Genius. A Redefinition.

Uros Petrovic - Genius

Genius is misunderstood. Not Geniuses- the concept of Genius. Most people I’ve spoken to about intelligence have a lot of misconceptions about it- how it works, its value and its presence in different people. It’s something I think about a lot. And it’s something that’s infinitely damaging to children, through parents’ expectations and delusions, teacher’s priorities, and more or less the entire educational system.

David Brooks wrote a great column in the NY Times, which I think should be required reading for everyone- especially any parent with children still in school. It sidles up to Gladwell’s Outliers book a bit too obviously, but it takes Gladwell’s point farther, and provides a great example.

I’m going to copy/paste sections of his article- check out his example of how a genius actually develops.

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If you wanted to picture how a typical genius might develop, you’d take a girl who possessed a slightly above average verbal ability. It wouldn’t have to be a big talent, just enough so that she might gain some sense of distinction. Then you would want her to meet, say, a novelist, who coincidentally shared some similar biographical traits. Maybe the writer was from the same town, had the same ethnic background, or, shared the same birthday — anything to create a sense of affinity.

This contact would give the girl a vision of her future self. It would, Coyle emphasizes, give her a glimpse of an enchanted circle she might someday join. It would also help if one of her parents died when she was 12, infusing her with a profound sense of insecurity and fueling a desperate need for success.

Armed with this ambition, she would read novels and literary biographies without end. This would give her a core knowledge of her field. She’d be able to chunk Victorian novelists into one group, Magical Realists in another group and Renaissance poets into another. This ability to place information into patterns, or chunks, vastly improves memory skills. She’d be able to see new writing in deeper ways and quickly perceive its inner workings.

Then she would practice writing. Her practice would be slow, painstaking and error-focused.

Then our young writer would find a mentor who would provide a constant stream of feedback, viewing her performance from the outside, correcting the smallest errors, pushing her to take on tougher challenges. By now she is redoing problems — how do I get characters into a room — dozens and dozens of times. She is ingraining habits of thought she can call upon in order to understand or solve future problems.

The primary trait she possesses is not some mysterious genius. It’s the ability to develop a deliberate, strenuous and boring practice routine.

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I recommend you read the entire article- which is HERE.

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1 Response

  1. Jeremy Kotin says:

    Wow, that’s like the dark side of Outliers. So cynical! But kinda true…

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