Don’t Mistake Genius with Hard Work

I might have told you that I once went to a MENSA meeting just to find out what geniuses are like. I was expecting to be blown away with sheer intellect from geeks wanting to chatter about the latest in math or technology.  What would you expect to find at a gathering of people who passed an IQ test?

Secretly, I was hoping to be inspired– by people who were super smart in whatever their area of expertise.

And then maybe I could return the favor by sharing a few things that I’ve learned, so we could have a joint nerd chuckle.

Instead I found ordinary, seemingly average people– the sort you’d expect to see when strolling through the mall.
There were blue collar folks, teachers, the unemployed, and people from all walks of life– no particular pattern.
Then again, what am I supposed to do, go up to each person and ask them their IQ?

I left that evening disappointed.

Think about the people in your life who amaze you– what are they like?
Does their passion create infectious warmth that spills over to you and your friends?
Does their depth of knowledge belie a massive time investment, like the 10,000 hour rule?
Do you describe this as genius?

They might very well be geniuses, categorized as scoring at least 130 to 140 on one of the three standardized IQ tests.
But more likely, what you view as genius is actually the product of hard work.

Anyone with sufficient time can learn a body of knowledge and repeat it back to you with such conviction that you think they’re a genius.
Actors do it all the time, which is why they might be disappointingly ineloquent in a live interview versus in the film.

Mark Lack, who’s the author of Shorten the Gap, explained his observations between natural geniuses and those who achieved such a title through hard work:

photo copy“Having had the privilege and opportunity to rub elbows with some of the most successful and intelligent people on the planet, I’ve noticed that there are people who are born genius and people who become genius through lots of hard work, practice, and training.
To give a real life example of someone who was born genius, I’ll refer to the 14-year-old Indiana prodigy: Jacob Barnett. Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein’s and is on the road to winning a Nobel Prize. He’s given TedX talks and is working toward a master’s degree in quantum physics. Where as someone like Deepak Chopra, Ken Wilber, or Tony Robbins (who in my humble opinion, are geniuses at what they do and teach); they have worked very hard and invested decades of their life to achieve their level of intellect and stature. Even the worlds top memory champions train every day just like any other professional athlete would train.

Now, having made that distinction, anyone has the capability to become a world renowned genius or expert in a specific field. The reason why it is so rare is because very few people have the required level of discipline and commitment to continuously go as deep as they possibly can to understand any topic both intellectually and conceptually to ever be considered a “genius.”
If you want to be in the top 1% or higher in your field, spend 10 years of your life going as deep as you possibly can into one topic.

That’s the only way I do something if I commit to it. Why commit to something if you’re not going to give it your all – and do it in a methodical way. Learn from the best and repeat excellence. It’s a science not a secret.

Once we get young adults to understand that, and become excellent in anything they want or do, based around checklists, formulas, blue prints (call it anything) we can change the world one person at a time. “

Entrepreneurship is also about repeated rehearsal.
These super-hard working folks keep failing over and over until they eventually get it.
It’s easy to think that what you see or hear is spontaneous as opposed to the product of 10 years of hard work.

Some people, like Bill Gates, are geniuses and hard workers.
Mr. Gates has a photographic memory, such that once he was able to recite one of the synoptic gospels from memory without missing a beat.
If I had a photographic memory, I’d be able to tell you which book– Matthew, Mark, or Luke– but I’m not a genius like that.

When I was 20 years old, I met some people that seemed so incredibly talented that I felt inferior– even anxious around them.
CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, former US presidents, and celebrity sorts of people– I didn’t even know what to say and felt stupid all the time.
So I would read the Wall Street Journal cover to cover before meeting folks like this, just so I could be ready to talk about current business news and politics.

Have you ever felt awkward in situations like this?

It’s easy to chalk it up to them being a genius– but that’s a cop out.
It’s not a genetic thing, like being 7 feet tall and being able to dunk– it’s hard work.

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If you’re a young adult and are discouraged with whole prospect of finding something you love while being able to pay bills, this is good news for you.
It means you’re fully capable of achieving success, as corny as that sounds, provided you can clarify what interests you and can work hard towards it.

And even if you’re not sure what interests you– perhaps many things– there is a process you can follow to start clarifying it and exploring it.

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