Artistic Genius – Leonardo daVinci and Walt Disney

Artistic Genius – Leonardo daVinci and Walt Disney

 

Our society is moving toward a view of artistic genius that’s both new and old. It’s new in the sense that truly incredible tools and technologies are now available for creative work. It’s old because our present view of the artist’s place in society has much more in common with the Middle Ages or the Renaissance than with the 19th or early 20th centuries.

To make this clear, and to help you connect with the creative elements in your own character — which you may or may not have recognized in the past — our focus in this session is on two true geniuses who really exemplified the times in which they lived. One of these men is Leonardo daVinci who, along with Michelangelo, is generally recognized as the quintessential artist of the Renaissance. Our second artistic genius is Walt Disney — and he occupies more or less the same position in our time that Leonardo occupied in his. Disney was the Leonardo of the 20th century.

Here at the start of the 21st century, we’re getting rid of the idea that a creative person is someone who wears a beret and lives in a garret. The model of the isolated artist won’t work anymore — and neither will the model of the corporate person who wants to work forty years for one company and then collect a big pension. In this sense, both Leonardo and Disney are probably much more relevant to the circumstance of your life than you might think.

Leonardo was born in the small Italian town of Vinci, in the year 1452. He began life with certain obvious advantages, and also some disadvantages. His father was a rather wealthy country gentleman. His mother, however, was a servant girl whom his father had no intention of marrying. In later life he would describe himself as a “man with no education.”

When he was about 14 years old, Leonardo was sent to Florence to become an apprentice in the studio of a prominent artist. The artist’s name was Andrea del Verrocchio, and he was both a painter and a sculptor. Leonardo learned a lot from this first master. And around 1470, after being with Verrocchio for about four years, Leonardo got a big break. He was assigned to paint an angel in the corner of one of Verrocchio’s major commissioned works. According to legend, when Verrocchio saw the angel he realized it was infinitely better than the rest of the painting. In fact, it was so much better than anything Verrocchio had ever done that he gave up painting forever, right then and there. This legend may or may not be true, but the young artist from the countryside was definitely on his way.

In 1901, about 450 years after the birth of Leonardo, Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois. His home life and childhood were far from the idealized turn of the century landscape he would later create at Disneyland. His father in particular was a difficult man emotionally, and an unsuccessful one financially. Walt found a couple of different ways to escape from this environment. First, he escaped into art, taking classes and drawing whenever he could. Second, he enlisted in the Red Cross ambulance service during the First World War, because at the age of 16 he was too young to join the regular army.

After the war, Disney went to Kansas City, and began a career as a commercial artist. There he discovered animation, and the all the possibilities it offered for creating an alternate world. At first, this world was constructed out of pure imagination. Later it would be projected onto movie screens and television — and ultimately it would become physical reality at Disneyland and Disney World. It would become the basis for a multi-billion dollar entertainment empire.

Right now, as the most basic element of modeling artistic genius, I’d like you to recognize exactly what artistic genius is. It’s simply taking a picture that’s in your heart and using some medium to move it into the hearts of other people. It doesn’t matter what that picture is, and — at least initially — it doesn’t matter how technically adept you are with the medium you’ve chosen.

Leonardo had incredible technical skill. His ability for drawing and sculpture was truly superhuman, and he was also extremely adept at the mechanical and engineering tasks demanded by large scale creative work.

Walt Disney had nothing like Leonardo’s gifts as an artist. There were thousands of people who could draw better than Walt Disney — and when he entered the new field of animation, there were lots of people who were better at that as well. When we look back on it today, it’s easy to think that Mickey Mouse was some sort of breakthrough creation that was destined to revolutionize the world. But there were other cartoon characters that were already very popular, and that were just as charming and creative as the Mouse. For example, what was wrong with Felix the Cat? Why is he forgotten today? Why wasn’t there a television show called the Felix the Cat Club instead of the Mickey Mouse Club?

One big difference, perhaps the big difference, was that behind Mickey Mouse there was a personality whose genius was to take this very little mouse and to make it extremely large. To take something that at first had no substance — no reality — and to give it material being on a scale that kept getting larger and larger.

For your own life, the example of Disney as artistic genius is especially relevant. While it’s possible that you may patent thousands of inventions or become president of the United States, the odds are against it, but on a smaller scale, the tools of artistic genius are always available to you.

What does it take to use those tools? It’s simply a matter of taking the vision that’s in your mind and moving it into the world in some tangible form. It’s taking your vision one step beyond just talking about how you’ll write it or record it or film it “when you get time.”  Taking that step is the essence of artistic genius. Don’t worry about whether your creation will be seen by one person, or a million people, or just by you alone.  Focusing on those things — like saying you “don’t have the time” — is just an unconscious way to avoid actually doing anything. The important thing is to separate yourself from the many, many people who tell me they’ve got something they want to say, but who never get around to saying it.

Thank you for joining me in this discussion of artistic genius, and of how it expressed itself in two very different personalities across the centuries.

 

Winston Churchill – Communication Genius

Winston Churchill – Communication Genius

Winston Churchill was hugely accomplished as a statesman, an historian, and a writer. But when people think of Churchill, it’s his speeches that are remembered. It’s the sound of his voice. That voice is still unforgettable today, even in scratchy old recordings. Try to imagine how it must have sounded over the radio in 1940, when Churchill and Britain were all that stood between Hitler and victory in the Second World War.

 

Winston didn’t fit easily into the standard educational system. From the first, it was obvious he had tremendous talent — his power of memory was rather amazing. But he was very stubborn. He learned what he wanted to learn, and resisted anything else. He didn’t care about learning other languages, for example. He wanted to learn English.

 

By the time Churchill was only twenty-six years old, he was about to enter Parliament, where his voice would be heard for the first time — and once Churchill’s voice was heard, it could never be forgotten.

 

In our schools today, not much attention is paid to speaking skills. There really isn’t a focus on the ability to express yourself effectively in front of a group of people — or even one person. The strange thing is this was a fundamental element of education throughout the history of Western civilization.

