Can you learn how to be a genius?

This BBC News Article – Is there a genius in all of us, seems to think so.

Talent researchers Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Kevin Rathunde and Samuel Whalen agree. “High academic achievers are not necessarily born ‘smarter’ than others,” they write in their book Talented Teenagers, “but work harder and develop more self-discipline.”

Most profoundly, Carol Dweck from Stanford University in the US, has demonstrated that students who understand intelligence is malleable rather than fixed are much more intellectually ambitious and successful.

Our brains adapt in response to the demands we put on them.

Isn’t that interesting?

I know plenty of smart people from my past who feel like they’re stagnating, but that might be because they were classified as “geniuses” in my classes, and it ruined their ambitions.

Essentially, they rested on their intelligent laurels, instead of pushing beyond their abilities.

They would do the task well but they wouldn’t try to do better than what they already knew they could easily achieve.


Hard work makes more of a difference

As a former violinist*, I had a friend who was just awful at playing the violin but she tried so much harder than the rest of us, that eventually she surpassed the rest of us in skill.

She would bring home her violin every night and practice for an hour, forcing herself to try really hard at something she just simply wasn’t naturally good at.

She had to learn everything from scratch as well, not having played the piano before or to have had any private lessons like some of us.

Hard work. That’s all it took. She struggled and wanted to give up plenty of times, but with practice, she became better and better.

*I say former because I haven’t picked up a violin, looked at one, or practiced with one in 5 years. I’m suited to be a pianist.

Being a genius isn’t the be all and end all

I would also agree that being classified as a genius doesn’t necessarily make you the bees knees in anything.

Look at all the other smart, successful people out there who were told as kids they wouldn’t amount to anything, but became wildly successful.

Or how about those with learning disabilities who ignored their naysayers? There are plenty of ordinary and extraordinary stories out there.

No one will hand you an amazing life on a silver platter just because you scored high on a test.

It certainly helps to be so smart and to learn so quickly, but having other types of intelligence — emotional and social for instance, is much handier in real-life situations when you have to interact with others.


By most peoples’ definition, “intelligence” has a very narrow meaning.

I am intelligent in several ways, some of which are “typical” intelligences (very fast reader, good memory) and some of which are not (good at arts and crafts).

However, my parents drilled it into my when I was a child that there were so many more important things than being intelligent, and that being intelligent does not make me better than anyone else.

At the time, I just found the repetition annoying.


I’ve come across a few people (not you, if you’re reading this, so don’t worry) who clearly think that their intelligence is their single defining attribute, and treat anyone they perceive as less intelligent with condescension and a hint of contempt.

Aside from being really obnoxious, it’s sad.

What do you think? 🙂

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.