Practice makes perfect

I wish I knew the key to genius when I was growing up.
wish I knew the key to genius when I was growing up.


By Ted Bean

A response to David Brook’s column on Genius: The Modern

Everyone is always looking for the next genius — the search is always on
for the next child prodigy who will grow up to change the world.

People look for revolutionary talents in every field; Americans can’t wait
to find the next Albert Einstein, the next Warren
, the next Michael

Those that make it to the top of their field, whether its science,
finance, basketball or anything else, are seen as geniuses. Somehow these
people find a way to do things a mere mortal could not. Einstein did
equations others couldn’t comprehend, Buffett’s vision of the market and
risk taking made him the most successful man on Wall Street, and Jordan
used his talents to devastate opponents on a nightly basis.

In high school, I dreamed of being one of those geniuses. I wanted to be
one of those kids who had such a high I.Q. that going to class wasn’t even necessary. I
wished I could just show up during finals, ace all my tests and go home to
do as I pleased until finals rolled around at the end of the next year.

I love my parents, but I always blamed my genetics for my lack of pure
genius. I thought with different genes I would have had a better chance at
becoming the genius I always wanted to be.

In a recent NY Times opinion piece, David Brooks argues a new approach to genius. Brooks
disagrees with the notion I’ve always had and common public perception
that geniuses are born rather than made.

NY Times columnist David Brooks
NY Times columnist
David Brooks

Brooks argues that practice is the best predictor of genius:

“The key factor separating geniuses from the merely
accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad
predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate
practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously
practicing their craft.”

When I was in high school, my main goal was getting A’s and B’s in all my
classes while doing as little work as possible. If I’d read Brooks piece
then, I would disagree with his thinking.

At this point in my life, I agree completely with Brooks’ line of
thinking. The most important thing I’ve learned since I got to college is
the importance of hard work. It took me long enough to figure it out, but
I finally realized I need to bust my ass all the time if I want to reach
my goals.

Nothing comes easy in life. Genius certainly falls into that category. I
realize now if I want to be really good at anything, it will take more
than just being born with good genes.

While I am done blaming genetics, I may still be able to blame my parents
according to Brooks: they never pushed me hard to do anything so I never
developed the practice and “ability to focus for long periods of time”
necessary on the path to developing into a genius.

Brooks writes about a hypothetical case where a girl develops into a
genius writer:

“The primary trait she possesses is not some mysterious
genius. It’s the ability to develop a deliberate, strenuous and boring
practice routine.”

If I’d been forced to spend eight hours a day meticulously practicing
journalism from the time I was five years old, I would probably have won a
Pulitzer by now. If I’d played ten hours of soccer
five days a week instead of two hours once a week when I was growing up, I
might be starting in the MLS instead of
starting grad school in the fall.

I’ll probably never make to the genius level, but now I know the key:
Practice makes perfect.


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Becoming a Genius


Is it possible to be a genius without genes?


In a recent Op-Ed column by David Brooks published by the NY Times, Brooks discusses the concept of how a genius becomes so smart. Brooks goes back to Mozart – explaining that he wasn’t necessarily born with the genius traits, but he studied and worked so hard that he became one. Do I agree with this? YES.

Anybody that takes the time out to practice/study something—with the intentions of perfecting it has the ability to become a genius. Spending excessive amounts of time studying something, as Brooks describes Mozart doing so—is enough to makesomebody successful.

“IT IS NOT WHO YOU ARE, BUT WHAT YOU DO”. I am NOT a good math student, but after spending countless hours studying statistics and algebra, I was able to succeed in my classes. This goes with similar cases of students around me. Picasso won’t just have children that are born with the given talent or vision to be as great as he was, or else it would be guaranteed that different offspring will have certain levels of intelligence. This is RIDICULOUS.


Genius to me is someone who is able to master their craft. By master I mean with the right amount of practice, effort, and studying—you are capable of WORKING at becoming a genius. My father was very good at drawing, and I am not. You know why? Because I never took the time out to draw a lot and therefore I am not good at it.

How can you achieve this level of intelligence/skill at whatever you want to master? EASY (well not really). Work hard towards your goal. After researching on the internet, there is no scientific proof that intelligence is genetic. It does however make sense that someone who is smart in certain areas will teach their children their skills/knowledge—making that knowledge something that is passed down from generation to generation. Make sense, right? That can be a good reason why these “traits” are passed down from generation to generation. People that have no “genius” are more likely to not pass down these traits.

