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What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Monolithic - 04-19-2015 02:31 PM

Hey, I looked for a thread similar to this and didn't find one, so I'm posting as it's something I've always wondered about.

What is a genius? Is it just an average person who has tapped into 100% of his potential? Is genius attainable by all of us if we just give it everything? Is there a solution?

I remember reading something like most of the time we use 40% of our brain power - probably far less, that's probably what we use in an exam or a high stress assessment - but a genius is somehow able to harness 80, 90%.

I've been reading a lot about Leonardo da Vinci, recently and it seemed he really did have to work at it. We have this idea of genius as something fluid, natural, easy - but it seems this is a misnomer.

How can a person unleash his true potential? It's something I've been fascinated with for a long time and I though you folk could maybe help.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - H1N1 - 04-19-2015 03:23 PM

(04-19-2015 02:31 PM)Monolithic Wrote:  Hey, I looked for a thread similar to this and didn't find one, so I'm posting as it's something I've always wondered about.

What is a genius? Is it just an average person who has tapped into 100% of his potential? Is genius attainable by all of us if we just give it everything? Is there a solution?

I remember reading something like most of the time we use 40% of our brain power - probably far less, that's probably what we use in an exam or a high stress assessment - but a genius is somehow able to harness 80, 90%.

I've been reading a lot about Leonardo da Vinci, recently and it seemed he really did have to work at it. We have this idea of genius as something fluid, natural, easy - but it seems this is a misnomer.

How can a person unleash his true potential? It's something I've been fascinated with for a long time and I though you folk could maybe help.

I think it's like finding a diamond in nature. There may be a lot of shit around it, and it may take a lot of work to expose the inner brilliance, but it's still a diamond in there at the end of the day.

If all you've got is a rock, no amount of polishing or chiseling is going to make it into a diamond.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Fortis - 04-19-2015 03:38 PM

Uh, I think that if we look at a genius, I mean a literal genius, that they are anything but an average person who just has tapped into his potential. A lot of factors come into play when it comes to genius.

I'll use bodybuilding as an example. Phil Heath might be considered a true genius of bodybuilding. He has the genetics, the drugs, the work ethic and he recognized the opportunity to become an amazing bodybuilder.

Most people can probably work hard, but they probably don't have the genetics or the chemical assistance necessary to really become an amazing, world class body builder.

Then, there are people who actually have the genetics for it, but they don't know it because they don't train the right way to actually get their body to grow to that level, so the opportunity was missed.

Like H1N1 said, some people just don't have it in them. I do believe that what one man can do, another man CAN do, but to be a multi-discipline genius like Da Vinci takes a level of brilliance that the average human being can't manifest no matter how hard he works.

Also, the idea that people only use x percent of their brain is outdated. Each part of the brain has a different use and will be active at different times. Sustaining a mechanism as complex as the brain uses up an amazing amount of resources, I think something like 20+ percent of all oxygen entering your body goes straight to your brain, so definitely trust that you're using more than 40 percent of your brain power.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Paracelsus - 04-19-2015 10:44 PM

(04-19-2015 02:31 PM)Monolithic Wrote:  I remember reading something like most of the time we use 40% of our brain power - probably far less, that's probably what we use in an exam or a high stress assessment - but a genius is somehow able to harness 80, 90%.

This is pseudoscience. I give you Edward Fredkin of MIT:

Quote:“There is a popular view that the human mind is this fantastic thing that most of us are just barely using – 5 or 10 percent of its capacity. If we could only unleash the whole human mind and all its powers, we’d be supermen. Now my notion is that for an ordinary person to get along in society in a conventional way requires about 110 percent of the capacity of the human mind, causing breakdowns and troubles of various sorts. Basically, the human mind is not most like a god or most like a computer. It’s most like the mind of a chimpanzee and most of what’s there isn’t designed for living in high society but for getting along in the jungle or out in the fields.”

Fredkin was one of the authorities on human and artificial intelligence. This quote comes from Machines Who Think. Use this as a reset for how to think about the human mind and what it's capable of.

Quote:I've been reading a lot about Leonardo da Vinci, recently and it seemed he really did have to work at it. We have this idea of genius as something fluid, natural, easy - but it seems this is a misnomer.

My Macquarie Dictionary defines genius as--

1. Exceptional natural capacity for creative and original conceptions; the highest level of mental ability
2. A person having such capacity.

We have the idea of genius as fluid, natural, easy because that's exactly what it is. It is inbuilt, and by definition an aberration from human norms because it's exceptional.

