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