Sharing my learnings from the book, The Hidden Habits of Genius by Craig Wright
The Hidden Habits of Genius by Craig Wright
Professor Craig Wright, creator of Yale University’s popular “Genius Course,” has devoted more than two decades to exploring these questions and probing the nature of this term, which is deeply embedded in our culture. In The Hidden Habits of Genius, he reveals what we can learn from the lives of those we have dubbed “geniuses,” past and present.
Examining the lives of transformative individuals ranging from Charles Darwin and Marie Curie to Leonardo Da Vinci and Andy Warhol to Toni Morrison and Elon Musk, Wright identifies more than a dozen drivers of genius—characteristics and patterns of behavior common to great minds throughout history. He argues that genius is about more than intellect and work ethic—it is far more complex—and that the famed “eureka” moment is a Hollywood fiction. Brilliant insights that change the world are never sudden, but rather, they are the result of unique modes of thinking and lengthy gestation. Most importantly, the habits of mind that produce great thinking and discovery can be actively learned and cultivated, and Wright shows us how.
This book won’t make you a genius. But embracing the hidden habits of these transformative individuals will make you more strategic, creative, and successful, and, ultimately, happier.
- As the examples of Mary Shelley and Picasso prove, a fresh, young, and somewhat childlike view of the world is often closer to genius than a grown-up perspective.
- Mary Shelley, was only 19 years old when she finished writing her iconic novel, Frankenstein.
- another genius, the artist Pablo Picasso, produced masterpieces even as he grew old.
- As a child, Picasso was mentored by his artist father, whose teaching helped the young Picasso to produce astounding and technically brilliant works of art from an early age. But there was a problem. For all his paintings’ precision, they still lacked something key: real creativity and innovation. The great artist had to learn how to channel childlike impulses in his art, and began experimenting with bold lines, cartoonish figures, and daring colors.
- If you want to develop your sense of curiosity, then try to adopt an open and eager attitude to experiencing new things. Curiosity makes the world a richer place.
- Leonardo da Vinci, The famous Italian artist was a painter, a sculptor, an engineer, an architect, an anatomist, and more. More importantly, Leonardo didn’t just fulfill these roles; he excelled in them, far exceeding the efforts and expectations of his peers.
- But the thing is, Leonardo wasn’t a well-educated man by the standards of his day, having received no instruction in Latin or Greek – which were thought of as the backbone of prestigious schooling.
- what distinguishes rare geniuses like Leonardo from the rest of us is that they seem to be curious about almost everything.
- Give your work your complete attention. the ability to focus entirely on the task at hand lies at the heart of any genius’s ability.
- When it came to creating works of art, Leonardo favored a slow and deliberate manner. Instead of rushing in and beginning straight away, he could agonize for weeks about seemingly trivial details, like a fold of clothing or a shaft of light.
- When an abbot complained about how long it was taking Leonardo to paint The Last Supper, he replied that great geniuses require time to form the “perfect ideas” that they then manifest with their hands.
- The ability to concentrate at great length and with intense focus is common to many geniuses. Take Albert Einstein. Einstein was able to concentrate no matter where he found himself. A friend described visiting Einstein in 1903, when he’d recently become a father, and wrote that, although the place stank of diapers and stale smoke, the great thinker was totally unfazed. With his child on one knee and a notepad on the other, he’d jot down equations and rock his baby at the same time.
- The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy made a habit of locking the door while he wrote.
- Vladimir Nabokov wrote Lolita in the back seat of his parked car, declaring it the only place in the world with no drafts and no pesky noises.
- Geniuses can cause trouble. They rock the boat. They make us feel uneasy. They change our world, whether we like it or not. And they definitely don’t do it by obeying the rules.
- Like most geniuses, Andy Warhol wasn’t a great fan of orthodoxies and rules – far from it. Instead of ignoring the face of modern New York, he chose to make the city’s consumerism his subject. Warhol took everyday commercial objects like a Coke bottle and a Campbell’s soup can and made them his focus. By going against the grain and breaking the rules, he secured a prominent place in the history of twentieth-century art.
- When Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses, a list of objections to established Catholic practices, to the door of a German church back in 1517, he broke all kinds of rules – but in his mind, the fate of Christianity depended on his disobedience. By the end of his life, Luther had founded a new Christian sect with its own theology and practices, established the right of clergymen to marry, and set in motion religious tensions that would boil over again and again in Europe for years to come.
- Geniuses can turn a weakness into a source of creativity
- the renowned English poet John Dryden wrote that “great wits are sure to madness near allied.” In other words, there’s a fine line between being a genius and losing your mind.
- The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama resides at a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo, and spends the days working in her studio across the street. She describes her work as “psychosomatic art” – in other words, art caused by her mental difficulties. Kusama uses them as grist for her artistic mill, transforming her hallucinations into paintings. In creating art, she says, “I have been trying to cure my disease.”
- For optimal creativity, times of concentration need to be combined with stretches of deep relaxation and rest.
- inspiration probably strikes when your mind is disengaged – while you’re taking a shower, going for a walk, or even while you’re in the depths of a dream.
- Isaac Newton, for example, had the ability to hold a problem in his mind and meditate on it for hours at a time – leading to revolutionary breakthroughs in the world of physics and astronomy.
- One of the most common ways of doing this is by getting some exercise. a Greek philosophical sect called the Peripatetics carried out their arguments and discussions while walking around the grounds of Aristotle’s school.
- novelist Charles Dickens is said to have walked up to 15 miles a day while working on A Christmas Carol.
- During REM sleep, the far left and right sides of our prefrontal cortex, which play a key role in logical thought, power down. At the same time, the parts of our brain connected to memory, emotion, and images go into overdrive. The result is the bizarre phenomenon we call dreaming – a state during which geniuses from the artist Salvador Dalí to the Beatles’ Paul McCartney experienced some of their most important creative breakthroughs.