Art Gallery Gauvin

Australian Bush Legends

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Genius - Three ways to be one.

We are often told that anyone can achieve success: if you want it enough. If you try hard enough. If  you have the talent. Yet we all know many talented and dedicated people never achieve Fame or Fortune in their chosen field. What makes one person a recognised genius and another an also-ran? The genius must possess two things:
1. Talent.
2. Ability and willingness to work at perfecting a skill.

Talent seems to be a gift of the genetic inheritance. This is all science can tell us about it. History shows us that talent alone is not enough. Two popular theories try to explain the fact that many talented people never make the Genius List of history.

One is the '10,000 hours' rule, the other is the '10 years' rule.
Each refers to the time supposedly required of a talented person to perfect a natural gift in some area of artistic, intellectual, or scientific creativity. Mastery of a sport also requires innate talent, long hours of practice, along with the physique best suited to a particular sport.

I think a third requirement is what the rest of us call 'selfishness.'

A vital component of developing innate talent is the ability - and the willingness - to focus all attention on the work at hand. This means not being distracted by interruptions from any of the things we mere mortals accept as normal, everyday Life.
. Things like mortage repayments or school fees and grocery bills, doing laundry, cooking meals and cleaning house.     
. Things such as crying babies, attention-seeking children, spouses or lovers.

Anything in the first category can be cured by the simple application of money.
Dismissing the second requires not only the genius to be self-centred. It also requires the complicity of a partner.

I am trying, without success, to think of any example of a talented person who made it into the history books, within the past two centuries, while being the sole provider for his or her self, much less for a family. When I think of those who did make it onto history's Genius List, I see two common factors linking the names.
    (a) Some devoted person - spouse or lover, relative, disciple or fan - who shoulders the burdens of everyday minutae to allow the genius the time and quietude to fulfil his or her purpose.
    (b) A reliable source of funds to provide the genius with the neccessities of survival plus the required tools of his or her Art, Science or Sport. This source may be an individual as in (a) or may be an institution, such as the big four of Science, Church, Government or Business.

In this, as in every sphere of life, luck – otherwise known as 'random chance' -  plays a part. Luck is something nobody can control. All you can do is be ever-ready to take an opportunity whenever it presents itself. The way to be ready is well-known. It is like sex: the more you do it, the better you become at it. And the better you become at it, the more you enjoy it. So, you will do it even more often and, of course, become better at it. Simple. Then all you need is a little luck.

But as the ancient adage has it: 'The devil is in the detail.'

Along with most people, I used to think that genius was dependent on originality. The genius was a person who came up with an utterly new idea or a unique way of doing something. Finally, I got around to checking out the dictionary definition of 'genius.' It was so shocking that I gathered five of the most respected dictionaries and summarised the findings. The consensus of opinion boiled down to one word: 'stick-at-it-ness.'

However, another old saying warns: 'There is a fine line between genius and madness.' That line is crossed when the virtue of persistence becomes the vice of obsession.

We all know people who dedicate their lives to some field of endeavour with no expectation of making money or a reputation from it but develop and exercise their particular skill for the pure enjoyment of it. Some even share it with the rest of us, by teaching. They are the fortunate folk who know the true meaning of the word 'contentment.'

In this, as in every spere of life, Luck - A.K.A. 'random chance' -  plays a part.  

© Dorothy Gauvin