 

As a professional speaker myself, it’s amazing to discover the detail and care that was given to the spoken word. The Greeks and Romans considered speaking — which they called rhetoric — to be a branch of philosophy. It was an art that demanded talent and practice, and it was also a science that be studied carefully and systematically. Churchill certainly knew these principles backwards and forwards — and in order to model Churchill’s communication genius, you should know them also.

 

There were basically four general categories of communication — and a genius was someone who could excel in all these areas. The categories were invention, arrangement, style, and memory. They’re still very applicable today, and they’re understood explicitly or intuitively by every communication genius.

 

Invention really means having something to say. You can’t be a great communicator if you don’t have anything to communicate. In order to discover your genius as a communicator, ask yourself where you are on this spectrum. Are you someone who feels the need to talk for talking’s own sake — whether or not your given the opportunity? Or do you back away from communicating even when everyone would benefit from your doing so? Try to be ruthlessly honest about this. It’s not easy, because we’re often amazingly unaware of our true nature as communicators. It’s also something that other people are usually uncomfortable discussing with you.

 

The second principal of speaking was arrangement — which today we would call organization. This is just the tactics and tools of communication. The organization of a good speech comprised six parts: the introduction; the statement of facts; the discussion of facts; the proof of facts; the refutation of possible objections; and the conclusion. The trick, of course, was to blend these parts seamlessly together so that the whole thing seemed effortless and intuitive. It’s amazing, though, how good speaking can be broken down into parts to be approached logically and scientifically.

 

After organization, the third principle of communication was style. Organization is about what you’re saying — style is about how you say it. Today, this is probably more important than any other element of spoken communication, but it’s crucial to develop a style that fits you and fits your audience. Churchill was obviously a master of style. In my opinion, he was really the last great communicator in the classical tradition. Before him, here may have been many people who spoke like Churchill, going all the way back to Greece and Rome. But I don’t believe anyone since Churchill has successfully attempted that style. Martin Luther King was certainly a great communicator, and he could move his listeners just as deeply as Churchill. But his style of speaking came from the tradition of African American preaching rather than classical oratory.

 

We can learn a lot from Churchill and King concerning organization and inspiration — but the style of communication that is most effective today has a different lineage. I would call it an informal style, although it may actually be very carefully thought out and planned. It’s a style that was mastered by Lincoln in his famous debates with Senator Stephen Douglas, by Mark Twain in the literally thousands of lectures that he gave during the final decades of his life — and most recently by Ronald Reagan, who wasn’t called “the Great Communicator” for nothing.

 

The fourth principle of speaking was memory. Until relatively recently, it would have been unthinkable for a communicator to read a speech, much less use a TelePrompTer to make it seem like he knew it by heart. Memory was equated with intelligence. Today we think a person who can do science or math is at the highest level of intellectual power, but in the past it was how much you had memorized. For a modern man, Churchill was surely very accomplished in this regard. For example, he probably knew much of Shakespeare by heart. But in the old days, it was taken for granted that an educated person knew the Bible nearly word for word.

 

I’m not suggesting that to be an effective communicator you need to be a memory expert. But it is important to convey complete familiarity with your subject. If this isn’t the case, you’re going to be dependent on outside help, and that’s an uncomfortable position for a communicator.

 

For success in any field, three important components are pretty much universally recognized — we can call them theory, talent, and practice. In communication, theory refers to the ideas we discussed a moment ago, such as organization, style, and familiarity with your topic. Talent seems to be very important today, because we tend to believe that we’re pretty much born with the limits we can reach in any field. But more than anything, it took practice. Churchill had been a public communicator since he entered Parliament in his early twenties. And this brings us back to a point that was so perfectly expressed by Edison: “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” The more you do something, the more you work at it, the more you experience it, the better you’ll get at it — until before you know it, everybody will be calling you a communication genius!

Leadership Genius-Abe Lincoln

 

                   The Leadership Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln really was born in a log cabin. The fact that he went on to become President — and to lead the country through the most difficult period of its history — is truly remarkable.  It’s even more amazing when you consider what it took to be an important leader in the middle of the nineteenth century. Although we hear a lot about people like Lincoln or Andrew Jackson or Ulysses S. Grant — people who came from nothing to wield great power — these were most definitely the exceptions who proved the rule. And the rule was, most successful people started out with all the advantages. Financially, it was much harder to get rich a hundred and fifty years ago than it is today — and if you failed, it was much harder to get back on your feet. There was no safety net from the government or from anywhere else to make sure that you didn’t go hungry. In those days, it was every man for himself.

With that in mind, let’s look for a minute at some of the things that Lincoln faced and overcame. You’ve probably seen lists similar to this, describing Lincoln’s failures, but I’d like to go through it again in order to make some important points, which we’ll take up immediately after the list. As you’re listening to this list, I’d like you also to think of setbacks you’ve faced in your own life, and how you responded to them.

In 1832, Lincoln was working in a general store in Illinois when he decided to run for the state legislature. But the election was some months away, and before it took place the general store went bankrupt and Lincoln was out of a job. So he joined the army and served three months. When he got out, it was almost time for the election — which he lost.

Then, with a partner, Lincoln opened a new general store. His partner embezzled from the business, and the store went broke. And shortly thereafter the partner died, leaving Lincoln with debts that took several years to pay off.

In 1834, Lincoln ran again for the state legislature, and this time he won. He was even elected to three more terms of two years each. During this period, however, Lincoln also suffered some severe emotional problems. Today he would have been categorized as clinically depressed.

By 1836, Lincoln had become a licensed attorney. At that time, a law degree was not required to pass the bar exam, and Lincoln had been studying on his own for years. He later became a circuit-riding lawyer, traveling from county to county in Illinois to plead cases in different jurisdictions. He was one of the most diligent of all the lawyers doing this kind of work, and between 1849 and 1860 he missed only two court sessions on the circuit.