Quote:How can a person unleash his true potential? It's something I've been fascinated with for a long time and I though you folk could maybe help.

And it's here I think we get to the nub of the problem, which is equating the "gen" in "genius" with "general" competence, ability, and so on - suggesting that a genius is one of these people who are incredibly adept and intelligent in all areas of their life and has optimised their entire existence. I'm reminded of John Travolta's bullshit movie "Phenomenon" where a brain malfunction causes him to start absorbing languages in 20 minutes, sensing earthquakes ahead of time, building new energy sources, having telekinesis, and so on.

High intelligence does not work that way. There are many different types of intelligence, and typically they don't overlap. The easiest example of this is the idiot savant: the guy who can count 2,458 toothpicks spilled on a floor with a glance but who cannot tie up his own shoelaces. Social intelligence does not equal an effective memory does not equal the ability to write evocatively does not equal the ability to solve mathematical equations at a glance.

The phrase "unleashing our true potential" always makes me sigh. It's Tony Robbins stuff, the sort of shit that gets sold to people who feel unhappy with their lives or seriously envious of others who seem to have or do more. It plays into the demand that we get what we want without effort, without mastery, just with a magic pill. Queen unconsciously hit on the great underlying obsession of the West when they wrote their mid-eighties lyric: I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now. Patience, study, and incremental improvement are not things that modern Western society wants to hear.

"Unleash your true potential" can be a poisonous phrase. It suggests you're not already living up to your "real" potential. First question being -- what is your potential? Can you put a number on it? How do you define it?

The answer is as given in the underrated movie Man of Steel: "the only way to know how strong you can be is by testing your limits."

In other words: constant practice, constantly taking on stuff that seems hard. There's no magic pill, no meditative practice, no shortcut to achieving skill or doing the best you can. It is constant work, constantly challenging yourself, constantly feeling that you are up against an unsolveable problem, constantly improving albeit gradually and in increments.

Don't be too quick to hand out the title "genius" to others. You can easily fall victim to the Halo Effect. This is a psychological blind spot we all have akin to the durability of first impressions: if someone is very competent in one field that we observe them in, we tend to assume that person is very competent in all other fields of their life as well. Genius can easily be disguised as focused practice by someone average in a narrow field.

If you're interested in the art of learning to do something, which is the real heart of genius, look up a long-recommended book here on ROK: The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. He may well represent the closest to the idea of genius as being discussed: he was a preadolescent chess master (the subject of the film Searching for Bobby Fisher), but threw it all away at 19 and went on to become a Tai Chi world champion in about three or four years. His book is full of seriously good insights on how to learn, and learn effectively.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - ElBorrachoInfamoso - 04-20-2015 03:37 AM

My definition(of course):

Genius is a combination of very high IQ with very high creativity.

By this definition, Einstein and Newton were definitely geniuses. Von Neumann was perhaps not a genius but he had a freakishly high IQ so he was able to answer many questions that geniuses were able to figure out the importance of but not answer themselves.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - RoastBeefCurtains4Me - 04-20-2015 04:25 AM

As to genius, I think it is more about creativity and breaking the mold, than ordinary high intelligence or talent.

As to reaching your potential, I strongly feel that this is a real goal, that many people fall short of. I was very smart in college, but socially inept, and didn't have very good sense as far as seeing a good path for myself, then making decisions and implementing that plan.

I fell into a skilled technician trade, and tried to start my own business. I scraped by for several years, and gradually became good in my field, but at a certain point, I was bothered that I'd fallen far short of my potential.

I went back to school, got an STEM undergrad at a mid-level school, got a STEM masters at a top school in the field, then did some far more demanding and innovative work. I've found that engineering can be a hard field, with some of the problems mentioned in other fields. But I have had some solid success.

The one thing I am satisfied with is that I have now reached my potential in a way I never would have otherwise. There are still things I want to accomplish, but I am well positioned to do so. I have risen from a middle class skilled tradesman to an upper middle class professional socially, but in my mind, doing complex tasks with programming, mathematics, and engineering at a high level is the real proof that I've done something with my life.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Guitarman - 04-20-2015 05:33 AM

The definition of genius is very high IQ. I test between 145 and 160 depending on the test and how sharp I feel at the time of the test. That is classed as " gifted , borderline genius". But Einstein/ Newton etc were higher still.

