The genius

The genius

Genius is too elusive and too subjective to be easily identified. It requires too many traits to be simplified.

However, we can try to understand it by looking at intelligence, creativity, perseverance, and good fortune that interlinks to create a genius capable of changing the world.

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Intelligence as a yardstick

Lewis Terman, who helped pioneer the IQ test, tracked over 1,500 Californian schoolkids with IQs above 140, which is the near-genius or genius mark.

40 after the study began, the researchers noted that a number of the study's participants struggled to thrive, despite their high IQ scores. Others tested for the study that did not have a high enough IQ, grew up to become renowned in their fields.

Creativity is a part of genius that can't really be measured, but that can be explained to a certain extent. One sign of creativity is being able to make connections between seemingly different concepts.

The 'aha moment' that arises at unexpected times, like in a dream or the shower, often emerges after a period of contemplation. Information comes in consciously, but the problem is managed subconsciously, resulting in a solution when the mind least expects it.

It relies on the dynamic interplay of neural networks that work together.

It draws from both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, especially regions in the prefrontal cortex.

Geniuses are rare, numbering roughly one in a million. Genetic potential alone does not predict actual accomplishments.

Advances in genetic research now make it possible to examine human traits. But Intelligence is very complex, and thousands of genes may be involved - each one with a slight effect.

Social and cultural influences can provide that nourishment, creating a cluster of genius at moments and places in history, like Kolkata during the Bengal Renaissance, or Silicon Valley today.

The hungry mind can also find the intellectual stimulation it needs at home, where an environment can be created in which to flourish.

Motivation and tenacity

Natural gifts and a nurturing environment can still fail to produce a genius, without motivation and determination to press one forward.

Psychologist Angela Duckworth believes that a combination of passion and perseverance, or grit, drives people to achieve. Big hits emerge after many attempts. Regardless of how brilliant a person is, endurance and discipline are critical to success.

Genius cannot be singled out and cultured and nurtured without support.

  • People born in poverty or oppression don't get a chance at working toward anything other than to survive.
  • Mozart’s older sister for example, Maria Anna, a brilliant harpsichordist, had her career cut short by her father when she reached the marriageable age of 18.

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Genius And Genetics

It is a myth that genius parents have genius offspring.

There is no genius gene and genetics can be part of the mix, along with attitude, commitment, and a certain mind-set.

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Prof. Dean Simonton
“On average, creative geniuses aren’t qualitatively better in their fields than their peers, they simply produce a greater volume of work which gives them more variation and a higher chance of originality.”
The lone genius is a myth

All great achievements involve some measure of collaboration.

Some geniuses were obvious partners - like Orville and Wilbur Wright, or Marie and Pierre Curie, or John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Then there are other more obscure cases where collaboration was the driver of creativity. 

  • Van Gogh had a brother Theo, who was "as much their creator as I, because the two of us are making them together."
  • Picasso rose to the height of his creativity through a friendly rivalry with Matisse.
  • After "a lot of discussions" with Michele Besso, Einstein "could suddenly comprehend the matter."

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