In 1838, he was defeated in an attempt to become Speaker of the Illinois legislature, and in 1843 he was defeated in an attempt to win nomination for Congress. In 1846 he was elected to Congress, but in 1848 he had to leave because his party had a policy of limiting terms. In 1854, he was defeated in a run for the U.S. Senate. In 1856, he lost the nomination for Vice President, and in 1858 he was again defeated in a race for the Senate. Yet in spite of all these setbacks, in 1860 he was elected President of the United States.

What can we learn about leadership from looking at this chronology? To me, the most remarkable thing is how every time Lincoln failed at something, he was soon trying for something even bigger. When he loses his seat in the state legislature, he runs for the national congress. When he loses a bid for the Senate, he tries to become vice president — and when he loses the Senate race again, he winds up President of the whole country.

Lincoln saw himself as a leader long before anyone else did — and this is the first key to his leadership genius. He may have failed many times, but somehow he always failed upward. He was propelled by a sense of mission, and he was willing and able to do whatever it took to get that great mission accomplished.

From the very first, Lincoln saw himself as the savior of the country. Not just as a successful lawyer or a judge or the owner of a general store. To him, all those things were way stations on the way to something much bigger and more important. Lincoln saw himself as a leader long before he was one. In fact, he saw himself as the leader, right from the first. This wasn’t arrogance or empty ambition. It was a sense of ultimate purpose in service of a worthy cause.

How can you bring that sense of mission into your own life? What are your big, worthy dreams? Are there are goals that you recognized from the first, which you’ve continued to pursue no matter what setbacks have intervened? If that’s the case, then you’re already a leadership genius — you’ve already mastered the art of leading your life in the direction you want it to go.

On the other hand, you may be one of the many people who have put aside any ideas about changing the country or the world. That’s fine — but I do want to repeat the question I asked a moment ago: What are your big, worthy dreams? And I want to emphasize worthy. Having a big car or a boat doesn’t count. Those things are great, but can you see the difference between wanting material success and wanting to make a truly big difference in the world, the way Lincoln did? It’s the difference between just being successful for your own sake, in very conventional terms — and being a leadership genius, not just for yourself, but for other people too. In Lincoln’s case, it was for all people.

Think about your life in terms of a mission – a great purpose that inspires you to leadership — first leadership of yourself, and then of others. If you’ve identified that purpose, the next step is thinking practically and realistically about how you’re going to bring it about. And sometimes the practical side has to be dealt with first, in order to make the larger purpose feasible.

Is there anything about yourself that you suspect might disqualify you from being an effective leader? What are they? How can you turn these perceived weaknesses into your strengths? It’s tempting to think that our leaders should be without weaknesses, but that’s by no means the truth. Leaders should not be without weaknesses that they’re unaware of. Leaders should not be out of touch with what’s going on in their minds and hearts. That awareness in itself is much more important than what challenges it reveals. These are questions that will take more than a few minutes to answer — but I urge you to reflect on them to improve your leadership genius.

 

 

Example of an Applied Genius-Thomas Edison

 

 

Thomas Edison – Applied Genius

 

Visionary geniuses, or at least a lot of them, are downright proud of the fact that their ideas have no clear application to the real world. You’ll certainly find several people like this if you talk to people in the math department of a big university. On the other hand, people in the applied mathematics department, or in the engineering school, take great pride in the real world uses of their work. And despite what the visionary might think, applied genius is in no way inferior to pure theorizing. In fact, our world depends completely and totally on people who not only have ideas, but who can translate ideas into material reality. Applied genius is epitomized by Thomas Alva Edison.

All told, Edison patented more than 1093 inventions. That’s an average of one new patented invention every ten days of his adult life.  He didn’t patent any of his inventions that could be used in the medical field so everyone had access to them. How could one person have all this?

In order to understand what Thomas Edison said and did, we need to know a little about whom he was and where he came from. He was born in Ohio in 1847, and his family moved to the small but busy city of Port Huron, Michigan, when Tom was seven years old. Although not wealthy, both of Edison’s parents were accomplished people in their own ways. His mother was the descendant of a prominent New England family, and had professional training as a teacher. His father was a businessman who loved Shakespeare and other great writers. In fact, he loved them so much that he soon began paying Tom a dime for every book he read.

From the first, Edison was not exactly an easy boy to deal with. Like Einstein, he didn’t start speaking until much later than usual — about the age of four, in Edison’s case. But once he started, he rarely stopped. And his favorite form of speech was the question: “Why, why, why?”

It’s interesting to wonder how a boy like Edison would be handled in today’s educational environment, but in the 1850s the solution was very simple. At the age of seven, he was kicked out of school. From then on, his formal education was handled by his mother — he was “home schooled.”

Applied genius is within everyone’s range. For Edison, it was a matter of looking at the world around him, and asking himself the same few questions about everything he saw: How can this be improved? What’s the logical next step for this object? Most importantly, what can I do today toward taking that step?

Edison did see himself as a theoretician, but his theories were more along the lines of, “What would happen if?” Edison really worked by trial and error. To get where he wanted to go, he liked to grind it out. Some of the best known stories about Edison describe the thousand or so different substances he tried as filament for the light bulb. Finally he hit on the right one, which was tungsten.

Today, mainstream science would criticize this approach for wasting a lot of time. It lacks “elegance” — which is scientific jargon for the simplicity of a well thought-out experiment. Edison, however, wasn’t interested in that at all. He actually enjoyed all the mistakes and dead ends.

Here’s what he said: “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned, that doesn’t mean it’s useless. Surprises and reverses should be an incentive to accomplishment. If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is just one more step forward.”

Let’s think about how some of these ideas can be applied to your own life. Are you a person who likes to plan things out in advance — perhaps years in advance — before you take action? Or do you like to wing it? In other words, are you a theoretician and a planner? Or a “doer” who is determined to reach the goal by any means necessary?

