Are you creative? Well, have you ever had an idea that was novel, useful and unique? If so, then yes, you certainly are creative. But a genius? Albert Einstein said, “There is a genius in all of us.” What about you? Are you a genius?
Well, are you a genius?
You probably gave one of these answers:
- “Yes, I am.” Congratulations. Do you know what form your genius takes?
- “Maybe.” You’re either humble and creative, or street-smart and flexible. In any case, you already demonstrate the fluidity and mobility of a genius mind.
- “No. I am not a genius.” You are probably a modest, self-critical or humble person, or you have a limiting belief, usually because of something you were told when you were growing up. If you said “no”, remember that Albert Einstein, who was undoubtedly a genius, disagrees with you. You must be a genius indeed to know that Einstein was wrong!
How do others see genius?
The American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller said, “Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them.” Likewise, the American novelist Mark Twain said, “Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered — either by themselves or by others.” Are you one of them?
Parents see genius when they look at their children. The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses.” That genius, though, often meets a sad fate. As the American poet Charles Bukowski said, “Almost everybody is born a genius and buried an idiot.” How does that happen?
What happened to your genius?
Most people — including you, if we’re to believe your parents and those quoted above — are born as geniuses, but lose it, perhaps because of education and socialization. After all, as the American essayist Ralph Emerson said, “Colleges hate geniuses, just as convents hate saints.” Those who are still geniuses as adults are those who manage to withstand this conditioning, and the omnipresent pressure to conform. As R. Buckminster Fuller said, “There is no such thing as genius, some children are just less damaged than others.”
What does “genius” mean, anyway?
The word “genius” derives from the same Latin root as “congenital”, meaning “present from birth”. Originally, “genius” referred to a spirit that guided you throughout your life. Those who did unusually well were thought to have an unusually strong guiding spirit, and over time the term “genius” came to refer to exceptional abilities, and to the people who possessed them.
What is one thing you are exceptionally good at?
Think about your answer to the “Are you a genius?” question. Bear in mind the origin of the word, as well as Einstein’s thoughts, and ask yourself:
- Is there one thing, anything, that you might be better at than anyone else?
- Do you have a special talent, an innate ability, or an inclination that is really “your thing”?
- Is there something extraordinary that you are able to do exceptionally well? It need not be intellectual or creative in nature; it could equally well be any other skill or activity at which you excel.
If those questions are uncomfortable, consider this — would you really rather continue to believe yourself limited, plain, common, ordinary and “de-geniused”?
I hope that these questions make you think differently about yourself, and make you realize that Einstein and the others are right about you. I hope that if you said that you are not a genius, you are now at least willing to admit that there may be genius in you after all. And if you started out as a “maybe”, perhaps you now agree with Einstein that there is genius in everyone — even you.
I know from personal experience that becoming aware that there really is a genius in everyone is eye-opening. Admitting to yourself — or, even scarier, saying to others — that you are a genius is a daunting act of courage. And so it should be. Courage in thought and deed is essential to genius.
Are you ready to reclaim the genius in you?
The English sociobiologist Desmond Morris said, “The exploration and inventions of childhood are usually trivial, but the processes they involve, the sense of wonder and curiosity, the urge to see and find and test, can be prevented from fading with age — then an important battle has been won, the battle for creativity.”
Recovering your childhood wonder and curiosity is a way of becoming more truly yourself. Goethe said, “Geniuses experience a second adolescence, whereas other people are only young once.” Would you like to regain your youthful spirit? And the French poet Charles Pierre Baudelaire said, “Genius is nothing more or less than childhood recovered by will, a childhood now equipped for self-expression with an adult’s capacities.” Are you ready to regain your childhood in order to reconnect to your inner genius? Well, then, it’s time to get started.
This article is also published in parallel in the Bangkok Post on October 10 2013.
© Dr. Detlef Reis 2013.