But high IQ isn't everything. Common sense, social skills, application (hard work and determination) can take you a lot further.

http://psychology.about.com/od/psychologicaltesting/f/genius-iq-score.htm


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Robert JS - 04-20-2015 06:22 AM

According to Mastery by Robert Greene, its all about hard work. He gives many examples of individuals later regarded as geniuses who were unremarkable in their abilities early in life.

For example John Coltrane did not stand out in any way when he played in his school jazz band. According to Greene, the reason for Coltrane's ascent to greatness was his unquenchable desire for spiritual expression through music. This desire drove him to practice 8 hours a day on a consistent basis, and this practice was the foundation of his genius. Today John Coltrane can rightly be considered one of the greatest musicians of the 20th Century.

Greene gives a similar account of Einstein and numerous others.

If you don't know the book, buy it on amazon and read it. It's a blueprint to mastery. There are many case studies of "geniuses" in all fields, from science to arts. I only wish I read it when I was a teenager.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Il Bersagliere - 04-20-2015 06:39 AM

Learn a skill, master a skill. In my opinion, that is the art and essence of genius.

The roman genius was architecture.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Parlay44 - 04-20-2015 07:57 AM

It's about creative problem solving. Being able to look at a situation from different perspectives and formulate a unique plan of attack. Once you've mastered how to grind through doing things the hard way you come up with a more elegant and efficient way of getting the same or better outcome.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Kabal - 04-20-2015 02:50 PM

Everyone except evil Social Darwinists know IQ doesn't matter, it's all about hardwork and believing in yourself.

Jordan


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Monolithic - 04-21-2015 09:12 AM

Thanks for your replies, I was meaning to respond yesterday but didn't have the time to formulate an articulate enough response to everyone's points. Genius is something that has long fascinated me, as so many people seem to settle for comfort and mediocrity - not fulfilling their true potential. I always wonder what a world would be like where people could see beyond this (or more people anyway.)

I am currently seeing the best minds of my generation seeking comfort and striving only for the ordinary, which distresses me. One of my best mates from Uni used to be an extraordinarily talented writer of fiction, but he is no longer pursuing it as he's doing a graduate trainee scheme - it's all about 'security' - and I get that that is massively important, but I wish it were otherwise.

Personally I am interested in fulfilling my full potential, whatever that may be - and if its a rock that I have-as in H1N1's comparison backed up by Fortis-then I want the most polished rock I can possess.

I'll order The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin and Mastery by Robert Greene today, thanks for the recommendations.

I do like Robert Greene's idea that it is all about hard work. I accept this may well not be the case however, and perhaps I am naive in my belief that those who work the hardest will be rewarded with absolute brilliance in their chosen field. I do still believe however that hard work and a positive mindset must reward, if not with genius at least with a very polished - and sharp - rock.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Saweeep - 04-22-2015 08:58 PM

The 10000 hour rule postulated by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers is an interesting read on the subject:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliers_(book)


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Monolithic - 04-23-2015 05:35 AM

(04-22-2015 08:58 PM)CrashBangWallop Wrote:  The 10000 hour rule postulated by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers is an interesting read on the subject:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliers_(book)

Cheers - I'll have a read.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Saga - 04-23-2015 06:10 AM

It's almost always a combination of natural talent and work ethic. Mozart wrote his first symphony when he was 8...the amount of innate genius in such a person is beyond comprehension much less imitation. However there's little doubt that even the most talented have to work hard to maximize their gifts, because plenty of talent goes wasted (for a variety of reasons), and plenty of less-talented people achieve distinction in their fields.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Saweeep - 04-23-2015 06:42 AM

(04-23-2015 06:10 AM)Saga Wrote:  It's almost always a combination of natural talent and work ethic. Mozart wrote his first symphony when he was 8...the amount of innate genius in such a person is beyond comprehension much less imitation. However there's little doubt that even the most talented have to work hard to maximize their gifts, because plenty of talent goes wasted (for a variety of reasons), and plenty of less-talented people achieve distinction in their fields.

Oddly enough, Gladwell touches on Mozart in his book.

If memory serves me correctly, Mozart's father was something to do with composing and the boy was made to practice whatever it is composers do nearly all day every day from a young age. Gladwell's conclusion was that when he wrote his greatest work as a teenager (I think), he had already amassed over 10k hours of practice.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Paracelsus - 04-23-2015 08:25 PM

(04-23-2015 06:10 AM)Saga Wrote:  However there's little doubt that even the most talented have to work hard to maximize their gifts, because plenty of talent goes wasted (for a variety of reasons), and plenty of less-talented people achieve distinction in their fields.

