Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration.”
I am always intrigued by stories and ideas from people that are genuinely good in what they do. They juice me up. In this article, I am sharing what I have learned from a number of examples, books and own personal experiences.
I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell – he has shared fascinating journey and background of a number of successful people in his book, Outliers. My take away from the book’s examples is that people succeed because of their background, opportunities that they got and their diligence in pursuing what they liked so much.
- Steve Jobs and Bill Gates got into the computers when computers were about to explode on the scene and take the world by the storm. They grew up with passion for them, had opportunities to access computers very easily and they spent all they had working with the computers.
- People in Southern China developed attention to details and precision from generations of work in rice paddies where they were forced to make best use of literally every square foot of the land. That ingrained precision and ethic for the hard work paved the way for their academic success.
- Michael Jordan had incredible routine and discipline to train and practice that combined with his talent played a big role in his success as a professional basketball career.
What ignites the fire, what keeps it going?
Stephen Covey talked about detecting mission in life, and that vision from inside ignites the fire and brings energy. Tony Robbins explained so well in Shape Your Destiny, that we have needs to connect, to contribute and excel – when we take on tasks that fulfill these needs, it generates energy in living story that overcomes past beliefs, experiences and transform lives.
I recently read Daniel Pink’s DRiVE. Daniel talks about having autonomy in daily routine that self-motivates people to do meaningful things. Engaging in something that we like so much brings that drive to keep improving at what we do. And then, an overriding purpose to contribute something beyond you brings the best in people. It makes so much sense.
Talent is Overrated
When I spotted the book, Talent is overrated, at Barnes and Noble; the title intrigued me. I picked it up, and I am so happy that I did. Geoff Colvin attributed success to consistent, deliberate practice and repetitions focused on specific areas to improve. That is over the natural talent or gifts.
The book has fascinating examples –
- Jerry Rice, the most successful wide receiver to ever play in NFL used to have intense practice routines to build his explosiveness, flexibility and incredibly good stamina that he used so well in playing. He wasn’t the fastest or the strongest or the most athletic player ever to play as a wide receiver, he was the most effective when and where it mattered the most.
- Tiger Woods started playing golf when he was very young, and the playing time and repetitions he had in him even before he became a teenager, allowed him to bundle incredible physical abilities and talent.
- Geoff has eye popping summary highlighting that Mozart became such a prodigy at very young age because he got to play and practice music when he was very young. What looked like naturally gifted talent had also a lot to do with a lot of practice and repetitions he got even before he was 5 years old.
Initial push can come from outside, for example, by encouragement from parents in trying something at an early age.
Genius of Excellence
Connecting back to Edison, what is it that makes you genius?
From my own experience, push sometimes comes from a need. I saw need to develop as a communicator in my career. Initial push came from the sheer need to do better. In time, I became passionate about it so much that I have continued learning and improving on it for years. That passion and fun I get from it drives me to coach youth now in communication. It’s a hobby. I never ran when I was young. I started running almost by an accident, and found out that it can be a powerful energizer for me. It gave me the passion and fuel to run a couple of marathons.
What is recipe for excellence – love what you do, or do what you love?
I think it’s both. You need a purpose that resonates with you naturally. But, then keep plugging away day in and day out with clear goals and plan.