In this issue ~~
* Accessing Genius
* Creative Tip
* Wise Words
For most of us, when we think of "genius," Einstein
or Mozart comes to mind. Certainly not ourselves. We see genius
as the domain of the elite – the extremely smart or extremely
talented. In Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants
of Human Behavior, David Hawkins (www.veritaspub.com) says that genius resides
within all of us, that the processes of creativity and genius
are inherent in human consciousness. Every one of us has moments
of genius, but they often surprise us and we don't know where
they came from.
It has become clear to us that much of our genius is squashed
at an early age. School curriculums are standardized in the interest
of conformity and control and rarely address diverse talents
and learning styles. If you perform outside the expected norms,
there is no context for your creativity, and it will often be
suppressed as an undesirable deviation, rather than encouraged
as unique and noteworthy.
In discussing this topic, I'm going to call on some experts,
beginning with Merriam-Webster, who defines "genius"
as "extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested
in creative activity," but also as "a peculiar, distinctive,
or identifying character or spirit" – in other words, your
unique gifts and talents! Everyone is a genius and an artist.
Your genius may be in painting or music or writing, or your artistry
may be in making people feel comfortable, organizing events,
fixing cars, raising children or raising tomatoes.
We often miss these flashes of genius because we narrowly
define genius by either high IQ or outstanding artistic ability.
But IQ only measures one type of intelligence. In his new book,
Intelligence Reframed, in which
he expands on his earlier work on multiple intelligences, Howard
Gardner (www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm) posits
9 separate intelligences: logical-mathematical, musical, linguistic,
bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, natural
(as in "nature") and spiritual/existential.
Gardner defines intelligence as ". . . a biophysiological
potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural
setting to solve problems or create products that are of value
in a culture." Clearly, there are many ways to process information
that contribute to a culture. Many of our most useful inventions
were created by ordinary people.
In the 1950s, a divorced secretary, fearing for her job when
the speed of her new electric typewriter caused her to make more
mistakes than usual, filled an empty nail polish bottle with
white tempera paint to cover her typing mistakes, thereby inventing
Liquid Paper. In 1948, a Swiss electrical engineer came back
from a nature hike with his clothes covered with burrs. His curiosity
led him to look at them under a microscope, where he saw what
looked like little hooks that had attached themselves to the
fabric of his trousers. He saw its potential as a unique fastener,
and after a few years of experimentation, Velcro was born.
Michael Gelb (www.michaelgelb.com)
has made a career of studying geniuses. He cites seven critical
principles, which he learned from Leonardo da Vinci (www.mos.org/sln/Leonardo/LeoHomePage.html),
that need to be followed to bring out your genius:
~ Curiosita: An insatiably curious approach to life.
~ Dimostrazione: Willingness to learn from mistakes and continually
test theories through experience.
~ Sensazione: Using the senses to connect with the world around
~ Sfumato: A willingness to embrace contradictory ideas, ambiguity,
paradox, and uncertainty.
~ Arte/Scienza: Developing a balance between science and art,
logic and imagination: "whole-brain thinking."
~ Corporalita: Taking care of the physical body, cultivating
fitness and poise.
~ Connessione: Recognizing and appreciating the connectedness
of all things: "systems thinking."
These are practices we can all embrace. While the world around
us may not seek out our genius, we can value and nurture it ourselves,
working with the principles of daVinci and the examples of his
peers to create a welcome environment for it.
~ Genius emerges from the interplay of logic and imagination.
Gelb calls these "critical thinking" and "creative
thinking." Both are vital to powerful thinking. Logic alone
is earthbound, while imagination alone is ungrounded. Put the
two together, and magic happens.
~ One of the most important components of genius is intensity
of focus. When you're working in your arena of genius, it's easy
to get intensely involved in your creation or quest for hours
at a time. When this is alternated with time away, in which you
give your ideas time to germinate, inspiration arises.
If focus is difficult for you, you can train yourself. In
Conquest of Mind, spiritual teacher
Eknath Easwaran (www.easwaran.org)
says, "It is the nature of the untrained mind to keep moving,
moving, moving. But the mind is infinitely teachable. You can
make it natural for your mind not to move, but to dwell like
a laser wherever you place it. That is the secret of genius."
Great artists start with talent, but it is through this intensity
of focus, and endless hours of practice, that genius emerges.
Easwaran observed that "after seeing the kind of training
Nureyev must have undergone, I realized anew why genius has been called
just an infinite capacity for taking pains."
~ Don't let obstacles deter you. If you hit a wall, use your
creativity and imagination to dissolve it. When Isaac Newton reached an impasse in his work because the existing mathematics
were inadequate, he created calculus.
~ Seek out an encouraging environment. When people believe
in us, we are capable of rising to genius. The film Stand and Deliver tells the story
of math teacher Jaime Escalante,
who motivated and inspired 18 disadvantaged, East Los Angeles
barrio kids to pass the Advanced Placement Calculus test. (Newton
would have been pleased!)
~ Take time to just be, and not always do. Keeping ourselves
constantly moving prevents the soft voice of inspiration from
coming through. Harvard business professor Shoshana Zuboff said that her real work occurs when she is putting her feet up
on her desk to think and reflect. This winter, a few of my clients
were sick or injured and had to stop their normal routine. Every
one of them reported greater clarity on personal issues that
had baffled them before.
