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

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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