In his own work, of course, Edison never felt that he encountered failure. He had an amazing way of reframing failure so that it actually turned out to be success. If something didn’t work, he had succeeded. He had successfully learned what wasn’t the answer he was looking for. He wasn’t surprised when this happened. It was what he expected. He was going to lose more often than he was going to win — but he knew he would win eventually, because he knew he was going to go on.

This was Edison’s approach, and it’s really the essence of applied genius. You may not always be able to control the outcome of what you undertake, but you can always control your responses to the outcome. You can always change the frame of an event from negative to positive — and the more you’re able to do that, the more successful you’re going to be.

Dr. Tony Alessandra has authored 14 books translated into 17 foreign languages, recorded over 50 audio and video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976.  This article has been adapted from Dr. Alessandra’s Nightingale-Conant audio CD series, Secrets of Ten Great Geniuses, available at http://www.alessandra.com/products.asp

Example of a Visionary Genius

                                 Albert Einstein – Visionary Genius

 

More than anyone else, Albert Einstein is sort of the official, poster-boy for genius, an all-purpose genius of the last millennium. When I asked people for names that they associated with the idea of genius, Einstein was always in the top ten, and usually he was the first. I’m sure your response would have been very similar. But how much do you know about what Einstein actually did? You’ve heard about his efforts to reveal the visionary genius in yourself.

Born in 1879, in southern Germany. There are lots of true and unusual stories about him. There are also many myths and misconceptions attributed to him. You may have heard, for example, that Einstein, this great mathematical genius, flunked his math classes in grade school. It’s not true that he flunked any of his classes. Many of his strict and disciplinary teachers were simply too boring to tolerate, so he preferred walks in nature to dull lectures. He still managed to pass all their tests. Even in college he borrowed a friend’s notes rather than go to class. So while it’s not true that he ever flunked, he passed using some unconventional methods. His teachers did not appreciate this creativity. Years after graduating, Albert discovered the cost for that uniqueness. A bad recommendation from his advisor delayed his admission to graduate school.

You may also have heard that Einstein didn’t learn to speak until he was much older than the average child. This is true. Einstein didn’t speak until he was nearly three years old. Of course, it’s always possible that he knew how to speak but didn’t feel he had anything worth saying — and least not yet.

Einstein didn’t sweat the small stuff! There’s a story about Einstein when he was on the faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, New Jersey. This was and still is the highest powered and prestigious intellectual environment in the world. One day Einstein was walking through the leafy streets near his home, and he encountered a fellow scholar. The two men chatted for a while, but as they were about to go their separate ways Einstein had a final question: “When we met a moment ago, was I walking toward my house, or away from it?”

Einstein’s colleague was a little puzzled by this question, but he replied that in fact the great scientist had been walking away from his house. And Einstein seemed pleased to hear this. “That’s good,” he said. “It means I’ve already had my lunch.”

You see, Einstein liked to think big. Or maybe it was more than just liking it. Thinking big came naturally to him. This was a man who could map the distance across the universe on the back of a napkin with a pencil.

In 1905, Einstein was 26 years old. That’s when he proved his discovery and the concept that will forever be associated with his name — the theory of special relativity. Einstein’s thought processes just kept widening our focus. He went from the special theory of relativity, to the general theory. He kept thinking bigger and bigger, and he didn’t let too many things get in his way. He once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” He also said, “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.”

Well, let’s think about that for a moment. Let’s acknowledge that it takes a very good theory and a lot of nerve to say something like that. But let’s also realize that when Albert Einstein talks about not bothering about the facts, it’s different than you or I not bothering to notice stop signs or red lights. In other words, the essence of visionary genius is that it’s visionary. It’s imaginative and creative, which has great value in its own right. Thinking big like a visionary genius is a great thing to do, even if you don’t come up with a practical application for your thoughts.

Dr. Tony Alessandra has authored 14 books translated into 17 foreign languages, recorded over 50 audio and video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976.  This article has been adapted from Dr. Alessandra’s Nightingale-Conant audio CD series, Secrets of Ten Great Geniuses, available at http://www.alessandra.com/products.asp

 

Visionary Genius

Visionary Genius

 

One definition of genius is someone who sees things that other people don’t see. In a word, the visionary genius. The person who looks around and recognizes possibilities that are invisible to everybody else. This may sound great, but being a visionary genius isn’t exactly an easy life! More often than not, the world isn’t eager to accept the new realities that the visionary genius proposes. Throughout history, visionaries have been laughed at or ignored or sometimes even imprisoned or killed. But they are the ones who have really made progress possible — not just on the material level, but also in how we think and feel and experience life as a whole.

 

The purpose of visionary thinking is to give you the experience of thinking in dimensions that are outside your ordinary mental experience. Thoughts on the scale of the very large and the very small. Some of these ideas may have seemed pretty outlandish — but they may be less outlandish than you think.

What if you found a digital camera on a deserted island? Does it prove that someone else was on the island, or whether the camera could have assembled itself? Actually, this is a hypothetical situation that has been discussed for more than 200 years. In its original form, the found object was a watch rather than a camera. The fact is, the complexities and apparent coincidences of life at the molecular level are infinitely more detailed than a camera or a watch. Yet here we are. Were we, in effect, able to assemble ourselves — through trial and error — because of the vast amount of time that was available? Or was there — is there — somebody else on the island? I don’t have the answer. I just want you to know that it’s a question that’s taken seriously, even though it may have seemed very far out when you first heard it. That’s often the way it is with visionary ideas.

 

According to the so-called “many worlds theory,” infinite numbers of alternative universes are constantly being created in order to account for every possibility. This is based on the visionary principle that everything that’s possible must eventually take place. Is the many worlds theory ridiculous? Does it sound like the idea for Groundhog Day, the film starring Bill Murray? Well, it is the premise for Groundhog Day. But it’s also an idea that’s taken very seriously in theoretical physics and cosmology. In fact, it’s generally accepted as the best explanation for how the universe — or the many universes — actually operates.

