Obviously, when I talk about becoming a genius, I do not propose tips about How to become a genius like a genius-magician such as Aladdin’s, it would be much too complicated.
No, my ambitions are much more modest, I’ll just explain how to become Einstein.
And I’m not just talking about the scientific genius, the recipe is pretty much the same for the artistic genius. We can think of Michelangelo, Mozart, Van Gogh … You choose.
On the other hand, you do not have to choose between scientific genius and artistic genius. You can have both at the same time, it did not bother Leonardo da Vinci, rest assured.
So how do you go about becoming a genius?
I started thinking about that when I came across the May 2017 issue of the National Geographic magazine, a long article about geniuses.
So I realized that there is a long history of scientific research that has looked into this.
“Is there a genius gene?”
“Is there any way of thinking specific to geniuses?”
“Can we detect future geniuses when they are still children?”
But be careful, we do not necessarily speak of a form of intelligence exceptionally above average.
The National Geographic article explains that IQ is not entirely determinative.
And Darwin himself would, in his own words, have been a very ordinary child, and even rather below the standards of intelligence.
While doing my little research, I understood that it was a subject that fascinated … and that irritated just as much.
So here is my recipe, about how to become a genius, it’s very personal.
Step 1: Do the wrong job.
By this I mean “produce mediocre or downright erroneous work”, and produce a lot! Multiply failed experiments, build mock models, design software that bug, write illegible articles.
It makes sense because you have to practice to be able to improve.
The masterpiece never arrives the first time. This is the importance of perseverance and discipline, whether you are very superiorly intelligent or just moderately intelligent.
The next time you feel silly, think of Darwin.
Step 2: Take showers.
I know it may sound a little superfluous when you try to become a genius.
So I specify that the baths are also accepted, although less ecological, since it is while taking his bath that, according to the legend, Archimède had his famous flash of genius before going through the streets of Syracuse, completely naked, in screaming “Eureka!”
The historical anecdote is actually rather uncertain but plausible from the point of view of psychology.
The interest of the showers (in addition to feeling good), it is what are moments of pause of great intellectual productivity.
The neuroscientist Barry Kaufman describes moments of “contemplation”, during which problems are treated unconsciously. So the solution we have been looking for hours, or years, we can suddenly appear to us!
So to become a genius, you also have to know … do nothing.
Step 3: Have friends.
Again, it may seem superfluous, but it is very useful. Because, despite your incredible genetic potential, you will probably not be able to revolutionize the world of science all by yourself.
People (that is, “human beings other than yourself”) can teach you many things, challenge your beliefs, point out your mistakes, and feed your thoughts. We all too often forget the important role of mentors, colleagues, peers, and even … adversaries!
One could mention the many epistolary correspondences between scientists and philosophers, or the fact that, contrary to appearances, it generally takes a whole team to win a Nobel Prize.
Thanks to the internet today, you have no excuse, even if you live alone in a cave!
So do not neglect your friends, and talk to them gently.
Step 4: Be taken for a madman.
This is the myth of the inextricable links between genius and madness. But is it really a myth?
To be a genius is to see what others can not see or even imagine.
It’s questioning things that seem obvious to the rest of the world. And with that, we quickly passed for a madman!
The mad scientist is closely followed by the myth of the misunderstood genius since this creativity, and this ability to think outside the frames, are both annoying and confusing for those who do not want to question themselves.
As Aristotle said, “There is no genius without a grain of madness”.
So cultivate your imagination and your artistic talents, even if they are only scribbles because logical intelligence alone can not suffice!
Step 5: To be born at the right time and in the right place.
That I admit, it requires a little effort.
Leonardo da Vinci, for example, lived in Florence during the Renaissance. That is to say, the place to be, in the golden age of patronage. Besides, how many Leonardo da Vinci was born in much less favorable environments? Impossible to know.
So you have to have a lot of luck. And sometimes it is better to be … dead, since recognition will only happen post mortem. It’s not Galileo who would say the opposite!
So with that, can everyone become a genius?
Step 5 about How to become a genius: Have a genius head.
But I’m not talking here about having the math bump.
To have a genius head is actually linked to the previous step because you have to match the expectations of society at the place and time you are.
We must match the idea that people have a genius.
The criteria are not everywhere and at all times the same, but there are certain constants.
During most of the history of the West, it was better to be a man than a woman, noble or bourgeois rather than poor and illiterate.
Even today, when one tries to draw up a list of the greatest geniuses of all time, one thinks more easily of Western white men.
Not that they are smarter than others. But these are the ones who have been given the most resources to develop their skills. And these are the ones who have most easily accessed the social recognition necessary to be considered a genius.
For example, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is well known, but his sister, Maria Anna, a seemingly brilliant harpist, is well known to have been forced by her father to stop her career at the age of 18 to be married.
This brings me to this reflection:
The answer to this question tells at least as much about our society as about the geniuses themselves.
In this case, our society is such a cult of performance, competition, and social status that it shows these exceptional destinies as examples to follow.
Some parents are even willing to spend a fortune so that their children are considered “little geniuses”, they who asked to be quiet.
Yet even if “being a genius” is apparently enviable, it turns out that geniuses are not necessarily happier than others.
As they are often considered crazy, many of the most recognized geniuses have suffered from their difference and their difficulty in finding their place in this world. Mental pathologies are not uncommon, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and addictions.
So why, basically, want to be a genius?
To be admired? To feel important, valued, loved?
I think that one can be loved and useful to science without being a genius. And that one can quite have exceptional talents without acquiring the status of a genius.
Because finally, the genius is a little like the beauty: it is especially in the eye of the one who looks.
So if you have not invented the theory of gravity, or relativity, or radioactivity, if you have not written a major masterpiece before your 30th birthday, or if you have not received at least three Nobel Prizes in your lifetime … maybe it’s not that bad.