Each of them would not live up to today’s academic standards, and yet they all made history by their genius in the arts or science.
Even many of today’s geniuses – like Bill Gates, Bob Dylan or Oprah Winfrey – dropped out of school and still achieved success and recognition in their respective fields.
“IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and academic grades are overvalued,” tells BBC News Mundo, the BBC’s Spanish news service, American music historian Craig Wright, who has spent more than two decades studying the brightest personalities in the world. history and the present.
Wright has just published the book “The Hidden Habits of Genius: Beyond Talent, IQ, and Grit — Unlocking the Secrets of Greatness” , which details 14 traits that geniuses have in common.
It turns out that this list does not include other characteristics usually associated with the exceptional achievements of humanity, such as having enormous talent.
The definition of genius varies according to “who you ask and when”, recognizes Wright.
According to the expert, “a genius is a person with extraordinary mental powers whose original works or concepts change society in a significant way for the better or for the worse in all cultures and over time”.
Craig Wright has been researching geniuses for over two decades – Photo: Personal Archive via BBC
He even developed a “genius formula”: G = S x N x D.
That is, genius (G) is equal to how significant (S) is its impact or change, multiplied by the number (N) of people impacted and by its duration (D) over time.
In other words, for Wright, the greatest geniuses are those who have the greatest impact on most people and for the longest time.
In the years he taught the so-called “genius course” at Yale University (United States), Wright saw students frown upon hearing him say that pop singer Lady Gaga is a contemporary example of genius or that the athlete with more Olympic medals in history, swimmer Michael Phelps, no.
He also witnessed his students raise their hands when asked on the first day of school whether they would like to be geniuses. At the end of the course, however, only very few continued to express such a desire.
Below are the main excerpts from the interview.
BBC News Mundo: The word “genius” is defined in dictionaries as having “an extraordinary mental capacity to create or invent new and admirable things”. What mr. do you think of that?
Craig Wright: I think it’s a limited definition. It is what I would call “potential genius”, because it has the potential to become a genius, but it is not yet.
The dictionary writers who wrote this definition are saying that all you need to do is be able to use your brain to create original ideas, including the creator who keeps the idea to himself.
This is something we can discuss and, for that, I would like to invoke the image of an Albert Einstein alone on an abandoned island.
Being there it could occur to him that E = mc², he could conceive the theory of general relativity and so on, but he would not be able to communicate his ideas to anyone and, therefore, we would never hear about Albert Einstein.
If Einstein had thought of his great theories while he was alone on a desert island and could not communicate them to anyone, would he still be a genius? – Photo: Getty Images via BBC
By the definition we find in the dictionaries, Einstein would still be a genius. By my definition, no, because it would have no impact on anyone in the world.
So this is something that opens up a kind of philosophical debate.
BBC News Mundo: How, then, did Mr. define a genius?
Wright: As I explain in my book, IQ is overestimated.
Standardized IQ tests are a way of measuring a particular skill that is largely inherited.
By studying these great individuals over the centuries, you can see that they were intelligent, but they would not necessarily have achieved a superhigh score – say, 140 or 150 – on an IQ test.
In this sense, I tend to use the Nobel Prize winners as a reference example: there were winners with IQs of 115, 120 or whatever.
In other words, you need an above average IQ to enter the game.
But there are a number of other factors and motivations that are, in the long run, really driving someone to greatness and giving them the ability to change the world.
Lady Gaga is a “highly diverse person who is creative in a wide field”, argues Wright – Photo: Getty Images via BBC
I just spent five glorious days with three teenagers aged 16, 14 and almost 13 years old. Everyone has very good grades and is studying for these tests; the goal is to be able to enter the best educational institutions.
Then I told them that maybe the notes were not so important, that they should go out to explore the world, do different activities, make mistakes, fall and have to get up …
But his parents – my son and his wife – told me that I was giving my grandchildren the wrong message, that their purpose was only to encourage them to get good grades.
So, now the parents see me as a bad influence (laughs).
But the truth is that I think that today there is too much pressure on young people, because the criteria we use to measure their excellence as people are wrong.
BBC News Mundo: What should people do to raise genius children or become one?
Wright: I think the most important thing is the effort, but what makes you work hard?
Because in fact, effort is not an engine in itself, but the outward manifestation of other internal motivations.
Passion is an engine that manifests itself as hard work and can go from love to something to obsession.