 

In the past hundred years, and maybe even for all time, there’s one person who really represents the essence of the visionary genius — Albert Einstein. Not only did Einstein think like a visionary genius, he even looked like one, with the flowing white hair and the melancholy eyes that seem to see everything. I assure you, without Einstein there would have been no Yoda in Star Wars or no Doctor Emmett Brown, the time travel inventor in Back to The Future. Of course, without Einstein lots of things would be very different.

 

Dr. Tony Alessandra has authored 14 books translated into 17 foreign languages, recorded over 50 audio and video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976.  This article has been adapted from Dr. Alessandra’s Nightingale-Conant audio CD series, Secrets of Ten Great Geniuses, available at http://www.alessandra.com/products.asp

 

 

 

Gifted? Genius? What’s the difference?

Giftedness versus Genius

 

I’d like to spend a moment looking at this distinction– because it’s basic to how many people see themselves and evaluate their capabilities. But just for a moment, let’s assume that giftedness and genius really are the same thing. In that case, a person who jumps very quickly through the hoops of elementary school should continue jumping for all the years to come. But very often this isn’t what happens.

Do you know if you are gifted?

You see, our perception of giftedness and genius has often depended to some extent on the age of the person we’re considering. Sooner means smarter, in other words. The sooner a child learns to read, or learns to play the piano, or learns to do long division, the more genius-like that child is perceived to be.

There are a couple of things wrong with that perception. First, a number of the world’s all time great geniuses were at first thought to be anything but gifted.

Secondly, it’s by no means the rule that prodigious children turn out to be genius adults. To some extent, this may be because of the extra stresses that are placed on obvious prodigies. A lot is expected of them, and burnout is a frequent consequence. But it’s also possible that many seemingly gifted children aren’t really gifted — or, rather, they’re no more gifted than the boys and girls around them. The fact is, childhood is simply a time when there’s a lot of emphasis on measurement — and it’s also a time when things are pretty easy to measure. Standardized tests are a staple of American education, as they have been for almost fifty years. There are all kinds of instruments for measuring a child’s achievement levels, as well as their innate capacity to reason and to learn. And sometimes there’s a dramatic difference between those two measures. When that difference exists, the concept of the “underachieving child” comes into play. It’s the definition of a child who has unusual potential which is not showing itself in equally unusual achievement.

But at some point, we stop measuring people in the same way. If we kept it up, we would see some things that are obvious to the casual observer, but are rarely documented by the kind of standardized tests that we’re constantly giving to children. Even as casual observers, we see that other often people catch up to the gifteds and the prodigious. The child, who finished his math workbook before everyone else even started, did something impressive — but sooner or later everybody else finished their math workbooks too. Sooner or later, everybody learned to read and to spell. I might mention, in fact, that a huge and very profitable industry has grown up around the idea of giftedness in children, but there’s no such profit motive in the grown up world. Sure, we know there are highly talented adults who don’t access all of their capabilities. Or who don’t get the recognition they deserve. We know that Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime, and that Emily Dickinson only published three poems in her lifetime. Still, there is no readily accepted concept of “underachieving gifted adult”….

We all are the sum of our choices, or are we?

Which is a pity, since I can almost guarantee that that’s exactly what you are. I can virtually assure you that you’re a latent genius…and once you understand what genius really means, I’m certain that you’ll come to agree with me.

The word genius happens to have a very rich heritage. Today we talk about people being geniuses, but in the past people had a genius. Instead of something that you were, genius was something that you possessed, or, that possessed you. For the Romans, the word genius referred to a guardian spirit that protected people throughout the journey of their lives. Every individual was born with a unique genius that looked after them, helped them out of difficulties, and inspired them at crucial moments. At someone’s birthday, the Romans celebrated the birthday of the genius as well as the person. They celebrated the mysterious power with the person as well as the physical human being.

Do you know someone who has been told they are gifted or a genius? What impact has that label been on their lives? Do you think we try and stick our children into certain “boxes” and ask them to be something they may not be?

Let us know what you think in the comment section of this blog. Your thoughts and experiences may serve to help others!

 

Do birthdays bring more knowledge or just another mark of time?

 

Dr. Tony Alessandra has authored 14 books translated into 17 foreign languages, recorded over 50 audio and video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976.  This article has been adapted from Dr. Alessandra’s Nightingale-Conant audio CD series, Secrets of Ten Great Geniuses, available at http://www.alessandra.com/products.asp

 

Genius-Are YOU one? You might be amazed at the answer!

What is Genius?

Paul MacCready is a writer and inventor who has carefully studied genius and the ways people understand that concept. MacCready has evolved several categories of what genius seems to mean, and these can be useful starting point for defining what genius really is.

Genius-Just what does it mean and who has the potential?

In the first category is what Paul MacCready calls the “everyone agrees” geniuses. These people are the great icons of civilization, including Einstein, Leonardo daVinci, Shakespeare, and Michelangelo. Is there anybody who believes Einstein wasn’t a genius? I don’t think so — so this category is for the geniuses who are elected by unanimous consent. These are many of the same people who were mentioned in my own informal research. We’ll have much more to say about them in this session and throughout the program. In fact, most of our models for the various genius categories will be drawn from this group.

MacReady’s second category is the officially designated geniuses. These are the people who have won Nobel Prizes or other highly respected awards. Whether or not we understand what they’ve accomplished, we think of them as geniuses based on their recognition by people who are supposed to know one when they see one.

Do you have to say it to be it?

A third category includes people who haven’t yet gained national or international prominence, but who have done something so remarkable that they seem to be in a different realm from ordinary mortals. Some of these are the prodigy young people I mentioned earlier in this session — students who have won national science contests or gotten perfect scores on standardized tests. Often they’re not the best in the day to day conduct of school or business, but they have some special gift that eventually reveals itself. Quite often, these people are underachievers who struggle with shyness and low self-esteem. Their surprising success is surprising only because they’ve deliberately tried to stay in the background.

