Decoding a “Genius”

Dictionary lists the following things under the word “Genius”:

  1. exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.
  2. an exceptionally intelligent person or one with exceptional skill in a particular area of activity, for example “a mathematical genius”
    Most of the time when we are in awe of someone’s extraordinary ability, we go on as far as to say that “He/She is naturally gifted”. We have this notion within us of relating greatness to extraordinary abilities. I , for myself , have never been too convinced about it. Let’s just walk few centuries back and see if we can find something there. Oh yeah!
    We all know about “Arjuna”. He is probably the greatest wielder of Bow and arrows, a great warrior. Some would say “karna” was better . I have nothing personal against “Karna”. I just like Arjuna. Regarding their relative greatness, well that is for another day.
    The story goes like this :  It so happened one day that , one evening the five brothers along with their mother “kunti”, were having their supper. Windy night I guess, the lit lamp was blown. Everyone stopped eating until the lamp was lit again. But Bhima continued his eating. Arjuna observed this. He asked “How can you eat in such darkness??”. The answer was pretty simple. He said ” When you want to do something, you like to do it so much as to do anything, you will find a way”. Nothing great in the answer. But Arjuna , thought to himself, “If he can eat in the darkness, why on earth can I not shoot arrows in the darkness?”. So every night he took his arrows and bow and started shooting at a target some distance away. Even a single arrow couldn’t find the target. This went for several months. At the end of 6 months or so, a single arrow pierced the target. In a year or so all the arrows were bang on.
    Even the greatest of archers had to practice his craft. He didn’t have it in him from the beginning. He was not born with it for sure. But, then this is a stuff of legends. Let’s come to someone who is say more acceptable. . Seems to be “Mozart’s lucky day”. We all acknowledge him as a “Prodigy”. A “Genius” , no doubt. In his book ” Genius Explained”, Howe says
    “by the standards of mature composers, Mozart’s early works are not outstanding. The earliest pieces were all probably written down by his father, and perhaps improved in the process. Many of Wolfgang’s childhood compositions, such as the first seven of his concertos for piano and orchestra, are largely arrangements of works by other composers. Of those concertos that only contain music original to Mozart, the earliest that is now regarded as a masterwork (No. 9, K. 271) was not composed until he was twenty-one: by that time Mozart had already been composing concertos for ten years.”

    So wait.. Where am I heading to? I said he is a prodigy and now I am saying that he didn’t compose anything great until he was 21. The question is “Does it not make him a genius?” I can find hundreds of such people, acknowledged as “Genius” and with a patch of some years in between where they were yet to become a “Genius”. I don’t to give more illustrations for then I would be swaying away from my point. I would like to compare this situation to something in the nature. For that purpose I would like to draw my reader’s attention to “Chinese Bamboo” . Perhaps Mr Rahul Dravid explains it better than anyone else.

    “You can take a Chinese bamboo seed and plant it in the ground, water and nurture the seed for an entire year & not even see a single sprout. In fact, you’ll not see a sprout for 5 years. But suddenly, a tiny shoot will spring from the ground. And over the next 6 weeks, the plant can grow as tall as 90 feet. It can grow as fast as 39 inches every 24 hours. You can literally watch the plant grow. What was the plant doing during these 5 years, seemingly dormant period, it was growing its roots. For 5 full years it was preparing itself for rapid, full growth. Without this root structure, the plant simply couldn’t support itself for its future growth. Some would say the plant grew 90 feet in 6 weeks, I would say it grew 90 feet in 5 years & 6 weeks….”

     My point must have been clear by now. Someone becomes good at something by trying the stuff again and again, by beating himself or herself to it. There is no secret ingredient. You work hard for months and years. You do the same stuff over and over again. You become a so called “Genius”. The ability to be persistent, persistent enough to work after your goal again and again, day in and day out, is the only difference between us and them.  We all see the end result. We never see the process behind it. We see an animation movie or a proof of a theorem. We admire it. But in the meanwhile we forget the work behind it. It is important to understand the process to reach the goal.
    I will end with a small thing. We all look at trees. Huge. Do we wonder by seeing it “from where has it come”??
    It has come from a tiny seed. Compare both , a tree and a seed . Who would have thought that within it lies the potential to turn itself into a giant structure.. But before that the seed needs to be inside the soil.
    If You have given up on something , thinking that you are not one of “them’, I suggest you become one of them. The steps are simple. “Never Give Up”. The rest will take care of itself.
    Perhaps then a “genius’ would have become the “genius”.

Published by tattwamasiamrutam

Tat Tvam Asi

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