I’m fascinated with the idea of genius, but what is it exactly? I know what it is when I read about Einstein, Mozart, or Picasso. I know what it is when I think about the minds that invented the car, the airplane, the phone, the computer, the list goes on. At their start these inventions were just improbable ideas, but were advanced through genius thinking.
So I ask myself, is this kind of thinking exclusive to prodigies and academic types? Is genius only measured by IQ, or the school where you earned your degree? But most of all, does it mean I will never have a genius thought of my own, if I don’t have an ivy league background?
According to David Galenson’s, “Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity,” there are two types of genius. The first kind is the “easy” talent or “conceptualist.” This genius emerges at a young age. In every field there are innovators under the age of thirty who come up with something new that changes the way people think. These geniuses are able to think out what they want before executing it.
The second kind of genius is the “experimental” innovator, who is a slower more plodding type of person. These people have no idea what they’re looking for, yet are driven in search of some elusive truth. Their work is hit or miss and doesn’t make its purpose known until later in life. Often these geniuses aren’t aware of what they have even when they have major breakthroughs. This type of genius is slow and less apparent in earlier life, however, these people create their most valuable work towards the end of their careers.
My conclusion is, the word genius has a broader meaning than just intelligence. It says to me genius thinking applies to people who are willing to think about the irrelevant details…who create and solve problems others ignore…who stretch their vision through metaphor and irony to find what’s unusual. Geniuses are those whose work has an obsessive need to find its own truth, and most of all, who are not afraid to learn from their mistakes. Jackson Pollock is a good example of this kind of experimental plodding. He would have gone unnoticed if not for his later work.
For us late bloomers, this is very good news.