I think you can see how each of these three categories seems quite legitimate — but it’s the fourth one that’s really most important for this program. And you may be surprised to learn that the fourth category questions or even completely refutes the other three. Because the fourth category includes everybody. It’s based on the idea that we all have the potential for achievements that are wrongly considered possible for only a few. And there’s plenty of evidence for this. After all, the physical and mental challenges of learning to walk and talk are more difficult than anything we face later in life — yet the vast majority of human beings meet these challenges successfully.

True, it’s been argued that these primary skills are hardwired into our genetic makeup. But there are many things that the genetic argument can’t account for. In the 17th and 18th centuries, for example, it was simply expected that every member of the educated class would be able to read and speak several different languages, write poetry, play a musical instrument, and know much of the Bible by heart. Furthermore, all these skills were performed at a very high level and at very early ages. In other words, thousands of people routinely displayed abilities that today would be considered truly amazing — and perhaps even evidence of genius. But in those days what we call genius was just the fulfillment of society’s expectations.

When we speak of everybody being a genius in this sense, it doesn’t mean everyone has to get 800s on their SATs or have an IQ of 150 or above. It doesn’t mean everybody can play the violin or create beautiful oil paintings. Those are other ways of looking at the concept of genius. But right now, let’s go back to the origin of the word itself. A researcher by the name of Thomas Armstrong has done some excellent work on this. He points out that the word genius is closely related to the word genesis. It comes from Greek and Latin words meaning “beget,” “be born,” or ” come into being.” It’s also related to the word genial, meaning “festive” or “jovial.” In the Middle East, the term has been linked to the word jinni, or genie, the magical power that lay dormant and hidden in Aladdin’s lamp until a secret method released it.

Combining all these roots leads to a very powerful and beautiful definition of genius. It means “giving birth to your joy.” In this sense, genius is a word for an individual’s hidden potential. It also includes the process of discovering that potential and transforming it into action. But the first step is belief. The first step is certainty that you have greater capabilities than you thought. Not only do you have those capabilities — you also have a responsibility to develop them and put them to use.

What do YOU think genius is? Let’s start a discussion in the comments to this blog!

Dr. Tony Alessandra has authored 14 books translated into 17 foreign languages, recorded over 50 audio and video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976.  This article has been adapted from Dr. Alessandra’s Nightingale-Conant audio CD series, Secrets of Ten Great Geniuses, available at http://www.alessandra.com/products.asp

Assessments-Why Use Them?

              Why Use Assessments?

We have a crisis brewing in the business world today. We live in a 24/7/365 work world where information moves at lightning speed, and companies want people to work better, faster, smarter. Technology rules, sometimes at the expense of people.

In this high-tech world, people will not feel displaced if they work where they feel comfortable: recognized for their contribution, appreciated for their uniqueness, understood by their peers and listened to by their bosses. They value opportunities for growth and chances to learn from others.

Indeed, surveys across industries have shown that comfort and communication are more important factors to the employee’s perception of well-being than the traditional enticements of compensation, benefits, and other perks.

In a Monster.com world, it has become hugely challenging to find and keep qualified and talented people. The emergence of Web-based job search resources have helped to create a fluid workforce able to constantly search for that next perfect job. According to the International Management Association, average churn rates have jumped by more than 14 percent in the last decade.

When employees experience low levels of comfort and communication, they become frustrated and this usually leads to reduced productivity and a loss of high performers. So how do employers combat this counter productive trend?

Employers can combat this trend by growing their employees’ intellectual wealth. A good way to grow intellectual wealth is with good employee assessment resources. Therefore, employee assessment is a vital tool in the challenge facing today’s businesses to grow intellectual wealth. Assessments can measure a variety of criteria: intellectual ability, achievement motivation, skill proficiency, work styles, personality characteristics, and personal values are among them. Assessments are used to help determine training needs, career counseling and life enrichment.

Assessments are a first step towards personal awareness. We provide those assessments that give employees an opportunity to learn something about themselves, with the goals of self improvement, personality enrichment and enhancement of their relationships with others in mind.

We offer assessment tools where there are no right or wrong answers. Employees participate freely in our assessments because they know they will not pass or fail, just become more intellectually wealthy. A good assessment is a tool designed to increase employees’ awareness of their behavioral tendencies related to how they interact with others. Our assessment systems come with support materials and action plans to help employees implement new strategies and behaviors. Whether their individual career tracks are blue collar/vocational, front line customer service, face-to-face sales, technical/professional services, supervision/management or executive staff/boardroom, it is important for employees to have the skills to demonstrate those attitudes and behaviors that enable them to get along with others. To get along, they must better understand themselves and others to communicate with others effectively.

Here are some ways organizations use assessments:

  • Training & Development – training and learning programs can be individualized to each employee rather than using a “one size fits all” training curriculum.
  • Management Decision Making – good decisions are usually made when managers have good information upon which to base those decisions. Assessments can provide appropriate information for coaching, training and communicating with employees.


Employers who use our assessments recognize that they are powerful resources; and when used as part of a training and development program, they enhance employees’ skills related to communicating effectively. The benefits from using assessments can be profound:

  • Higher employee morale
  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced employee turnover
  • Reduced training costs
  • Increasing employees’ sense of well-being
  • Increasing the bottom line due to better employee service to customers
  • More effective team building and compatibility

For more information about how you can use our assessments in your company, please contact us at: TA@Alessandra.com or call us at +1-760-872-1500

What Are YOU Aiming For? Critical Reading.

Most People Aim At Nothing In Life… And Hit It With Amazing Accuracy
By Dr. Tony Alessandra
There’s an old saying: “Most people aim at nothing in life . . . and hit it with amazing accuracy.” It’s a sad commentary about people, but it’s true. It is the striving for and the attainment of goals that makes life meaningful. Lewis Carroll stated this point beautifully in Alice in Wonderland:

What Can You Do?

 

ALICE: Mr. Cat, which of these paths shall I take?
CHESHlRE CAT: Well, my dear, where do you want to go?
ALICE: I don’t suppose it really matters.
CHESHlRE CAT: Then, my dear, any path will do!

