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Characteristics of Genius
You will recall in the February 1999 Great Mind feature I talked about you and your potential as a genius. I mentioned the 20 Characteristics of Genius then, but this month while we are all enjoying our Summer break, I want to expand on each of those characteristics. Those of you who visit to find out more about how to learn and remember, don't worry because next month I will get back onto those subjects. However if you read on you will see that these characteristics can be developed to help you learn and do just about anything that you want to.
So just to remind you what those characteristics were again:
7. Learning from mistakes
8. Subject knowledge
9. Mental literacy
|11. Positive attitude
14. Mastermind group (real)
15. Mastermind group (internal)
17. Facing fears/courage
19. Love of the task
1. Vision - It is very important that in any endeavour you know exactly what you want to achieve. There is a saying that you can never come back from a place you have not been and likewise you will never get to the place you have not chosen. Walt Disney is a perfect example of the application of vision. Although he had passed on when Disney World finally opened, he had seen it complete but in his own mind because he knew exactly how it was going to be.
2. Desire - If you have a burning desire to achieve the results that you want then already you are a long way down the road toward achieving your "vision". You will find that all achievement is accompanied by a burning desire.
3. Faith - The faith required for genius is not necessarily a religious faith but an overwhelming belief in yourself and what you are doing (that may well be fuelled by a deep religious conviction). Colonel Sanders (Kentucky Fried Chicken) had so much faith in his chicken recipe that he endured over 1000 rejections before someone agreed to use it. Another saying sometimes attributed to the great Henry Ford says "If you think you can or you think you can't, then you are absolutely right".
4. Commitment - Once we have a vision, a burning desire to realise the vision and the faith to believe that we can do it then we must be committed enough to do the things necessary, regardless of how difficult they may appear to be. It is at this stage that many would be geniuses (and we are all potential geniuses) fall by the wayside. Ghandi was a good example of commitment. His unending commitment to the principle of non-violent opposition eventually brought about the end of British Rule in India.
5. Planning - Another stumbling block in the search for genius is the lack of effective planning. It is the identification of short, medium and long term goals on the way to our vision that will assist us in getting there. Once we know the path we wish to take it is much easier to focus our efforts. Of course with effective planning it means that we can balance our lives and have more control over our time. Good planning means that we won't find ourselves with 3 month's worth of work left to do the night before our term project has to be handed in. (Sound familiar?).
6. Persistence - I have already mentioned Colonel Sanders and his faith in his chicken recipe but it was also his persistence, even in the face of continuous rejection , that helped him in his success. Thomas Edison is another example of persistence in action. Did you know that he tried several thousand different designs before he finally invented the electric light bulb? When would you have given up? So even when things seem at their worst, keep going.
7. Learning from Mistakes - The first thing that you should understand is that it is fine to make mistakes. Just think of your favourite sport. Who was the best at that sport, who scored the most goals? If you follow a sport that keeps accurate records and statistics you will find that those who score the most goals/baskets/home runs also have the highest rate of misses! So just to make that very clear - if you want more success have more failures. But to make this even more palatable for you, a missed attempt is not a failure it is a result. If you learn from that result to improve your performance next time then it is a victory. Tony Robbins the American Success Coach says "Success is the result of good judgement. Good judgement is the result of experience and experience is the result of bad judgement!"
8. Subject Knowledge - Those who tend to succeed in a particular field are more often than not those with the most knowledge on that subject. You will also find that geniuses not only know all there is to know about there own area but they also have developed a love of learning that gives them a great deal of knowledge in other often unrelated areas. If you want to do well at your particular subject, read more about it than any else.
9. Mental Literacy - What is Mental Literacy? Well standard literacy is the understanding of the alphabet to enable you to read and write and to communicate and understand ideas transmitted through that medium. Numeracy is the same but in the language of numbers. Described as the King of Literacies, Mental Literacy is an understanding of how the mind works particularly in memory, creativity, learning and thinking skills. You can practice these skills and through understanding how the mind works, you can marshal your mental resources much more effectively.
10. Imagination - To be a great visionary you need to utilise your imagination. It is said that Einstein imagined travelling on a sunbeam and through that experience discovered that the universe was curved. Walt Disney imagined his theme parks long before they were ever built. If you can believe it then you can see it. Create it in your own mind first, apply yourself and watch it materialise before your eyes. Imagine yourself with straight A's, believe it and do what ever it takes and you can have straight A's.
11. Positive Attitude - "Oh no" the student laments "I am going to fail my exams". "Be positive" advises the teacher. "Oh no" wails the boy "I am definitely going to fail my exams". That is not really what I mean by a positive attitude. Having an upbeat, can do attitude is good for you and puts you in a much more resourceful state to enable you to achieve what you want much more easily. That is not to say that life will not give you a few hard knocks along the way but when they do come, meeting them in a positive frame of mind will allow you to deal with them much better. Daley Thompson, one of the worlds greatest decathletes had a remarkably positive attitude throughout his career.
