We always think there’ll never be another Bowie, Prince, Cohen, Fisher or Michael. We easily feel abandoned as our favorite icons prove to be mortal.
We console ourselves with their music, and with Carrie Fisher, her movies and books. Their talents remain legendary and for us, personal.
Inspired by such virtuosos, we can’t help but ask the question: How talented are we? It’s almost impossible not to know their work and crave a piece of genius.
So, let’s take a leaf out of their successes, and figure out where our genius gene hides deep inside ourselves.
Some of us argue we were born less fortunate with little or no starting points. But I think we are all born with some genetic genius, maybe passed down from our great, great ancestors. But if left dormant, it becomes lifeless.
Emily is an elusive recluse and a keen observer. She is convinced of her greatness as a poet and had a hard time getting published. Who is she? She was born 1830 in Massachusetts and her name, Emily Dickinson.
As an American poet, she had no more than a dozen poems published during her lifetime. But her raw talent and her genius lived on. In Dickinson’s case, it had nothing to do with how famous she would become – far from it. She never lived to see it. Vincent van Gogh, a failed and starved artist, died impoverished. Franz Schubert, an Austrian composer, saw but one concert of his own.
Like many great artists, they all contained a superhuman force of endurance. That feeling of ‘dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t’ drove them to hone their craft. Suzanne Farrell, founder of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., says it best,
“I set as my goal to be the best dancer I could be. Not the most famous, or the highest paid dancer, just the best I could be. Out of this discipline came great freedom and calm.”
When you choose to sit there saying, “What’s the point of playing guitar? I’m not Jimmy Hendrix,” then you might as well admit, you’ve inherited something worse than a genius gene. YUP! It’s called the simple gene. But keep in mind simple doesn’t mean stupid. The simple gene means you have an inclination to avoid change at any cost.
Dictionary.com defines genius as “natural ability or capacity; strong inclination: a gift or talent.” And as we seek our first steps towards our genius, the word ‘natural’ becomes our ally.
Prince says it all with in his song Cream:
“Make the rules, then break them all ‘cause you are the best.”
So, the question is, how do we cultivate our genius gene? Like most of us who hide behind the bathroom shower curtains or steering wheel singing, there is always a talent within us, waiting to burst. So let’s break the rules of what you can and can’t do and start playing that guitar, or hit those chords singing. And dump the fame game.
Still nervous of what people think? Let’s take a different route and perform our first act in disguise. For example: If you are a writer and terrified to come out for fear of humiliation, try using a pseudonym. Or if you’re hungry for leadership, invent a small blog that ignites your cause. Try creating a fictitious persona. Use an easy name, as not to attract too much attention. This will help ward of any humiliation.
And for corporate folk, use the same approach to promote your ideas via an imaginary third party or person to ensure you’re clear from any backlash and well on track.
This process will keep you tightly secure and allow you the space to grow.
We are not all born prophets or superheroes. But we do have innate abilities and these are natural gifts. So, whether you’ve inherited a genius gene or similar brilliance, you deserve the chance to explore it. Do it for you, and because you can.
And who says it better than David Bowie?
“I’m just an individual who doesn’t feel that I need to have somebody qualify my work in any particular way. I’m working for me”.