No matter what kind of traveling you’re doing, whether it’s through life or across the country by car, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know if you’ve arrived. Taking just any road will leave your fulfillment to chance. That’s not good enough.

People who have no goals feel emotionally, socially, spiritually, physically, and professionally unbalanced. This can only cause anxiety. People who have goals are respected by their peers; they are taken seriously. Making decisions that affect the direction of your life positively is a sign of strength. Goals create drive and positively affect your personality.

The 3-Percent Solution

Time magazine reported on a national survey several years ago that only 3 percent of those surveyed had written personal goals; 97 percent of the people had no goals at all or had only thought about them. They had not committed their goals to writing. Interestingly the 3 percent who had written goals were found to have accomplished much more than any of the 97 percent.

Stepping-stones to Greatness

Achievements come from awareness, which starts with evaluating your strengths and weaknesses in the light of your current situation. You then expand your beliefs (assumptions) to accept more goals for yourself. This leads you to set plans and expand your actions to eventually achieve your goals. The model for this process is:

AWARENESS > BELIEFS > GOALS > PLANS > ACTIONS > ACHIEVEMENTS

One step leads to another. After an achievement, you reevaluate yourself and find that each new feather in your cap makes you feel capable of accomplishing more and more. Your beliefs (assumptions) then expand, making more goals possible. The effect gains momentum and grows like a snowball rolling downhill. In this way, greatness is achieved through small steppingstones.

Rules Of Goal Setting

Most people, when asked, “What are your goals in life?” say something like, “To be happy, healthy, and have plenty of money.” On the surface this may seem fine. As goals leading to actions, however, they just don’t make it. They don’t have the key ingredients necessary to make them effective, workable goals.

Your goal must be personal. This means your goals must be uttered with sincerity. It must be something you want to do rather than something you think you should do. Know your reasons for having the goal. Whether you want to achieve something for status, money, or good health is secondary as long as you want it badly enough to work hard for it.

Your goal must be positive. Try not to think of green elephants! You can’t do it. It’s an automatic response to think of the thing you’re told not to think about. This is because the mind cannot not think of something when told to. We tend to focus on ideas and actions from a positive framework. When you think a negative thought such as, ” I will not smoke today,” your mind perceives it as “I will smoke today.” You end up thinking more about smoking than if you phrased it differently. “I will breathe only clean air today” is a statement that serves the same purpose and is more effective.

Your goal must be written. Writing a goal down causes effects that are a bit difficult to explain. It does, nonetheless, prove effective. Written goals take a jump in status from being nebulous thoughts (which you didn’t care enough about to bona fide entities on paper. Perhaps their being written serves as a visual reminder and thus continually reconfirms their importance. Another possibility is that they can be seen in the statement from the movie, “The Ten Commandments”: “So let it be written, so let it be done.” When things are “put in writing” they become official in our minds. A written goal strengthens our commitment to accomplish it.

Your goal must be specific. If you set your goal by saying “I will increase my sales next year,” chances are you won’t do it. You need to be specific to avoid the lack of commitment that comes with being vague. A more workable and motivating goal would be, “I will increase my sales next year by 10 to 15 percent. This revised statement has several advantages. It defines the increase that you are striving for as well as the range of the desired increase. Giving yourself some leeway is more realistic than expecting to hit your goal at exactly 15 percent.

Your goal must be a challenge. A goal must motivate you to work harder than you have in the past. It must move you forward. Set your goals just beyond your reach so that you’ll have to stretch a bit. The more you stretch, the more limber your goal achieving abilities will become.

Your goal must be realistic. Everything is relative to time and space. What is unrealistic today may be totally within reason five years from now. For years it was believed that the fastest a man could run a mile was in four minutes. It was unrealistic to aspire to running any faster until Dr. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954. Since then hundreds of runners have done the same. In any field, we never really know what the upper limits are. How, then, do we define realistic?

For our purposes, the best definition must come from you and your values. You must ask yourself, “What price am I willing to pay to accomplish this goal?” You should always weigh the payoffs and the sacrifices involved before coming to a conclusion. Realistic is ultimately your decision.

Working Toward Your Goals

Now that you know the rules for setting goals, you can apply them to the goals you set for yourself. Here’s an explanation of each of the areas you need to complete while Working Toward Your Goals…

Define your goal. Your first task is to determine whether your goal meets all the requirements of the rules listed above. If it does, then write it as clearly as possible at the top of the worksheet.

Examine obstacles that stand in your way. This is a time to guard against negative assumptions and other self-defeating thoughts. Remember the definition of realistic. An obstacle blocks you only if you let it. You should also write down your innovative ways of overcoming obstacles.

W.I.I.F.M.-What’s in it for me? Why do you want to achieve the goal? What kind of payoff is motivating you?

Plan your action. You need to carefully list the steps you will take which will bring you closer to your goal. The smaller the increments the easier they will be to accomplish. There is a German proverb that says, ” He who begins too much accomplishes little.” As the American Dental Association is fond of saying, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

Project a target date for your goal. State your deadline range, such as, “between March 15 and April 1st.” Think carefully about the amount of time you need. Too little time will increase the pressure and frustrate you. Too much time may reduce your drive.

Know how you’ll measure your success. Goals should be described in terms of the final outcome of an activity rather than as the activity. This is part of being specific. Instead of saying “I will be running more in four to six months,” you could say “I’ll be running three miles instead of two miles in four to six months.” How will you measure this? Probably by having one-third more blisters on your feet.

VISUALIZING: WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET

Visualization is an indispensable tool in helping people attain their goals. Olympic athletes have proven that visualization is an effective substitute for real practice. In visualizing your goals, you will live your accomplishments in your mind’s eye. The more of the five senses you can involve in this exercise the greater your chances are of accomplishment.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to be the Salesperson of the Year in your company. You know that each year an awards banquet is given during which a plaque is presented to the year’s sales leader. You may choose to focus on this banquet for your visualization exercise. Here’s what you do:

Make yourself comfortable, close your eyes, and relax. Slowly and systematically go through all of the five senses. Imagine what you would be experiencing at the banquet.

