How to think like a genius

Think like a geniusDespite what was established in the early twentieth century as the standard test for intelligence, recent research has discovered that IQ is not set for life. Genes account for only 50% of your IQ. The other 50% is based on prenatal care, environment and education. And our old school style of education may only really be setting us up with maths and verbal skills – great for making bureaucrats and other cogs in the machine of industry, but not at all complete in itself to have the full picture.

According to the book “Frames of Mind” by H. Gardiner in 1983 already, there are known to be 7 primary types of intelligence, with 25 sub-types. Logical/mathematical (Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie) may be one, but there is also Verbal/linguistic (Shakespeare), Spatial/mechanical (Michelangelo, Georgia O’Keeffe, Buckminster Fuller), Musical (Mozart, Gershwin), Bodily/kinaesthetic (Morihei Ueshiba, Mohammed Ali), Interpersonal/social (Mandela, Gandhi), and Intrapersonal/self-knowledge (Viktor Frankl, Thich Nhat Hahn, Mother Teresa, Swami Prabhupada). This theory is widely accepted, and when combined with the knowledge that intelligence can be developed throughout life, certainly offers inspiration for us all. Not all of us judge one type of intelligence to be as good or important as another, but all go in to creating the whole picture of human intelligence as we know it, and certainly we would be the lesser for it if any one of these were missing in life. Some value one over the other, and that is how we see the world through our own subjective view and probably our own personal intelligence set.

Modern psychology has revealed startling truths about our potential: Your brain is better than you think. Is more flexible and multidimensional than any supercomputer, can learn 7 facts per second, every second, for the rest of your life and still have plenty of room for more, and contrary to popular belief will improve with age if you use it properly. This is an amazing discovery that seems counter-intuitive in a world where we see the law of entropy acting on everything, including our human state. Age brings decay, with age the body and mind is seen to diminish in strength. However, this is not the only reality. The truth is that the brain – like any muscle – only deteriorates if not used. “Use it or lose it” is the bottom line when it comes to muscle strength and brain power, regardless of age. Our brain does not age but can make increasingly complex new connections throughout our lives. Pyotir Anokhin of Moscow, who was a student of Ivan Pavlov (famous for Pavlov’s dog) published research in 1968 that the minimum no of potential thought patterns an average brain can make is the no 1 followed by 10.5 million km of typewritten zeros. He compared the brain to a multidimensional musical instrument that could play an infinite number of musical pieces simultaneously. No human has fully explored the potential capacities of the brain. It seems we are still at the dawn of human civilization when it comes to the yet to be unleashed capacity of our human brains. And this makes sense in light of the sudden great leaps forward we have made in the past century compared to the centuries before that.

Now brainpower Is not just in your head. Neuroscientist Dr Candice Pert says “…intelligence is located not only in the brain but in all the cells of the body…The traditional separation of mental processes, including emotions, from the body is no longer valid.” You may have heard of the brain in the stomach already. I kid you not. Besides that your brain is unique. Of the over 7 billion people living today, and 90 billion that have ever lived, there has never been anyone quite like you. Your creative gifts, like your fingerprints, expressions of DNA and even dreams, are all unprecedented and unique. Ultimately the brain is capable of making virtually an unlimited number of synaptic connections or potential patterns of thought. Certainly imitation is fundamental to learning in many species. As adults we have a unique advantage in that we can choose who to imitate. We can choose new models to replace ones we outgrow. It makes sense to choose the best role models to guide us toward the realization of our potential. If you want to become a master, study the masters. “The Book of Geniuses” by Tony Buzan And Raymond Keene makes an objective attempt to rank the greatest people in history based on originality, versatility, dominance-in-field, universality of vision, strength and energy, and they come up with the following list:

10 Einstein

9 Phidias (architect of Athens)

8 Alexander the Great

7 Thomas Jefferson

6 Sir Isaac Newton

5 Michelangelo

4 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

3 The great pyramid builders

2 William Shakespeare

1 Leonardo Da Vinci

Of course that is their list of top 10 greats and yours may be different according to your perception of life, and so it should be. Even in the 16 century the writer Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) said in his book Lives of the Artists: “Heaven sometimes sends us beings who represent not humanity alone, but divinity itself, so that taking them as our models and imitating them, our minds and the best of our intelligence may approach the highest celestial spheres.” He was alluding to people like Da Vinci here, but we may find our own “rays of Vishnu” or role models to imitate, for imitation of a good thing is by no means bad.

Finally, in cultivating our own potential brain power, seven Da Vincian Principles have been gleaned from the life of that great master by which we can all boost our abilities:

Curiosity – insatiable quest for learning

Demonstration – Testing knowledge, persistence, learning from mistakes, questioning conventional wisdom – learning for oneself through experience

Sensation – refinement of the senses, esp sight, to enliven experience

“Going up in smoke” – willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty

Art/Science – balance between them, logic and imagination. “Whole Brain” thinking

Corporeality – cultivation of grace, fitness, ambidexterity and poise, balance of body and mind

Connectedness – appreciating the interconnectedness of all things. Systems thinking

In our own quest for perfection, we may find a master of the art of living whom we admire and wish to emulate. He or she may have varying qualities, and so we can draw up our own list that we wish to accrue, even if at first by imitation. Fake it ’til you make it, some may say. That is a subject for another discussion. Let’s just say that the path of perfection has already been trodden by those masters before us, and despite the new and innovative angles we can provide based on our unique place and time in history, still the eternal characteristics of human life and its mastery are available for us to emulate in those great souls who are still able to guide us from wherever they may be, by their example and by their inspiration, just as we may be able to set the trend for those who are still to come. As to precisely which souls to emulate – that is up to the discerning eye of the beholder in each of us to decide.

Reference: Think like Da Vinci – 7 Easy steps to boosting our everyday genius, By Michael Gelb, published 1998

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