12. Auto-suggestion - First of all what is auto-suggestion? Well put yourself in this position - you are playing cricket and the ball is hit towards you. As it drops you are saying to yourself "I am going to drop this, I know I am going to drop this. I dropped the last one so I know this one is going to hit the ground too". Now what do you think is likely to happen? Yes you are right you are probably going to drop the ball. You are your best coach because you can be there all the time. Why not stack the odds in your favour and tell yourself that you are going to get the result that you want. If you tell yourself often enough you will begin to believe it and with that sort of faith anything is possible. Try it, it works because I have used it myself.
13. Intuition - Have you ever felt that something was not quite right and then discovered thing were not all they appeared to be. Or conversely did you ever just know that something was going to happen, however unlikely, and it did. That is your intuition. Trust your instincts because more than likely they will be right. There is much about the human mind and its powers that we do not know about and perhaps never will but if something works for you then keep on doing it even if you don't know how or why. In my naval career I saw ships divers jump over the side during exercises on numerous occasions. Only once did I ever saw anyone hesitate and just before he would normally have jumped two killer whales broached the surface right under him. Now in a diving suit a diver is very much like a seal (to a killer whale that is) and so may have suddenly found himself on the menu so he was lucky. I asked him after why he did not jump in and he said that for some reason it did not feel right so he hesitated. A second later the dorsal fins of the two whales appeared.#
14. Mastermind Group (Real) - How many times have your parents asked you not to hang around with a certain group of kids because they will be a bad influence? If you like that is the power of the mastermind group at work in reverse. You will be greatly affected by those you surround yourself with and the first indication of that is when your parents nag you about your friends (they are only doing it because they care so go easy on them won't you). The mastermind group is your select team of advisors and close associates. Choose them wisely because they can and will have a strong influence on your thinking. Do you want good grades? Hang around with those who get good grades and find out what they are doing and if you do the same, guess what?
15. Mastermind Group (Internal) - Of course there is nothing stopping us from taking inspiration from people inaccessible to us because of distance or time and using their positive influence to shape our futures. Ask yourself what your heroes would do or advise in the situations that you find yourself in and then do the same if it is appropriate. Remember it is down to you at the end of the day and you must always take ultimate responsibility for your decisions and your actions.
16. Truth and Honesty - You may think that you can get away with not being truthful to others but remember that truth is always much easier to justify. If you tell one lie you may have to tell several to justify that one lie. Then those lies need justification and soon the web of deceit is too much to handle. Always be true to yourself so that your spirit can rest easy in the knowledge that you are honest.
17. Courage in the Face of Fear - Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the taking of action in spite of the fear because without the fear there would indeed be no courage. Many of the geniuses that we recognise as such had to face huge fears in order to make their mark on the world. Christopher Columbus is a fine example. He set sail to head into previously uncharted waters not knowing what he may find. Often it takes a leap of faith to achieve great results. Is there something stopping you from taking action. If you "feel the fear and do it anyway" you may find that what you feared was not half as bad as you thought it might be.
18. Creativity and Flexibility - All great scientific and artistic ideas came from the ability to be creative and flexible in the approach to a problem. If you try something and it does not work, try something else. If that does not work try something else. And guess what happens if that does not work......keep trying until. Remember it is the result that you want not the process you have to go through to get it. So if you find it hard to understand a particular subject, try reading a different book on it or asking a different teacher. Different information may yield a new insight.
19. Love of the Task - What would you rather do - stay in all night and study algebra or go out with your friends and have fun? Whichever answer you gave (and there is nothing wrong with either) it is because you enjoyed doing one more than the other. If you are enthusiastic about something you will enjoy it more and you are more likely to be good at it. So how does that work for something that you don't like to do but have to? Well find reasons to enjoy doing what you have to do and then get on and enjoy it. No one said that everything that you have to do will be enjoyable for you but on the other hand no one ever said that we can't enjoy everything that we do. The choice is yours.
20. Energy - With sufficient energy, you can do anything you put your mind to. Find what saps your energy (be it certain food, certain people etc) and remove that from your life. And conversely find what gives you energy (be it certain food or certain people) and add that to your life.
So where does all this lead to? Well if you apply the characteristics of genius to your own study and life then things can only get better. Don't try all 20 at once, begin with one or two and then as they develop as habits introduce one or two more. For more information have a look at Buzan's Book of Genius which is reviewed this month .
To ask about any aspect of Accelerated Learning, e-mail himself (at) michaeltipper.com . Due to Michael's hectic schedule, he may not be able to write back, but will do his best to cover the main issues raised, in future articles [more about Michael on the page here].
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