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Hardwork Not Always Enough To Achieve Greatness

By Luis Alvarez

The term genius is not what it once entailed.  But the results are still tough to achieve.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

In David Brooks’ New York Times article, he explains that becoming a genius takes similar methods in present day as it did in composer Mozart’s time.  But the fact that we are living in the scientific age, according to Brooks, gives us the opportunity to research the outcomes more thorough.

Brooks has his ideas on genius and I have my own.

Genius is the outcome a person gets with, of course, unbelievable amounts of hard work and desire, but what I disagree with Brooks on is that it also takes plenty of God-given ability.

He denotes there being a “divine spark,” and it began to sound like he meant any person can become a genius.  He then gave an example of a “normal girl” that could maybe achieve such status.

The problem here was the sample he was giving.  He said to pick a girl with “above average verbal ability.”  But the requirements didn’t end there.

She then had to meet a novelist, who “coincidentally shared some similar biographical traits.”  If that was where it ended, then perhaps it would be more convincing.  But it continued.

More “coincidental” finds in this sample girl were to have had a father who died when she was 12-years-old, which would give her the “sense of insecurity and fueling a desperate

Albert Einstein

need for success.”

Of course, Brooks notes that what he is explaining was in agreement with what several researchers had been trying to prove for several years.  Maybe it is cynicism, or maybe it’s just the lack of my own knowledge, but I think there’s more to it.

A person can be lazy, which would hinder his ability to have that certain drive that Brooks said is helpful to have to achieve genius status.  Laziness can be considered a choice by many people, and they may be right, but it also can be in their personalities.

Brooks also compares methods of genius to Tiger Woods, because of his rigorous work ethic.  Also because Woods, like Mozart, had a father who pushed him to always give max-effort.  But what if a person doesn’t have that father to push them?

Their father may not have died at the age of 12, like Brooks says.  Say he just left a family and had no real relationship with the child, and then what is the child left to do?

It sounds easy to disagree with my reasoning, but I think there is more to it than an incredibly tough work routine.  Still, the God-given talent outweighs it.

Maybe it isn’t just the talent that is given to you, but also the personality traits.  If a person has a huge desire to do all the necessary things to become a genius, but let’s say he has an unbelievably hard time staying focused, that would hinder his chances.

To not make it sound like I am completely against his article, which I am not, I will say that his closing quote by Coyle made me think.

“It’s not who you are, it’s what you do.”

At first, I happened to agree with it, but then I thought about it again, which is what helped me construct any sort of argument.

It may be what you do that will help you achieve a higher learning status.  But then again, what if who you are doesn’t come with the necessary drive or that fire to make you want to do anything in the first place?

God-given can also be attributed to genetics, because it is what your parents and other generations were given.  If you were given the natural abilities to become a genius, but then you chose not to do the work, then that is different.  The possibility will always remain available.

Can the status of genius be attained?  Yes.  But not solely with hard work by anyone who wanted to achieve it, even with the “leash” that Brooks noted a person’s genes would give.

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It Doesn’t Take a Genius to Recognize…

 By David Rothman 

          People who consider the idea of geniuses being born with special abilities are thought of as romantics. In general, they are merely being realistic. The concept that geniuses are made and not born seems to be fairly recent concept, designed by the political correctness police. For them, the concept that everyone is not born perfectly equal and has the exact same chance to develop into something is unknown. In one part they are correct; anyone could be a genius. However, the developmental process is not where geniuses are created, just where they are discovered.

            While a genius may be involved with repetitive practice, the practice is a result of a spark, whether curiosity or other that sends the person into the field. What if Albert Einstein never had had an interest in physics? Would he still have been such a notable person or might he have been one of many Jews who perished during the Holocaust? If there was never that spark inside Einstein that said, “Physics interest me,” than Einstein could have been just another person, instead of the famous scientist we all recognize him as.

            Another example in a different field is LeBron James. He is recognized as one of the best basketball players, a basketball “genius.” If LeBron was 18 inches shorter, would he still be one of the best basketball players in the world, even with decade’s worth of practice? Clearly Lebron’s size is one of the assets that make him a basketball “genius,” that no amount of practice could make up for.

