Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Are We All Genius Material?

Are we all genius material? I'd like to think we are. It'a a curious term, genius, yet I have seen lots of posts in various human potential development forums about how to be a "genius".

Well, let's have a look at what trusty old Wiki says:

"A genius is a person of great intelligence, who shows an exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work. Geniuses - or genii (see Etymology) - always show strong individuality and imagination, and are not only intelligent, but unique and innovative."

So, it seems, that geniuses have the following traits: originality

Wikipedia goes on to suggest that even between geniuses, there are differences. Polymaths are the well-rounded geniuses, whereas people like our all-time favourite, Einstein, most certainly were not. Is one kind of genius better than the other?

My opinion: Being a genius is inherently worthless (except for the ego trip from the title) unless you have a real reason to be one. More importantly, because we are all original, unique and never exactly alike, by the definition above, we are already geniuses!

"You're fudging, Kaye!" I hear the cry. No, I'm not. "Genius" is a crown conferred by others, and many unrecognised geniuses live on in obscurity. A great many die in obscurity as well. All in all, it seems a pretty silly deal, especially for someone of supposed great intelligence, to aspire to genius just to obtain recognition. If it's the recognition you want, be a saint. Or a martyr. Much more mileage in that.

More importantly, the "true" geniuses never set out to be what they became. They simply followed their passion. Genius is not in the mind. It is in the heart. I sometimes think that we human intelligence movement people overlook that. To be a genius is not about being brilliant, but about having the courage to be individual, to follow your passion. True geniuses seek flow (see my piece on Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi), the state of total absorption in the subject or activity that suits their individual personalities.

So, yes, I believe we can all be geniuses. We simply have to find the right thing to be a genius about. Further, it is not a title to be pursued in its own right, but allowed to arise itself, like a diamond in the rough.

The Sources of Genius
We tap our geniuses through
  • our unique mix of knowledge and exposure
  • our curiosity in discovering different viewpoints
  • our special stance on different issues
  • our ability to formulate and express
  • our ability to critique
Those are the mechanics, anyway. My experiences suggest that it is not those that trip people up. In fact, the faculties of genius are easily trained. Many people have done it, and many more will. Few geniuses are "born".

I think the things that trip more people up are:
  • the fear of being different
  • the fear of not being safe
  • the fear of being heretical
  • the lack of interest and curiosity
  • mental laziness
  • an unwillingness to give up an existing paradigm
  • the tendency for an individual at rest or in motion to remain at rest or in motion without ever trying a different approach
None of the above is comprehensive, of course!

"Many men stumble upon ideas that could change the course of history. Most get up, dust themselves off, and keep on walking." - Author Unknown

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