team. You will still need to learn, you will need to encourage disorder (to shake up the status quo), diversity (of people and viewpoints), and discernment (which is accomplished by having a lot of ideas and tossing the bad ones). Yet you will be surrounded by extraordinary people, and this is highly rewarding.

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