Saturday, May 2, 2009

Success takes work for geniuses, why not us?

The appetite for 'Getting Rich Quick' is nothing new in American society. Whether reflected through Ponzi-type schemes or the popularity of lotteries, it a dynamic that exists alongside a puritanical momentum in the cultural fabric of this country.

Open Fridge Door
thinks a 'short-cut' mentality has two companions, the 'Get-Success Quick' and Get-Expertise-Quick' trends. (These tendencies are far more prevalent than just among the Generation Y cohort, whose sense of entitled advance in the work-place has been well documented through syndicated research and won't be expounded upon here). People are inclined to inflate their career capabilities and accomplishments because doing so make them appear more desirable candidates and thus more competitive in their hunt for a job. (We'd speculate that such a tendency has evolutionary roots.) The tendency to self aggrandize about career capabilities goes beyond the current unemployed looking for work in this harsh economic climate. Evidence suggests we are in another climate, one in which people have embraced belief in a lower threshold for how success is earned and what it takes to achieve. It has created higher expectations about the value of one's experience and accomplishments.

Can we learn anything by looking at the highest achievers of all in society? From the geniuses in our midst?

It's tempting to think that genius is genetically determined (or god-given), an innate ability that simply exists and emerges of its own accord requiring little effort. Two recent books that study the ways of geniuses share a startling discovery. We might do well to take a page from their books and take it to heart.

In its review of these two books, the New York Times reports:

"The latest research suggests a more prosaic, democratic, even puritanical view of the world. The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft."

The full article is available here.

It is a refreshing perspective indeed: Short-cuts are illusory. If even geniuses have to work hard and diligently for their prodigious feats, what makes us think we can do any less in pursuit of our own?