Gelb corroborated this in an interview in the Spring 2001
issue of Linezine:
"In the last 20 years I've been asking people all over the
world, 'Where are you when you get your best ideas, where are
you actually physically located,' and people almost invariably
respond, 'I was lying in bed, I was going for a walk in nature,
I was driving my car, I was taking a bath.' They almost never
say, 'I was in a meeting.'"
~ Generate new ideas by being curious and open to new possibilities.
Albert Einstein said that the childlike, open, imaginative, playful way of thinking
was at the core of his approach. When you dare to dream, you
create the possibility that your dream could come true. Use creative
thinking to dream and brainstorm, without censoring what comes
through, and then follow up with critical thinking to see which
of your ideas might be developed further.
~ Pay attention to your ideas; take them seriously. Gelb stated
that "all the geniuses I've studied are pretty good at paying
attention to the inner muse." Great men like da Vinci, Newton
and Edison kept extensive notebooks, while Thomas Jefferson poured his ideas into letters. Today, we might keep a journal
or an idea log.
~ Always be open to learning, no matter how accomplished you
are in your field. Buddhism calls this "beginner's mind."
Have the courage to ask questions, even if you feel foolish,
and not just ones to which you already know the answer. Don't
judge or rule out the responses, but playfully explore and experiment
~ Be patient and persistent. Thomas Alva Edison tested over 6,000 filaments
before he created a successful light bulb. Wilbur and Orville
Wright began building toy airplanes and kites at the ages of 12 and
8, respectively. Twenty-four years later, when they took their
craft to Kitty Hawk, they had carefully tested each component
and knew it could fly.
~ Great geniuses usually also demonstrate great humility.
Einstein often protested that he had no special gifts, except
perhaps his curiosity, focus and persistence. Ego is what bursts
the delicate bubble of genius. Take, for example, an athlete
running a race. When that athlete is performing optimally, he
is mentally and physically "in the zone," totally focused
on the sublime ecstasy of pushing the envelope of human limits.
If his mind turns to the rewards – glory, praise, money or fame
– the intense focus is broken. You may have experienced this
yourself, when you were "in the flow" with your creation
and then lost it when you began to think about how your work
might be judged.
~ Remember that your genius may be focused in a particular
area, and don't discount it because you also have weaknesses
(as we all do). In his PBS special, The Power of Intention,
Dr. Wayne Dyer admitted that while writing books and talking to audiences about
spirituality is easy for him, don't ask him to fix the screen
door on his house.
~ Finally, trust yourself, value your own experiences and
talents, and don't look to others for approval. Your genius may
elicit jealousy and competitiveness, and the responses you get
from others may be aimed, consciously or unconsciously, at keeping
your genius in check, not encouraging it. Listen to your own
muse, and protect your genius and your creations; don't expose
them to criticism during the early, delicate stages.
Genius may be elusive, but with a persistent effort, we can
create the optimal conditions in which it can show up. While
we can't schedule genius, we can tap into it by heeding the words
of David Hawkins: "Do what you like to do best, and do it
to the very best of your ability." Genius comes from something
within us, and also from something greater than us. We can align
ourselves with exalted values, such as perseverance, patience,
courage, humility, concentration and integrity, and then allow
our talents to shine.
Set aside some quiet time at least weekly, if not daily, with
nothing to do. Let your mind rest. Give it free rein to wander.
Keep a pad and pencil or a micro recorder handy to note any ideas
that may emerge.
"The art of using moderate abilities to advantage often
brings greater results than actual brilliance."
~ Francois de la Rochefoucauld
"Genius is only the power of making continuous efforts.
. . . A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what
seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success."
~ Elbert Hubbard
"In ancient times, everyone was considered to possess
inner genius. It was a kind of guardian spirit that accompanied
a person through life and helped one overcome odds and achieve
personal heights. We've lost touch with this original meaning
of genius (related etymologically to the fabled genie in the
lamp) in all our concern over IQ testing and similar nonsense.
It's time we brought it back."
~ Thomas Armstrong, PhD, 7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing
Your Many Intelligences
"No one can arrive from being talented alone. God gives
talent; work transforms talent into genius."
~ Anna Pavlova
(click on the book or DVD graphic to
see a description at Amazon.com)
Power vs. Force: The
Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior . . . David R. Hawkins,
Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century . . . Howard
How to Think Like Leonardo
da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day . . . Michael
How to Think Like Einstein:
Simple Ways to Break the Rules and Discover Your Hidden Genius
. . . Scott Thorpe
Discover Your Genius:
How to Think Like History's Ten Most Revolutionary Minds
. . . Michael J. Gelb
Conquest of Mind
. . . Eknath Easwaran
and Deliver (DVD)
The Power of Intention:
Learning to Co-Create Your World Your Way . . . Wayne W.
The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius . . . Mary-Elaine Jacobsen
. . . Jane Piirto
© 2004 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.
and videos listed in the Bookshelf section of each newsletter
can be ordered from Amazon.com. To go to a specific book's page
on the Amazon site, click on the book or disk icon next to each
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