Sight. Imagine what you would see there. You’d see other salespeople and their spouses. Imagine what they are wearing. You’d see tables decorated and waiters scurrying about. You’d see the bar and people standing around talking. Keep going for several minutes.
Sound. What would you hear? You’d hear the chatter of people. You would hear laughter, the tinkling of glasses, and music from a band, people talking. You would also continually hear people coming up to congratulate you. Imagine that.
Smell. Imagine all the smells you’d experience. Women’s perfume, food, alcohol, men’s cologne, the smell of polyester suits (not yours, of course).
Feel. What would your tactile sensations be? You’d feel people rubbing up against you in the crowded room. You’d feel others shaking your hand.
Taste. Taste in your mind the champagne you’ll be drinking. Taste the food you’ll be eating. Experience the sweet taste of success! In advance!

Most importantly, imagine the exhilaration you’ll feel when your name is called to receive the award! Take your time during this exercise and enjoy it. The more you can “visually” attend this banquet the more motivated you will become. (You might even learn something about the catering business!)

The Visualization File

To aid in your visualization exercise, you might want to start a visualization file. This is an envelope or file into which you put pictures, clippings, letters, and other reminders of what it will be like to succeed. Your file should also contain letters or awards that you have received in the past. Anything that makes you feel good about yourself can be included in the file. It can then be used as a source of motivation and inspiration, especially if you begin to feel a little down or demotivated. We all need to be reminded of our past accomplishments once in a while. Be your own best friend- remind yourself!

ROLE MODELS

Many people concentrate only on the goal they wish to attain. There’s more to the picture. Successful people in every field have certain character traits in common. These common traits do not occur by chance, they are an integral part of goal attainment. It is worth your time to analyze the constructive characteristics of people who are now where you’d like to be.

One effective method is to choose role models. These are people to look up to and emulate. Your choices can include people who are dead or living as long as you are familiar with their personalities and accomplishments.

Harry Truman knew the value of role models. When he was in the White House he reportedly went into the Lincoln bedroom, looked at the late president’s picture and asked, “What would Lincoln have done if he were in my situation?” The answers to this question gave Truman the insight and direction he was seeking. It worked because Truman felt Lincoln was a man worth emulating.

In choosing a role model, several things must be kept in mind:

1. Keep them off the pedestal. There is no doubt that you will choose people whom you see as being “above” you because of what they have accomplished. That’s good. What isn’t good is to put them on a pedestal, thereby making them larger than life. We are all human. We all have strengths and weaknesses. You must not lose this perspective on people. Putting them on pedestals only further separates you from them.
2. Isolate their strong points. You need to look at the person you wish to emulate and analyze the precise qualities he or she possesses which you need to acquire. Sit down and write out the characteristics that seem to encourage their success. Use concrete examples of their behaviors that you can adapt to our own situation. For example, if you admire a corporate executive, one of the many traits you might isolate is her policy of “early to bed, early to rise.” Write out approximately when she does each and why. You can then do the same and know the reason why you’re doing it.
3. Remain yourself. Quite often the tendency when admiring someone is to try to become his clone. People who seem to “have it all together” have done all the “work” for you. All you have to do is imitate them. This is a dangerous way to think because you are not working on your own personality.

In the final analysis, you are you. It is impossible to become exactly like someone else. And why should you want to? So remain yourself while you acquire new traits to help you achieve your goals.

Sometimes it is helpful to have a symbol or another person’s virtues. This symbol will actually remind you of that person and his or her qualities. It can take the form of a picture, a possession (e.g., your father’s pocket watch), or some abstract thing such as a rock. It will be useful as long as it makes the association in your mind.

MENTORS

A mentor is someone you admire under whom you can study. Throughout history the mentor-pro  relationship has proven quite fruitful. Socrates was one of the early mentors. Plato and Aristotle studied under him and later emerged as great philosophers in their own right. Mentors are worth cultivating if you can find one.

The same cautions hold true here as for any role model. It is better to adapt their philosophies to your life than to adopt them. Be suspicious of any mentor who seeks to make you dependent on him. It’s better to have him teach you how to fish than to have him catch the fish for you. That way you’ll never starve.

Under the right circumstances mentors make excellent role models. The one-to-one setting is highly conducive to learning as well as to friendship.

The THOUGHT DIET

The thought diet, developed by my friend and colleague Jim Cathcart, is a tool that you can use on a daily basis to help you become the person who will achieve your goals. It breaks down goals into daily actions that are bite-size and easy to do. By showing you the steps along the way, the thought diet will keep you from being overwhelmed by your lofty goals.

Thought Diet Action Plan

On your though diet card, write out the “minimum daily standards” which you will perform every day to move you closer to your goal. Be specific.

The following are some examples of minimum daily standards:

o Mental: I will spend 15 minutes every evening doing visualization exercises.
o Physical: I will do at least five push-ups and ten sit-ups every morning.
o Professional: I will read something related to my career for at least 15 minutes before going to bed.
o Financial: I will keep a complete record of every expense and financial transaction.
o Spiritual: Each day I will do a good deed to help someone less fortunate than I.
o Family: I will relax over dinner and enjoy a meaningful uninterrupted conversation with my family.
o Social: I will take time during my coffee breaks in the office to chat with co-workers.

Inspiration and Motivation

Read the thought diet card twice a day until everything becomes a habit. Once you’ve developed constructive habits, you can move on to new goals and behaviors. Fill out a new card and practice the new challenges every day until they become habits. In this way, you will painlessly move closer and closer to your goals.

The dividends reaped by investing in yourself are unlike any other found in the financial world. When you clarify your values and set goals in all the major areas of your life–mental, physical, family, social, spiritual, professional, and financial– the right roads appear in front of you like mirages in the desert, yet they are real. Choices become infinitely easier to make because you are aiming at something specific, and you’ve taken a giant step toward hitting your goals…with amazing accuracy.