Warning: Genius at Work

The dictionary tells us a genius is ‘a person of extraordinary intellect and talent.’  The news media and our schools tell us that geniuses are born that way and are made of different (better) stuff than the rest of us.

I could not disagree more.

To paraphrase a line from the movie FOREST GUMP: “Genius is as genius does.”

I do believe in inborn talent. I also believe in the near magical powers of enthusiasm and passion, but I also believe that there is no such thing as genius. It’s a myth, a fairy tale, make believe. As a piece of ‘showmanship’ it’s a good strategy for selling, but as a way of describing the way the world really works, it’s a total flop.

The awesome power behind a four letter word

I’ve had the opportunity to meet and spend extended time with several people that the world at large considers geniuses (in the fields of music and business.)  I’ve also read in depth about the lives of geniuses and talked with people who’ve worked with them. (Just the other night I had dinner with a neighbor who worked for ten years with the painter Robert Rauschenberg who at the time was possibly the world’s most respected living artist.)

I can tell you from these experiences, and my friend will back it up, that ‘geniuses’, no matter how far out they seem, really do put their pants on one leg at a time. In fact, unless you actually see a genius at his or her work, you could very easily overlook them.

And that, of course, is the four letter word that makes all the difference: work.

But work alone obviously isn’t enough. Lots of people work and many people work very hard without producing genius results. So what’s the missing ingredient? Some people say it’s talent, but I say they’re wrong. Talent is nothing more than a raw material and an inert one at that.

The real work

I’m opening up a topic here that can’t be adequately covered in one page or even one hundred pages, but I can give you something to chew on: Every ‘genius’ I’ve ever met or worked with is profoundly involved in a never-ending program of creative self-education. Yes, they work hard. That’s a given, but they also consistently work on expanding themselves…on stretching.

Jim Rohn, one of the great practical philosophers of our time, puts it this way:  “If you work hard at your job, you’ll make a living. If you work hard on yourself, you’ll make a fortune.”

How do you ‘work on yourself?’ If you don’t know how, you’re in good company because this is certainly not a subject taught in school or on the job or in most families – and yet, it is the single most important topic for people who are pursuing achievement.

A highly regarded artist and dancer – a woman with the intriguing name of Twyla Tharp – came out with a book two years ago called “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.” A smart marketer could easily package the gold in her book into a $5,000 seminar.

You can get it now at Amazon for all of $16.50. It’s packed with immediately practical ideas on how to ‘stretch’ your potential into places you may never have dreamed possible. Good reading for these long, cold winter nights.

Excerpt from The System Club Letters

– Ken McCarthy

P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.

If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.

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3 Responses to Warning: Genius at Work

  1. David Taylor July 19, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    Thank you for that very interesting post.

    I always wonder how people who are great in their chosen field get great.
    I read once that anyone who is good at something needs somewhere to be bad first. I really like that. I agree with you that genius takes work.

    Thank you for expressing it so clearly.
    It is my first time at your site and I will certainly be back.

    Best wishes,

    David Taylor

  2. how much house can i afford September 19, 2011 at 4:17 am #

    i love your blog, i have it in my rss reader and always like new things coming up from it.

  3. Nancy October 3, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    Thanks for the share!

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