Apparently, not that much. Most of the revered contributors of life aren’t geniuses, they ‘do’ genius. They weren’t born experts, they have cultivated basic potential into astonishing talent. They earned their virtuosity.
The grandmasters of life, whatever the field in which they practice their superiority, share a constellation of basic traits. Condensed to its essence, their formula consists of six ingredients:
• They have a fine intelligence. There is an illusion that those regarded as geniuses have been in front of the queue when stratospheric IQ’s were handed out. Many legends in their field had a ‘normal’ intelligence; the basic cognitive ability to learn and discover.
• They have an insatiable curiosity in their area of interest. They endlessly attend to the subtleties of their field and are grabbed by the undercurrents and detail that are practically invisible to others. They are students for life.
• They work methodically and aren’t distractible. This leads to an exponential accumulation of knowledge in their zone of attention. They do more than what is required, much more – a spontaneous habit that is often interpreted as a touch of madness. They don’t let go.
• They aren’t isolated. They fertilise their quest with interpersonal exchanges, tapping into a network of knowledge, the push-and-pull of other views and ideas. They expose their insights to the rigours of sincere, evaluative conversations. They un-egotistically learn from others.
• They are open-minded and not intimidated by ‘the norm’. Their search reaches beyond the comfort of standards and social moulds. Their inquiry is fearless – and they even challenge their own perspectives. They forever experiment – and accept that failures and accidental discoveries in any trial are the building blocks of improvement. They look at the same things in more than one way.
• They create space for imagination. They seek resemblances between separate ideas and allow for novel combinations – being tolerant to ambivalence between opposites and incompatibility. They express their thoughts visibly and unconventionally in maps, diagrams, drawings and images.
Many people come and go without unlocking their genius. It is such a loss to the world. They never close the gap between latent aptitude and extraordinary achievement. So many could have gained from it. May you decide differently – and make the universe pause at your magic.