Video: Lebron James

            According to Brooks, Tiger Woods’ becoming a “genius” is mainly due to his ability to focus, and having a father intent on improving his skills. But would what if Tiger’s genetic code was different and he wasn’t interested in golf, would he still have been the household name that he has become.

            It’s not that people who become “geniuses” in their various fields don’t necessarily put in a lot of work to become who they are. People like Einstein, LeBron, and Tiger Woods have without a doubt spend a lot of time to hone their talents and abilities to become the best in the fields. However, the reverse of this is not necessary true. If the average person goes and spends 30 hours a week for the next five years practicing basketball, the person will certainly improve, but the person will almost certainly not be as good as LeBron.

            In short, the intense dedication and time put into their respective fields is generally a symptom of their being a genius, not a cause. While practice at anything will likely make someone better at anything, it does not guarantee that they will become the best in the field.

            One great example of this is running. Usain Bolt is the world’s fastest man, with world records and the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics in both the 100 meters and 200 meters. His world records show him to be the fastest man of all time. Does this mean he has done more work than every other runner that has every laced up a spike. Not necessarily. There are many 100 meter runners on the professional and Olympic levels, all who likely have similar work ethics, even if their training programs are not identical.

Videos: Usain Bolt 100 meters and 200 meters at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

            College distance running is another great example. Two members of the UAlbany Cross Country team, Chris Manico and Jimmy Carroll, had similar summer training programs, and did nearly identical workouts during the season. So why did Manico beat Carroll every single time they raced against each other? Clearly there was some inner force, be it sheer talent from genetics or elsewhere that created the difference between the two in races, even though their workouts were nearly identical.

            In the end, it all comes down to the person. Some people have the right combination of desire, dedication, interest, and the tools to achieve what they desire. This does not take away from those who one or more of these. It just is the separation between genius and very good.

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What’s a Genius

By Charles Ross

In my opinion a genius is an individual who successfully applies a previously unknown technique in the production of a work of art, science, or calculation, or who masters and personalizes a known technique. A genius typically possesses great intelligence or remarkable abilities in a specific subject, or shows an exceptional natural capacity of intellect and or ability, especially in the production of creative and original work, something that has never been seen or evaluated previously. Traits often associated with genius include strong individuality, imagination, uniqueness, and innovative drive.        

The term may be applied to someone who is considered gifted in many subjects or in one subject.  Although the term “genius” is sometimes used to denote the possession of a superior talent in any field, it could be a particular sport or craftsmanship; it has traditionally been understood to denote an exceptional natural capacity of intellect and creative originality in areas of art, literature, philosophy, music, language, science, athletics and mathematics.I believe that a genius is born with the genes needed to maximize their potential.  It begins with genetics, then caries over through their childhood.  At a young age the child must become obsessed with their craft in whatever it is.  Once failure begins to become motivation there is a potential genius evolving.  As the craftsmanship becomes passionate to where the individual only wants to take part in whatever it is they are mastering they begin to excel daily.

Even though everyone may have different motives on becoming a “genius” at their craft, the reason that they have become a genius is the same they love what they do and they want to be the best at what they do.  I believe that if you strive to be the best and work at something insanely to become the best there is a good chance that you may indeed become a genius. 

There are many great professional athletes but Michael Jordan was a genius.  There are many inventors, but Albert Einstein was a genius.  There are many musicians that are great, but Ray Charles was a genius.  They exceeded the means of a man; they walked, talked, ate, and slept their craft until they became a genius. 

I had a buddy that I went to high school with, he was a great lacrosse player, and the whole family was a lacrosse family.  His father was a professional lacrosse coach; his brothers along with himself all went on to play division 1 lacrosse in college and so on.  He has a younger brother about 14 years younger than us; I mean from the day he came out of his mother’s womb everyone knew that he was going to be a special player.

I remember leaving school one day and I saw him and his father playing catch with two lacrosse sticks and a ball.  He was 3 and a half at the time. The kid can trot around and catch the ball in the stick and throw it back at 3 and a half.  The stick is taller than him.  His dad told me they do this for an hour at least every day.  He then smiled and said “he’s gonna be great one day.”

