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How to Become a Genius: A Post-Pandemic Primer

Fresh ideas for businesspeople in Nebraska who must out-think competitors

by Lynn Hinderaker, NEWBRASKA

Every child and person can be a genius. Research proves it. Consider Ludwig Van Beethoven who was deaf. Consider Helen Keller who was blind. These people were beyond the margin of even being considered material to be creative geniuses.

What do they have in common? Strong character. Somebody loving and believing in them.

A more clever definition of those whom we call 'geniuses:'

"Individuals intrinsically inclined to instinctively inspect inwardly this inborn, invisible instructor so indispensable to innately inspiring, indescribably instinctive insights informally indicative of ingeniously intellectual interpretations of information!

Why don/t we have more geniuses? Schools have “strip-mined” our brains. For instance, dancers have to move to think. But a teacher would automatically tell a student (who is inclined to dance) to “calm down." We look for standardization and averages instead of looking for specialness. Yes, educators must accept that Intelligence is diverse, dynamic and distinct. Broadly speaking, we must practice 'human ecology.'

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.” Inspiration is only the beginning. Then comes the hard work.

A genius is someone who sees things in the world that others do not and then has the fortitude to take that insight and share it with the world. Geniuses are people who push themselves to their maximum level and pioneer any kind of breakthrough based on that commitment. A genius is someone who can take a most difficult thing and make it understandable or something you can feel a part of even though you don’t necessarily understand it. A genius is not only answering questions, but also asking questions no one else has even thought to ask. How to identify a genius: openness to new ideas and breadth of interests Fully disjunctional reasoning is reasoning that considers all possibilities.

Mastering something with 10,000 hours of practice is not enough; there has to be originality and novelty to qualify as a genius.

The most important skill in the 21st century is creativity.

1. Creative Geniuses are open to new experiences. On an individual level, psychologists have identified “openness to experience” as the single most important trait of exceptionally creative people. Creative geniuses make a conscious effort to introduce change into their lives. They often put themselves in situations in which they’re more likely to experience the unexpected.

2. Creative Geniuses have a high tolerance for uncertainty. Many of us cringe at the thought of the unknown and fear being out of control. Creative geniuses, on the other hand, have a high tolerance for uncertainty. Picasso was once asked if he knew what a painting was going to look like when he started it. He answered, “No, of course not. If I knew, I wouldn’t bother doing it.” In general, creative geniuses tend to care less about the destination and more about the journey.

3. Creative Geniuses practice diffused attention. Most exceptional creators are working on multiple projects at a time. They’re often restless and have a variety of outside interests. Psychologists refer to this as “diffused attention”, or defocused. While periods of intense concentration are useful for balancing checkbooks and taking exams, creative breakthroughs are most likely to occur when we’re in a state of diffused attention.

4. Creative Geniuses don’t care much about what other people think. Another trait common to creative geniuses is their utter and complete lack of self-consciousness. They simply don’t care what others think of them. Take Socrates’ nose, for example. Or Einstein’s hair. However, what they lack in self-consciousness, they tend to make up for in self-awareness. Creative geniuses are constantly reflecting on what they’re doing at any given moment and they’re always listening to themselves.

5. Creative Geniuses are more sensitive than most. The old stereotype of the sensitive artist is true. Creative geniuses are physiologically more sensitive to stimuli. In experiments, they consistently rate various stimuli (electric shocks and loud noises, for example) more intensely than less creative people. This could also explain why creative people periodically retreat from the world.

OPTIMISM: Creative geniuses challenge themselves with, “Why not?” It seems that optimism plays an essential role in creativity for all of us. For example, one recent study found that optimistic employees are more creative than pessimistic ones.

7. Creative Geniuses are motivated by something other than personal gain. Contrary to many great artists of today seeking fame, success, or money, creative geniuses aren’t motivated by personal gain. They’re not doing it for themselves. At least, not only for themselves. Creative geniuses create in order to further their beliefs. They create with the distinct goal of making the world a better place and transforming it through the power of their creativity.

8. Creative Geniuses have cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility is defined as the ability to see the world with new eyes. Creative geniuses view obstacles as opportunities. They possess this capacity to transform random events, even mistakes, into a chance to veer in an entirely new and unexpected direction. In other words, creative geniuses are able to switch tracks with ease. They value the process above all else, so they embrace a new challenge with, “Why?”

9. Creative Geniuses are active. Darwin’s theory of evolution came together while he was riding in the back of a carriage. Mark Twain was notorious for pacing his study. Mozart always traveled with scraps of paper tucked into his side pocket. Creativity requires kinetic energy and motion primes creative thinking. Creative geniuses understand this and make sure to stay active. They may not get anywhere physically, but such consistent movement allows them to travel far in their minds.

As the saying goes, “I have never heard of anyone stumbling upon something while sitting down.”

10. Creative Geniuses view themselves as outsiders. They may be part of a group, but they never quite feel as though they fit in. They are simultaneously accepted and shunned. Though not a comfortable position, it’s the perfect configuration for creative genius, as all genuinely creative ideas are initially met with rejection. Researchers at John Hopkins University found that rejection boosts creativity most markedly in individuals who consider themselves to be “independent minded”. That is, those who stand apart from the world and rejoice in their Otherness.

Creative geniuses are always marginalized to one degree or another. Which makes sense since someone wholly invested in the status quo is unlikely to disrupt it. Creative geniuses crave chaos. Einstein had a chaotic love life. Mozart had a chaotic desk. Chaos is an essential ingredient to creativity.

Creative geniuses make more mistakes than the rest of us, because they try more things. They see setbacks and failure as stepping-stones. Creative geniuses view themselves as Outsiders. They are both accepted and shunned. They are both enlivened and frustrated by rejection; it underscores their feeling of being marginalized. “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

“Creativity, of course, cannot be distilled into a single mental process, and it cannot be captured in a snapshot–nor can people produce a creative insight or thought on demand,” “You cannot force creativity to happen–every creative person can attest to that,” writes Andreasen. “But the essence of creativity is making connections and solving puzzles.”

Creative people like to teach themselves rather than be taught by others. Think of all the creative geniuses who were college drop-outs–Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg. Andreasen found that her subjects were autodidacts–they preferred figuring things out independently, rather than being spoon-fed information. “Because their thinking is different, my subjects often express the idea that standard ways of learning and teaching are not always helpful and may even be distracting, and that they prefer to learn on their own,”

Finally, creative geniuses persist against skepticism and rejection. They have to confront doubt and rejection, yet they have to persist in spite of that because they believe strongly in the value of what they do. They sense the truth in this statement: “When you work at the cutting edge, you are likely to bleed.” They are adventuresome and exploratory. They take risks. This can lead to psychic pain, which may manifest itself as depression or anxiety. But geniuses push on, always working much harder than the average person—and usually that’s because they love their work.

Reach out to Lynn Hinderaker and the NEWbraska tribe for seminars and workshops about cultivating genius in business, urban renewal and life.

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