The word genius brings to mind an individual who seems almost supernatural in their ability to write, invent, or create music. But this common perception of geniuses does not accurately showcase everything that goes into greatness.
Innate talent forms only a part of a genius’s makeup. The rest lies in the things they do every day that leads to their success and makes them stand out.
Not all of us have extraordinary talent, but if we could leverage our creativity even a little bit, we have the potential to make a difference. Both in our own lives and in that of other people’s.
Studying the habits of geniuses can help us live up to our potential. Books like How Artists Work by Mason Currey is great for looking at the lives of some of the most creative people who’ve ever existed.
Let’s take a closer look at important lessons that we can apply to our own lives and how to make the best of our own talent.
One common habit that many geniuses stick to is waking up early. Here are just a few of the many geniuses who were up at dawn or well before daylight: Mozart, Maya Angelou, Anthony Trollope, and Jane Austen.
It makes sense to use the early morning as a time for you to do your best and creative work. Here’s why:
- You are less likely to be disturbed. Everyone else is asleep and you’re not likely to be interrupted giving you a start to the day
- The quiet of the morning can be conducive to working
- You’re likely to feel well-rested and fresh, making it a good use of your brain to do important creative work first
- On the other hand, rising early can allow you to get chores and other commitments done so that you create a block of free time for yourself later. For example, Jane Austen woke up early and managed her family breakfast as her main chore so that she could later focus on writing
Having an early start to the day can make you more productive. Consider developing it as a new habit for yourself.
Another trait to be found amongst geniuses is relentless hard work. Contrary to common notions, people who are clever do not always have their ideas come to them in a flash.
Even if it does, they put in several hours every day to refine it into something good. This is often on top of normal jobs that they needed to support themselves.
Here’s a quote by George Sand about how Chopin would work after having inspiration appear in his mind.
“But then would begin the most heartbreaking labor I have ever witnessed. It was a series of efforts, indecision, and impatience to recapture certain details of the theme he had heard: what had come to him all of a piece, he now over-analyzed in his desire to write it down, and his regret at not finding it again “neat,” as he said, would throw him into a kind of despair.
He would shut himself up in his room for days at a time, weeping, pacing, breaking his pens, repeating and changing a single measure a hundred times, writing it and effacing it with equal frequency, and beginning again the next day with meticulous and desperate perseverance. He would spend six weeks on one page, only to end up writing it just as he had traced it in his first outpouring”
It’s clear that geniuses work hard. They also grapple with extreme self-doubt and push themselves to create their best work possible. This tells us that grit and perseverance also matter.
Focus, Planning, and Accountability
Benjamin Franklin is a great example of the next set of habits we’re looking at. He attempted to reach by mastering the 13 virtues of life. These virtues included practices like Temperance, Silence, and Order.
In his scheme, he focused on one virtue a week, giving it his full attention. He attempted to practice a specific virtue carefully and whenever he failed to do so, he marked it on a calendar and kept track of his efforts. He then moved on to the next week to focus on the next virtue. In this way he completed a course and would start it all over again.
He soon gained mastery to a high degree, so much so that he had to use his ‘course’ just once of a year and maybe once every few years later.
This teaches us a few things.
Planning matters: Even hard-to-achieve behaviors and traits can be deliberately created, but you do have to plan it. It’s essential to write it out and make it a firm goal in your mind.
Focus: Franklin focused on one virtue a week, and this is a good example of how we can try to master something by giving it all our attention instead of juggling several things at once.
Create accountability: You have no way of knowing if you’re improving or doing badly if you don’t create an accountability system. Use a journal, a note app, or have an accountability partner to help you track your progress in any area of life.
Follow a Careful Schedule
Beethoven, Mozart, and many others always followed a strict routine. Today, you can use a technique like time blocking to manage your day.
The musician Beethoven would wake up at dawn, have coffee as his breakfast, and work continuously until 2 or 3 pm.
He also walked daily and carried around a pencil and his music sheets in case he was struck by inspiration.
It’s important to realize that talented people work hard and have regimens in place to support their work. Genius is not a burst of insight followed by a fevered activity. It’s actually a lot more boring and tedious. It’s about having structure and then using it to turn creativity into something actionable. Schedules help in many ways:
- You remove the need to make decisions and save your will power
- You free up your energy to focus on creative thoughts
- You’re accountable and don’t create excuses to get your job done
Make a list of skills or ideas that you want to build on. Create a routine that compels you to work at it daily. In this way, you’ll see real development and results over time instead of waiting for the right feeling to appear.
We’ve looked at the habits of geniuses that offer powerful lessons in our own lives. Talent and creativity takes a significant amount of hard work and needs a solid routine.
When you’re able to use the lessons here, you’re more likely to stand out from others. You have unique talents that have a lot to offer to the world. Go and make it real with the insights presented here.