I've known quite a few geniuses across the years and have been called one from time to time myself. People seem to recognize a genius when they bump into one, yet have a hard time pinpointing exactly what it means to be a genius. Are geniuses born that way or is it something most of us can aspire to and achieve with effort? I think the answer is both. The gifts we are each born with certainly vary, and it is apparent that some folks have an advantage, but I believe each of us has talent that can be developed to be exceptional beyond what most of our peers demonstrate.
Let's just say we can't alter our genetics once we come into the world. So the only question remaining is, what can we actively do to bring out the genius in each of us? Research is showing that while talent is indeed responsible for some extraordinary results, most great accomplishments attributed to genius are the result of a combination of practice, habit, and mindset. General intelligence and creativity can be dramatically improved by anyone by disciplining yourself to do just three things everyday.
THINK. Yes, we all use our brains every day, but are we thinking? It is important to use our brains beyond the surface of our day to day experience. Take time to contemplate deeper questions that force you to go further. Why do you do what you do? What is it about the world that truly excites you? How much of your ideal life are you living? Ask yourself one hard question every day, and take time to ponder it. There is usually a lot of joy that comes from figuring out things that will benefit you for a long time to come, and more often than not, you make your life a bit easier in the process. You can learn a lot from the ideas you put into your mind from the outside world, but you can arguably learn even more by breaking down and better making sense of the things that are already roaming around in your head.
READ. The Internet is a great place to find great minds that are sharing worthy content with the world. Follow a good story or some detailed research and learn something new and valuable each and every day. Reading is also as much about the tangents of thoughts that arise in your own mind as it is about whatever the writer is trying to tell you, and that's where the brain does the real work of sharpening itself. It doesn't take a huge commitment of time. If you were to read for 20 minutes, or about 15 pages of a book, every day, then by the end of the year, you'd have completed between 15 to 20 books. It is not an exaggeration to say that a single book could completely change your life.
ENGAGE. Arguably the greatest teacher in the world is the process of mastery. Just do it. When you put your brain and body together and dedicate yourself to something you find valuable, you give yourself a window of opportunity to refine your mind in a way that thinking and reading alone cannot accomplish. It's natural to think that when a musician is focused on practicing a tune or when an artist is absorbed in the painting process that they're honing their craft and reaping the rewards of their practice in their specialty. It actually goes further than that, however. In states of deep focus, when we're being challenged and pushed by any activity, we're honing our minds. We're refining our ability to internalize information, giving us an intellectual edge that easily transfers to other areas of our lives. Continuing to learn is one of the most important qualities required in a fast-changing world, and it comes from the ability to intensely focus on something that pushes you to ask more of yourself. Whether it's a hobby or a personal project, it's worth dedicating even just half an hour a day to getting a little better at it in a tangible and measurable way, not only giving you more fulfillment, but also improving your mind.
So how do you start? You probably think you are already doing all of this. While everyone spends at least 10 minutes every day reflecting on something, they don't do so deeply; while everyone reads something for 20 minutes every day, they don't read the kind of things worth consuming; and while everyone is busy with something for at least 30 minutes every day, they don't do so with the aim of purpose and progress, without distraction. Most people who we see as smart didn't get there suddenly or through magic. They just did the little things that are easily neglected by most people with a little more attention to detail. Over time, these little things add up. Whether you were born a genius or not, you can hone the talent you were born with and learned over time by just sharpening the way you already do things.