You'll hear this sentiment repeated in many different forms, but it is consistent. Talent without work attached to it will get you nowhere, because there's nothing more common than people with talent. Robert McKee tells us that "talent on its own is like rocket fuel without a rocket: it burns wildly but accomplishes little."


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Beyond Borders - 04-24-2015 12:10 AM

I think we all have innate inclinations towards particular things, but it's true that wasted talents are a dime a dozen. Talent is nothing without hard work. Give me someone with what seems like a natural God-given propensity for their area of mastery, and I would bet money there are plenty just like them living even today who never bothered to try doing something with their lives.

You can master some things by working your ass off, and many so-called geniuses have done this in areas where they didn't have a tendency for greatness, but obviously you're best off focusing energy on the things that seem to just come to you.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Andreas - 04-24-2015 04:23 PM

What about Nikola Tesla? His parents were both inventors which means he had a good foundation for scientific discoveries. At the same time though, you see a man who was at least 50 years ahead of his time with inventions that no one would have thought were possible. I believe this guy was a genius but at the same time worked his ass off to accomplish the unimaginable.

There were plenty of inventors around the world who worked hard but they only accomplished just a fraction of what this guy did, so Nikola Tesla , I believe is the definition of a genius. I don't think hard work alone is enough to make as much as he did. Same goes for other historical figures such as da Vinci.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Saweeep - 04-24-2015 07:59 PM

There's just no such thing as a lazy genius.

They are the preserve of tv shows and other works of fiction.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Paracelsus - 04-25-2015 12:24 AM

(04-24-2015 04:23 PM)Andreas Wrote:  What about Nikola Tesla? His parents were both inventors which means he had a good foundation for scientific discoveries. At the same time though, you see a man who was at least 50 years ahead of his time with inventions that no one would have thought were possible. I believe this guy was a genius but at the same time worked his ass off to accomplish the unimaginable.

There were plenty of inventors around the world who worked hard but they only accomplished just a fraction of what this guy did, so Nikola Tesla , I believe is the definition of a genius. I don't think hard work alone is enough to make as much as he did. Same goes for other historical figures such as da Vinci.

There's no doubting Tesla's intellect, but it was very narrowly focused: he had no sense of economic self-preservation, his inventions were cheated or outright stolen off him by far less brilliant men like Edison and Marconi, and he died a pauper.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - speakeasy - 04-28-2015 03:34 AM

I was checking out on Jayman's blog and he had a graphic that outlined a theoretical structure of intelligence. Even though there are multiple forms of intelligence, they rest upon something called "g". An underlying general intelligence that serves as a foundation that all the sub-intelligences are built upon.

[Image: g-hierarchy.png]

I think one component of intelligence often overlooked is speed; your brain's processing power. One thing that separates geniuses from the crowd is their ability to understand complex ideas rapidly. Whereas a normal person may need to study many hours to grasp calculus or theoretical physics, a genius may breeze right through it. Very smart people tend to just "get it" quicker than everyone.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - bad guy - 05-05-2015 03:32 AM

I think genius can be as simple as being able to see past what everyone else sees and come up with an idea or concept that solves a problem elegantly. And one doesnt have to manifest this - although it would be better to - postulating or publishing it can be enough. Like Einstein's theories, among others.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - Ibagemyoutagem - 05-05-2015 10:15 AM

from my experience. there are alpha humans as their is silverbacks in gorillas who are capable of expanding and building knowledge while people like me isn't capable of doing that. Im just capable of learning from experience and if the situation reoccurs then I am able to handle it effectively vs new situations I will be unable to create a solution without some kind of experience.


RE: What is Genius, is it something you can reach through hard work? - General Mayhem - 05-05-2015 01:18 PM

Genius is not something you can reach through hard work in my opinion.

I never really understood genius until I befriended one. Intellectually this guy can run circles around anyone else I have ever known. His intelligence is much different than some of the engineers I know with near perfect GPAs in university. He doesn't have to work nearly as hard as they do. He just seems to have an unlimited ability when it comes to academics. He knows like 5 languages fluently and I've seen him have fluent conversations in Chinese and Russian.

It's pretty amazing but at the same time a lot of it is pretty meaningless, like having the capitals of every country in the world memorized. It's like a circus of intelligence and he comes off as a really smart clown. He also sucks with people and doesn't understand the world from a rational perspective.

I would rather be me.