We tend to throw the word “genius” around pretty casually, saying so-and-so has a genius for a particular skill, or sarcastically pointing out someone’s failure by saying, “Nice work, genius!”

But what makes an actual genius, a genius?

My guest today has spent over two decades exploring that question by studying the world’s most iconic and original thinkers and creators, both past and present. His name is Craig Wright, he’s a professor emeritus of music at Yale who continues to teach a course there called “Exploring the Nature of Genius,” and he’s the author of The Hidden Habits of Genius: Beyond Talent, IQ, and Grit—Unlocking the Secrets of Greatness. Today on the show Craig reveals the characteristics and patterns of behavior of true geniuses, and begins by answering the questions of whether there’s a connection between genius and intelligence, and whether genius is hereditary. We talk about several drivers of genius, including situational advantages, a childlike ability to play with possibilities, a keen curiosity, a strong memory, broad interests and vision, the ability to toggle between intense concentration and loose relaxation, and keeping a daily routine. We then discuss whether there’s a connection between genius and mental health issues, and what effect being a genius tends to have on someone’s personal life. Along the way, Craig illustrates his points with examples from the lives of Mozart, da Vinci, Steve Jobs, and more.

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Show Highlights

What makes a person or idea “genius”?Is there a connection between intelligence and genius?The inheritability of genius How situational advantage elevates some over others The benefits of a lifelong child-like worldview The value of curiosity Going broad vs. going deep Is there any connection between mental illness and genius?The tattered personal lives of most geniuses 

Resources/Articles/People Mentioned in Podcast

The Art and Science of Creating Good LuckMensa InternationalHow to Be a Creative Genius Like da VinciThe Geography of GeniusPlay It AwayFollow Your Curiosity The Hidden Pleasures of Learning For Its Own SakeHow and Why to Become a Lifelong LearnerThe Strange Toilet Humor of MozartWhy Generalists Triumph in a Specialized WorldTo Succeed in Work and Life, Be Mr. TMake Every Day a Good Day With This Morning RoutineEstablish a Daily RoutineLessons in Unmanliness From Victor Frankenstein


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