The Question: Is genius something you're born with or can it gradually be developed?
I've spent quite a bit of time researching that question and the answer ultimately becomes dependent on how exactly you define "genius". While there are several definitions, I consider the following to be the most thorough.
Genius: a person who is exceptionally intelligent or creative, either generally or in some particular respect.
It's been shown that our brains have the ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning. This concept is known as neuroplasticity and I go into greater detail on the subject here.
Shouldn't that scientifically grounded concept give you some level of confidence in ultimately unlocking your own genius? Everyone has an innate desire to feel special and after years of researching the concept & studying some of the most accomplished & brightest minds this world has seen, I can tell you in complete confidence that you absolutely do possess the ability to achieve excellence (genius) in whatever it is that you set your mind to.
While there are hundreds of creation stories that can be referenced here, my favorite belongs to Tom Bilyeu - Co-Founder of the billion dollar brand; Quest Nutrition.
Tom openly embraces the concept of neuroplasticity & the transformative action he took in his own life is some of the most legitimate proof you will ever need to escape the limitations of your own mind.
There is a shared growth mindset amongst geniuses, grounded in the fundamental concept of neuroplasticity - Take action, learn and rewire your brain for greatness.
Watch Tom elaborate first hand.
While you certainly possess the ability, actually achieving is an entirely different matter all together. Why is genius so rare and why do so many people fail to achieve anything of notable significance in their lives? That's a subject for an entirely separate conversation but for now, I'd like to deep dive into the pillars of what I've discovered to be the Genius Mindset.
After studying countless exceptional individuals both present & past day, I've defined the Genius Mindset as such;
Genius Mindset: A defined way of consistent thinking amongst high achieving individuals.
The more I read about completely unique & field/expertise separated "geniuses" the more I started to see the same common reoccurring trends in mental make up. While there is definite variance on specific philosophies & beliefs, I've extracted 5 attributes consistent amongst geniuses.
Pillar #1: Commitment
"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer" - Albert Einstein
“We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it." - Che Guevara
“If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.” - John Mayer
“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” - Peter F. Drucker
"If you're going to compete against me, you better be willing to give up your life because I'm giving up mine." - Tom Brady
Commitment is the vehicle that transports you to achievement! You certainly won't be an expert when you first start out, by definition, no one ever is but the ability to see things through in life is a characteristic commonly shared amongst high achievers.
Commitment is the foundation on which your genius is ultimately crafted.
How seriously do exceptional people take commitment? It's often viewed in the lens of life and death. Tom Brady has dedicated his life to be where he's at. He didn't have natural athletic ability & he was never a highly touted prospect but he was committed! Determined to hone his craft.
The Integration of Commitment
Start by committing to yourself. You're about to set off on this journey to unlocking the best version of yourself, simply commit to seeing it through. In the big scheme of things, is there any other more worthy cause? I think not.
Action Plan: Wake up 1 hour earlier every week day and dedicate that time toward personal growth. That can mean reading, that can mean working out, that can even be time to meditate.
Pillar #2: Gratitude
"Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some." - Charles Dickens
"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." Oprah Winfrey
"Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out." John Wooden
"Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity...it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." - Melody Beattie
"May the work of your hands be a sign of gratitude and reverence to the human condition." - Mahatma Ghandi
Often unrecognized and under appreciated, gratitude is the fuel source that drives us past complacency and elevates us past nihilism. Gratitude cultivates an exuberance in people that isn't replicable by any other means. A virtue in every sense of the word, it's found naturally in some but can be certainly adopted and developed by others.
Gratitude has a momentous side effect- Purpose. Purpose is found in every form of genius and it will be certainly found in your own.
The Integration of Gratitude
This one comes down to conscious, personal choice. You can choose to focus on the good or you can choose to focus on the bad. Let me reference a quote from the enlightened Buddha to further add perspective.
"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful."
There is always something to be thankful for.
Action Plan: Every night before bed, concentrate deeply on 4 things you're extremely grateful for. You can also begin your day with this practice.
Pillar #3: Resilience
“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” - Nelson Mandela
“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” - Maya Angelou
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation in which I rebuilt my life.” - J.K. Rowling
“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” - Paulo Coelho
"The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It is the hard days — the times that challenge you to your very core — that will determine who you are. You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive." - Sheryl Sandberg
Forged by fire. Commitment allows you to take aim and lays your foundation but the development of resilience is what begins to mold true genius. This is a developed trait, earned by a very particular mindset. All great people share very high levels of resistance. Things go wrong, we get knocked off of our course, we are dealt set-backs but what we ultimately learn from them and more specifically speaking- how we respond breeds resilience.
How you respond to adversity will ultimately define the type of life you live. The sooner you commit to developing resilience, the sooner it becomes a noticeable difference maker in your arsenal.
The Development of Resilience
Eradicate any & all trace of the victim mentality! Bad things happen to you, I'm certain of that but you have to own your life at the end of the day. You have to pick up & take responsibility for it in one manner or another.
The sooner you commit to owning your life in it's entirety, the faster you will develop resilience.
Action Plan: Try to go an entire week without any extended negative thoughts. This is going to be a lot harder than it sounds but you need to make it an entire week to complete the challenge! If any negative thought overtakes you for more than a couple of seconds, you have to start over and go 7 more days.
By retraining your response system, you'll find yourself more adept to build resilience in the face of adversity. You'll begin to reframe issues as opportunities for improvement.
Pillar #4: Focus (and Presence)
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” - Alexander Bell
“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” - Bruce Lee
“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” - Steve Jobs
“Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.” - Tony Robbins
“My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things.” - Bill Gates
The ability to focus is certainly a prerequisite for any level of achievement. The sharper your focus becomes, the further you reduce your resistance.
Personally, I co-brand focus with the concept of mindfulness as I believe being present at all times naturally enhances your ability to focus on the task at hand. Try reading a book when you're extremely stressed or dealing with a handful of problems and without an understanding of mindfulness, you'll find your reading far less efficient than it would be if you were whole heartedly engaged.
The Development of Focus
There's a number of different ways in which focus can be upgraded both directly & indirectly. As I mentioned above, the practice of mindfulness improves focus ability.
A more indirect approach stems from the art of prioritization. Learning to prioritize will lift the cognitive dumbbells weighing on your psyche- freeing up much precious mental capacity to focus on the task at hand.
Optimizing your biological environment can play an extraordinary role in your ability to focus as well. You wouldn't believe some of the differences I've seen in my clients lives when they simply remove refined sugar from their diets! Drinking Genius Consciousness definitely helps as well 😉
Action Plan: Begin your day with 5-15 minutes of mindful meditation. Remove all refined sugars from your diet.
Watch this video from Jocko Willink on how to prioritize & execute.
Why did I write this article? I want to see more people unlock their inner genius & live their absolute best life. Imagine a world in which everyone is living up to their ultimate potential! That's a world I most certainly want to live in.
Have any questions or thoughts? Please, feel free to reach out to me directly! I love connecting with anyone on a quest to better themselves. Instagram is my social media drug of choice, feel free to shoot me a DM or just comment below.