The Genius in us

Just recently I stumbled through my blogs and found a link on muddy colors about a documentation called "My Brilliant Brain" which is indeed a very great scientific and visual exploration about how brains do work.

While it reminded me on the BBC episode Glad to be mad it gives great insights into three different kinds of geniuses:
  1. The born genius
  2. The genius made through education
  3. The genius by accident, through brain damage ie.
The history of the genius is as interesting as the scientific results of our days.
When viewing these documentation one thing was totally clear to me: either of these "child prodigies" or geniuses has been nurtured by their parents to go on with their gift, or by themselves to do what they have to do.

Is there a difference after 10000 hours?
This is interesting, because it arouse a question in me: " If a born and an educated genius both arrive at the 10k hours of practicing, will there be a difference at all?"

From the technical point of view, I´d say no, but from the mental ability how to create things and deal with learning, I guess the born genius has a little advantage.

But when it comes down to the 10000 hour rule everyone has to be clear to themselves; is that really what I want to do in my life? It seems to me that people with a genius have just one advantage; they are totally clear about their objectives and about their profession and never, ever put in question why they are on earth.
The earlier in life you get motivated from everyone else, its obvious that you don´t need to spent a dime on self doubt.

With that in mind, isn´t then everyone a genius who just practices hard enough, breaks the 10k, 20k hours barrier and insists to have a profession? Maybe.

According to Seth Godin, everyone is a genius at times, and no one is a genius all the time, I love this phrase, because its true. Everyone has had the  HEUREKA moment and to me it describes exactly how to achieve it. Look at Musicians for example, Depeche Mode has at least 2 hits on every album they´ve released, is that genius? Or just great observation of mainstream? Or compare artists who dare to sell shit in tins to museums, are they geniuses? 

No, I guess not, they are just rad and play with audacity and authority to gain media interest in what they do.
But to have at least 2 hits on every album released, needs more of a genius in the long run, and it describes very good what S. Godin wants to express.

Autistic dedication to a craft
There are some things all these people from the documentations have in common; dedication, autistic features  and a burden.

I cannot arrogate to know anything about what makes a genius, but I´m as much interested as anyone else to find out more about that matter. One great observation I share with a lot artist-friends whom I know personally is the fact that a healthy, autistic features in combination with dedication often referred to as "flow" helps us concentrating. I also won´t like to share the pressure a child prodigy has to live with, the expectations of others must be incredible and somewhat daunting.

There was even this child Kieron, who paints like an old master, but to be honest, this isn´t a prodigy and even not something that works out in the long run. 680 + people on a waiting list is a lot of pressure for a seven year old kid and I bet when he´s 15 and want to play soccer for fun or want to do anything else for a living, the childhood is gone for the sake of success. 

I´m sharing the same opinion as Seth Godin when it comes to the statement that our society is drumming the genius part out of us for the Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for stability. But everything comes with a prize tag and paying with a "gone" childhood is probably something that isn´t for anyone and its twice wasted if its not spent wholeheartedly on something, so again the born genius has the advantage that in early years a chance of a lifetime can appear, if nurtured positively.

The scientific results combined with the right motivation can empower the impossible and the combined power of a lifelong student and learner with the artistic dedication of an artist has enormous possibilities in the long run.

And guess what, this is true for anyone who wants to achieve something in life. I say, and these documentations are the proof, that our brain needs constant updates, bits of learning and measurements, pushing the boundaries and challenges on a regular basis. No wonder that the higher educated have the better jobs Did you ever wondered why those working from 9-to-5 are more likely to stop their abilities to grow when falling into the trap of the factory worker, where the end with alcoholism is programmed?

I´ve worked in factories too and have seen those people, without a future, without a perspective and the groundhog day repeating again and again and again.

If you have spent a few weeks on the assembly line you know what is meant with "drumming the genius part out". Working from home isn´t easy either and I doubt that some geniuses can live without help, let alone reminding them to eat or make breaks... again, everything comes with a price tag.

To end this observational post, I found this quote from Randy Pausch very fitting: "We cannot change the cards we dealt, just how we play the hand."

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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook


  1. Ive just read a book on drive and intrinsic motivation, and this post correlates nicely with that perspective - particularly the notion of 'flow' ;)

    Good stuff mate




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