Thoughts On Genius

Since I was 8, I’ve seen “geniuses” and “prodigies” all over the internet. Whether they be six year olds playing The Flight Of The Bumblebee on piano or a 12 year old MIT admit solving the Schrodinger equation for the hydrogen atom, I was always amazed by their exceptional abilities.

These videos left me thinking “I can never be like that, they’re just crazy smart…if only I was born smarter.”

What these videos don’t show are the countless hours of training and studying these students put in and the mentors who have guided them on their path to being exceptional.

If you were to frame these “geniuses” as an input-output machine, we are only seeing the output. This is the problem with “genius”. When you see the output, you tend to assume that they were born with their skills and knowledge when in reality, it likely took years to reach their skill level.

That’s not to say that there are no geniuses. There is a very small percent of our population born with innate talents and gifts but even these people will need to train and work hard at some point.

Richard Feynman framed this same idea in There Are No Miracle People:

If you take an ordinary person who is willing to devote a great deal of time, study, work and thinking, then he will become a scientist