So, I would say that it is important to stimulate passions.
The other thing that I noticed in many of these great minds is that they are studious, they know about different areas.
In one of the chapters of my book, I talk about the fable of the fox and the hedgehog: the fox knows a lot about different things and the hedgehog, a lot about just one thing.
So, what kind of person are you: someone who knows a lot of everything or a little bit?
Most of these people, in one way or another, have what is called lateral thinking. They see different things at the same time because they have had different experiences and, as a result, they can combine different elements that other people could not achieve because they are apparently different.
Therefore, if you are raising children, it is important to expose them to different experiences: if they like science, you can encourage them to read novels; if they are interested in politics, maybe they can learn to paint.
Parents who force their children to focus on an activity to be the best Olympic swimmer or the next Nobel Prize in Physics are missing.
Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba and the richest man in China, took the national exam (“gaokao”) and scored 19 out of 120 in mathematics on his second attempt – Photo: Getty Images via BBC
We will not know what your passion is, unless you have different experiences.
And, as the saying goes, if you love what you do, you won’t have to work a single day of your life.
BBC News Mundo: Who are examples of contemporary geniuses according to your definition and which tend to surprise your students the most?
Wright: There are several, but Elon Musk is the archetypal genius who does seemingly crazy things and in a variety of areas with The Boring Company, Hyperloop, SolarCity, Tesla, SpaceX …
It is the definitive example of the scholar making a revolution in several different ways.
But who are some of the unexpected geniuses? If I mention, for example, Kanye West, Lady Gaga or Dolly Parton, someone will shake their heads in denial and ask me if I’m kidding.
Dolly Parton is a very interesting case because she is a very intelligent person who, ironically, has adopted the image of “dumb blonde”. It is a kind of Trojan horse.
She built her own empire and continues to do so. She is a model of how a business woman should act in the entertainment world today.
And, at the same time, we love to compose certain types of songs and bring country sound to the most popular musical currents.
For Wright, country singer Dolly Parton is an example of genius as an artist and businesswoman – Photo: Getty Images via BBC
Therefore, it is possible to say that Dolly Parton is of enormous importance, especially for poor white women in America, and that its impact is significant in relation to the number of people who listen to her music. It remains to be seen how long this will last.
Then there are cases like Michael Phelps.
I mean, someone in France reinstated the Olympics in ancient Greece and just said what sports they would include and one of them was swimming.
There it was established that they would compete in the freestyle, back, chest and butterfly, in the 100 meters, 200 meters and everything.
Michael enters the pool and finds that he is going back and forth on the same track much faster than everyone else.
But someone will eventually be able to swim faster than he does, because there is a selection of body types that are needed, because nutrition is improving and perhaps training is also improving.
But the dictionaryists are right: there is no intellectual component here. It is almost like a hamster in a cage going faster and faster.
I like to think that being a genius is more than being a hamster in a cage or a swimmer in a pool.
BBC News World: Why did mr. do you think that most of your Yale students, after studying these geniuses, no longer want to be like them?
Wright: The problem with these great minds is that they are often very destructive to those around them, because they are so passionate that they become obsessive.
The only thing they can focus on is achieving their own mental goal, because they believe they are going to change the world. They think they need to fix something and that only they can do it.
They are very ambitious people who put a lot of pressure on themselves and, sometimes, on others. They can become very demanding of others and underestimate them.
Therefore, it may not be pleasant to work for these geniuses.
These are things you can hear about Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk or Bill Gates, for example.
So, I believe that most people, when going through the genius course, ask themselves: “Do I really want to be like this? Do I want to change the world for a large number of people or do I want the human environment around me to be the best for everyone? ”
And that’s really the deeper theme behind your book too …
The secret of my book is that most of us are not going to change the world in any meaningful way.
However, learning about what these people have done leads us to think of more important things that we can all act on: how to live our lives in relation to other people, how to be more productive or more creative.
Because geniuses are already obsessed with what they do and will take off anyway.
In the meantime, the rest of us have the opportunity to think about how we want to live and adjust our lives based on that.
The 14 habits or personality traits of geniuses, according to Craig Wright
- Work ethic
- Imagination like that of a child
- Insatiable curiosity
- Creative mismatch
- Thinking that crosses boundaries (or being like the fox)
- Opposite action or thinking otherwise
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