How to Be a Genius

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Tips for Taking Advantage of Your Intelligence

Harry Manning
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2021 marks the centennial of Albert Einstein’s recognition with the Nobel Prize for Physics. So, what better time to resolve to become a genius—or at least a little smarter than you are now? All you need to know is how to reach your potential. Here are seven tips proven to work!

You may already possess some of the same traits that distinguished some of history’s most famous thinkers. See ways to train your brain to be smarter:

1. Think in Moving Pictures

“Genius … means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.” –William James (1842–1910)

Visualization is a kind of mental movie. In their mind’s eye, geniuses see concepts as theater rather than as still photography. Wrote Albert Einstein (1879–1955): “My particular ability does not lie in mathematical calculation, but rather in visualizing effects, possibilities, and consequences.”

2. Combine the New With the Old

“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.” –Aldous Huxley (1894–1963)

By using a familiar concept or thing to describe an unfamiliar object or idea, deep thinkers have found that they can break out of a stale perspective. To help formulate his theory of relativity, Einstein imagined himself riding on a beam of light while holding a mirror in front of himself or standing on a platform while a train passed by.

3. Find Similarities

“True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.” –Winston Churchill (1874–1965)

The ability to make juxtapositions has inspired great intellects to see things that remain hidden to others—an outcome commonly known as the “Aha!” moment. For example, Leonardo da Vinci drew a connection between a stone hitting water and the sound of a bell, leading him to conclude that sound travels in waves.

4. Trust Your Hunches

“I’m not a genius. I’m just a tremendous bundle of experience.” –R. Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983)

Geniuses commonly know without being able to say how they know. Claude Bernard (1813–78), the founder of modern physiology, wrote that everything purposeful in scientific thinking begins with feeling.

5. Don’t Give Up! 

Genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience.” –Georges-Louis de Buffon (1707–88)

Einstein was once 
asked what the difference was between him and the average person. He said that if you asked the average person to find a needle in the haystack, the person would stop when he found a needle. Einstein said that he, 
on the other hand, would comb through the entire haystack looking for all the possible needles. “It’s not that I’m smart, it’s just that I stay with the problems longer,” he said.

Have perspeverence and stick with it!

6. Just Do It—Again and Again

“Genius is an infinite love of taking pains.” –Sir James Matthew Barrie (1860–1937)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91) wrote more than 600 pieces of music, and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) produced a 
cantata every week. Thomas Edison (1847–1931) gave himself and his assistants patent quotas. (His personal tally was a record of 1,093, which has yet to be beaten.) Einstein published nearly 300 scientific papers; the third one earned him a doctorate from the University of Zurich and the fourth brought him the 1921 Nobel Prize for physics.

7. Break the Rules

“Rules and models destroy genius and art.” –William Hazlitt (1778–1830)

Problems stump the average person because he or she gets stuck in a “rule rut.” That’s when ingrained patterns of thinking—erroneous assumptions, half-truths, personal experience, misplaced generalities—are mistaken for truth and all conflicting ideas are ignored. The great new ideas are just outside of the prevailing thought.

IQ Fact and Fiction

The first useful test for measuring intelligence was called the “IQ test” (intelligence quotient) which was administered in the early 1900s by Alfred Binet to students in France. His original goal for the scale was practical. When the French government required all children be given a public education, he needed to identify which children could not keep up with their peers so they could have special support.

Intelligence testing was only one small part of Binet’s work as he also wrote about child development, personality, memory, and creativity, and many other topics. His methods are still used today with a varation called the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales.

Binet’s initial scoring system was later revised to involve dividing a student’s test results by the average result achieved by his or her age group and multiplying this by 100. A student achieving at his or her age group was determined to have an IQ of 100. 

A 140 (or above) IQ does not mean that a person is a genius. It’s simply an indication of how well one performs on mental tests, compared to others in the same age group. This way, the IQ of the average adult can be 100, just like the IQ of the average child can be 100. The current scoring method for all IQ tests is the “deviation IQ”. For instance, someone whose score was one standard deviation above the mean, and who thus outperformed 86% of his or her contemporaries, would have an IQ of 115, and so on.

No reputable testing source uses an IQ number to classify someone as a “genius.” The myth probably originated in the 1920s when Stanford University professor Lewis Terman, developer of the Stanford-Binet IQ test, used students with IQs above 140 in his research.

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