30th September 2005 · Last updated: 5th October 2016


I realised that you can try too hard to achieve something which other people can seem to do effortlessly. Such people, I decided, are the definition of genius. They don't have to overly exert themselves to come up with something great. Nor do they have to pretend to be someone else, they can just be themselves.

The rest of us, who fall outside of the term 'genius', may well come up with something great ourselves, but it will be much harder, and possibly even a one-off. Anyone could potentially write a number-one hit single for instance, or a bestselling book, but only a genius could pull it off again and again, year after year.

Are such people lucky? Of course. They can rise above the majority and reach whatever their personal goals may be. However, genius comes at a price. That price may be fame they can't handle, difficulty with relationships, or an inability to be good in other key areas of life where it counts. I remember how John Lennon once famously said "Genius is pain".

Is genius just having a higher intelligence though? Being sharper and better at something? No, I feel there is more to it than that. For a start, luck plays a big part in it. Often a genius is in the right place at the right time. Or they are simply better at manipulating events to further their ambitions.

Some experts have allegedly said that most people have enough intelligence to become a genius. But I feel you definitely have to be born with a special ability to be a genius. I don't think it's something you can teach. Sure, some people may not appear a genius at first, then go on to develop amazing skills that would class them as a genius later in life. That can be true especially if they are working alongside other geniuses — talent seems to rub off a little. Plus one genius can definitely encourage another to be even better at what they do.

Often a genius will start to shine early on, when they are still a young child. Part of being a successful genius may also be proper nurturing. If the parents or guardians of a young genius hold them back, they may go on to waste their talent, or keep it hidden. When suitably encouraged, a child will hopefully start off on the right foot and progress quickly. By the time they are in their teens, it may already be obvious to the world that they are a genius.

There is also the type of genius who rises from the ashes of failure. I once failed something important and was told that I might be a genius, as other geniuses had failed before they became a success. Personally I had my doubts.

Of course not every genius starts off at the top. They too have to start at the bottom and work their way up. But I guess they make the move to the top a lot faster, leaving most of us way behind.

Yet a genius can also go from brilliance to failure. How many classic songwriters or bands have gone from releasing outstanding classics to writing bland rubbish? How many stars can you think of that should have thrown in the towel years ago? But they keep going, probably because their ego refuses to tell them that what they do is no longer great. Some geniuses, however, do go through a bad patch — they are often experimental, and this is all part of the natural process of being a genius, to experiment freely and not be tied down by the perceived rules. Such people may then bounce back later when you least expect it, stronger and bigger than ever before. Look at the current success of songwriter Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. Many people will have written him off in recent years.

There is also the type of genius who excels in more than one area. Such people may be termed 'Renaissance Man' or '-Woman'. They are able to turn their talents to any number of different areas, such as writing, performing, art, music, sport or business etc. They may be classed as a genius in any of the areas they try. Perhaps their genius is nothing more than a faultless confidence and an enduring determination to succeed no matter what.

A genius also knows when they have failed and it is time to move on. Richard Branson of Virgin has branched out into a seemingly endless number of different businesses, from airlines to cola, but not all of them have been a huge success. No problem, he can easily sell a business off and try another in a different field. If Virgin Moon Flights are a failure, he can always try Virgin Mars Flights. He hits way more successes than he hits failures, otherwise we wouldn't be hearing of him and the Virgin brand so often.

So is there a test for genius? I don't think so. A genius is a unique person, a one-off. They may have to go it alone to prove themselves at first, but after a certain point there is no doubt they are a genius. Their work will have a certain indefinable quality — the 'it' factor — you've either got it or you haven't. Others will try and copy them again and again, but never be fully able to. One thing I find irritating is when the media will pump up a new star as if they are a genius without doubt. A singer who has only made one album, for instance. I mean! Let's wait until their tenth album and see if they can still cut it. (Anyone remember 80's singer Junior? "The new Stevie Wonder!" he was called. What?! He had only one big hit single, as far as I recall, then slowly disappeared. Genius? I'll leave you to decide.)

A true genius stands out naturally. They also have the ability to move things forward in their chosen field. Others may take years to get to the same level they reached in a short time. They may invent a whole new area, or a new way of looking at things. Their work may well be challenged and dismissed, but they will always win out in the end. History is filled with names like Galileo and Newton who made the world a better place thanks to their vision and skills.

To consider there is nothing new to discover or create is meaningless to a genius. Some may not fully realise their full strengths, while others positively bask in the glory that comes from being a genius. Alas some geniuses go on to work against the good of humanity too. Whether tempted by money, greed, or a dark desire to harm others, it's a sad misuse of their talent. Genius, like any other commodity, can be used wisely or negatively. Yet the perception of whether the genius is a good or bad type may depend on the view of their faithful followers and those closest to them. But the fact that they are a genius is never in any doubt.

Comments (1)

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  1. de:
    Just a couple questions your discussion made me think of.

    does genius really make things easier? Or, could it be more difficult in the way that 5 globes are more difficult to juggle than 2?

    what percent of geniuses have not been understood or appreciated until some point after their death?

    does it take genius to recognize genius?

    is genius divine? is genius the same thing as the divine thus suggesting that genius is more a product of vision rather than intellect?

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    Posted on 3 January 2006 at 10:42 pm