To me that is the beginning stages of making a genius.  He has the ground work in place and the support he needs to become great at something.  Some people use the force from their parents, some people use tragedy as motivation, or some people just do it off of passion, but the bottom line is a genius practices their craft to be the best and then they become the best.

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What is a Genius?



What is a Genius?

by Patrick Dodson

What does it take to be a genius? Modern day America is constantly trying to produce geniuses, whether it be shelling out six figures for a college education or standing in line for eight hours to audition for “America’s Idol”. Every day stars are born, but where is the virtue in that?

According to David Brooks’ April 30, 2009 New York Times op-ed article “Genius: The Modern View”,

The latest research suggests a more prosaic, democratic, even puritanical view of the world. The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.

Many people stand out in history as being geniuses – Mozart, Einstein, Franklin. But what are some modern day geniuses? Let’s take into account modern trends don’t include classical composition, but rather entertainment and convenience. I would argue that these following people are modern day “geniuses”, as defined by Brooks:

Tiger Woods – golfing since an early age, Woods has perfected the game of golf and became the most famous golfer around. Because of his hard work, motivated father, and dedication, he was able to take his skill and interest and make it into a multi-million dollar career.

Susan Boyle – with everything going against her, Boyle got her “5 minutes of fame”, and perhaps more to come, when she built up the courage to go on British television and sing her heart out. No mixers, sound effects, or post production — her voice was genuine and compared to an angel. Just goes to show modern celebrities aren’t always pretty.

Michael Phelps – he might not be the smartest kid (as proved by his infamous bong use), but Phelps made all of America proud by completely dominating the Olympics swimming competitions. There is no doubt that Phelps is a hard worker and spends alot of time rigorously practicing his skill to stay on top.

These may not be your Grandma’s geniuses, but the effect that they have had on a world that seems to be tuned out of most is unbelievable. I’m not comparing these people to Mozart and Beethoven, and some of them will probably not land in history books, but right now they are genius status.

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The Makings of a Genius

I’m not a genius. But I could be.

David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times, discussed the composition of a genius, in reference to two books by Daniel Coyle and Geoff Colvin.

His ultimate argument was that being a ‘genius’ is not something innate or biological, but rather the product of hard work, diligence and intense practice.

Genius, in many ways is the same as beauty: it is in the eye of the beholder. We are constantly searching for the ‘best of the best’ and so fixated on excellence in a particular field, that we lose sight in the fact that society and humanity are more a sum of its parts than the craftsmanship of a few elite souls.

You can easily equate this to the professional world where CEO’s are often equated (well, before the whole financial meltdown) to the pinnacle of success and intelligence. People like the accounts receivable manager or the head of human resources get little acclaim, though they shoulder a heavy burden.

However, if you truly wanted to define brilliance and excellence, it would be summed up in one word: originality. In a society that is no longer separated by continents and dividing lines due in large part to globalization, one must hurdle over the masses to distinguish themselves as a genius.

Sports starts like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Albert Pujols are doing nothing new, while they might be dazzling and physically superior – they are merely footnotes in basketball history.

Greatest Ever? Completely irrelevant.

Greatest Ever? Completely irrelevant.

The procedural way that a game is played will not change when they are finished with their careers. They will simply be retired and become part of the ‘who was better?’ conversation.

If you wanted to look for pure, unadulterated brilliance, take the device you are reading this post on, or the computer in which I typed it on.

Bill Gates, is a prime example the originality quotient that must be used to define greatness and genius in our modern world. Much like Galileo or Socrates, he actually managed to redefine the way we think.

We no longer rely on bulky typewriters or terminal computers, because Windows is here, whatever version you have. We now view computers as something personal, hand-held and accessible, a majority people have at least one computer in their homes.

Thank you, Bill Gates!

Thank you, Bill Gates!

I tend to agree with the argument that people aren’t destined to be anything. Just because you are born to two supermodels, you could be hideous – Just because two brilliant people gave birth to you, doesn’t mean you’ll be successful in life.

With media constantly looking for someone or something to latch on to fill their 24-hour a day binge, often times we lose sight of who is truly relevant. Media sensation Susan Boyle isn’t the greatest singer ever and more likely than not will be forgotten. But with the news coverage she received, you’d think she invented a new type of singing.

Judge for yourselves…

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