“Genius does what it must and talent does what it can.”
– The Earl of Lytton
Genius is an endowment. A few people are born with it. Some fraction of those people find themselves in a family or field where their genius is recognizable and applicable.
The rest of us can be inspired by the likes of Shakespeare, Ben Franklin, Mozart, Einstein, Martin Luther King, Michael Jordan, Mother Teresa, Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, and others. We may learn something from observing aspects of their behavior, but we ought not to compare ourselves to them.
Their colossal accomplishments are due to a unique combination of inherited genes, phenomenal luck and superhuman appetite for hard work. This is amazing, but it is not gumption.
Mark Twain tells us to forget the idea that “Ben Franklin acquired his great genius by working for nothing, studying by moonlight, and getting up in the night instead of waiting ’til morning…these execrable eccentricities of instinct and conduct are only the evidences of genius, not the creators of it.”
Genius, by the way, is usually not transferable outside its field:
• Michael Jordan retired from basketball and joined minor league baseball’s Birmingham Barons. He had a poor batting average and low on-base percentage in his one season. He returned to basketball and won three more NBA championships.
• Linus Pauling won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. In the 1970’s he advocated loudly for vitamin C as a cure for colds, flu, and even cancer. He wrote a bestselling book on the subject. In the words of physician Paul Offit, Linus Pauling was “a man who was so spectacularly right that he won two Nobel Prizes and so spectacularly wrong that he was arguably the world’s greatest quack.” But still a genius.
• Sir Isaac Newton lost a fortune speculating on stock in the South Sea Company.
Genius is not gumption.
i. “Genius does what it must and talent does what it can.” Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton, English dramatist, novelist, and politician (1803–73) http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Robert_BulwerLytton,_1st_Earl_of_Lytton. Retrieved August 13, 2014. ii. “…these execrable eccentricities of instinct and conduct are only the evidences of genius, not the creators of it.” Mark Twain, The Late Ben Franklin, 1870, quoted in Blooms Classic Critical Views: Ben Franklin, Edited by Harold Bloom (New York: InfoBase Publishing, 2008), 56. iii. Pauling was… “arguably the world’s greatest quack.” Paul Offit, “The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements,” The Atlantic, July 19, 2013; http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/07/thevitamin-myth-why-we-think-we-need-supplements/277947/.
How will you make the most of your talents? Gumptionade – The Booster for Your Self Improvement Plan will show you how.