You probably have lost access to much of the brilliance you had when you were a child. Numerous tests show that 90-98% of children register genius level abilities to think of many possibilities. Only 2% of adults are so smart.
I’ve not found statistics on the loss of access to curiosity, intuition, instincts, sensory awareness, awe, playfulness and other gifts so potent I call them elements of genius. But hundreds of interviews with adults have shown that even if we can’t remember enjoying these gifts or know how to use them now, we can see them in young children.
Why call childhood brilliance “elements of genius?”
Childhood brilliance certainly doesn’t fit current definitions of genius as super-IQ or stratospheric expression of talents.
Ancient definitions of genius and cutting edge wisdom give a better picture of our potential. My husband’s beloved Latin dictionary (1996 version) by John Traupman, Ph.D. defines genius as three things we could interpret today as 1) trustworthy guidance; 2) natural appetites and inclinations that came in our DNA, and 3) our talents.
Here’s how it works. Curiosity, our senses and other forms of natural brilliance constantly gather information which our internal guidance system uses to guide us to our best life and work. Talents are engaged and stretched in every stage of the process.
Genius Benefit 1 — Trustworthy Guidance
The ancients saw guidance as coming from a “guardian spirit,” the muse, or sometimes the genie. Today, we have a myriad of ways to be guided to live our best lives and do our best work.
Michael Meade says that everyone has innate genius, which is about “each person’s unique way of perceiving the world and unusual way of expressing themselves in it. There can be no end to the shapes and sizes of human genius. When it comes to personal genius, the point is not to compare oneself with others as much as to find the unique form and shape that genius takes in one’s own soul.”
43 years of working with human potential have shown me how many of us were trained out of our best ways to perceive the world and express ourselves, particularly after we went to school, our brain developed, and we learned how to compare ourselves and come up lacking.
Genius Benefit 2: Trustworthy Information from Multiple Sources.
The ancients’ second definition of genius was the “personification of natural appetites, natural inclinations.” This I see as the elements of genius or natural genius.
Buckminster Fuller wrote over 30 years ago that, “Children are interested in everything and are forever embarrassing their specialized parents by the wholeness of their interests. Children demonstrate right from the beginning that their genes are organized to help them to apprehend, comprehend, coordinate, and employ—in all directions. …
“Every child is born a genius, but is swiftly degeniused by unwitting humans and/or physically unfavorable environmental factors.”
Without the information that comes only from our best innate gifts, it’s practically impossible to envision and create adult life and work full of integrity, purpose and joy. That means it’s impossible to recognize or create trustworthy guidance. No wonder so many of us get stuck in unimaginative, same-old, limited non-solutions to pressing problems!
Genius Benefit 3: Talents
One of the most beloved promoters of talents is Barbara Sher, author of I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was and other best-sellers. She says, “What you love is what you’re gifted at. Your talent is coded into your genes … The only way to feel satisfied is to listen to your own nature; in other words, to do what you were born to do.”
Sher teaches that you can always ally with others who have talents you lack. She’s adamant that you don’t have to be already good at something to have a talent, though she is also very practical and realistic. She tells of a self-professed lousy singer whose dream was to sing opera. By daring to play with this dream, Sher’s client discovered her truer passion for turning friends and others on to her love of opera. That’s so doable!
The more I study the elements of genius, the more I see those also as talents. Say you have a talent for composing music which didn’t explode out of your DNA when you were very young. Instead, composing music comes from the interplay over time of talents for listening, imagination, self-expression and all the ways we discover, “I love and am fascinated by this” versus, “I am bored by that.” All the white the inner guide is inspiring, motivating and guiding you to follow your fascinations in spite of others’ negative comments.
Why You May Have Lost Your Genius
Everyone’s story is unique, but here are some common themes:
- Others thought they knew best who you are and what you are called to do with your one precious life
- It was too dangerous (or at least felt too dangerous) to listen to your inner voice and express yourself when you were young.
- You got too wrapped up in the challenges and demands of growing up to protect and grow up your gifts.
- The playground, school and other group settings were sources of competition and humiliation, so you withdrew or did your best to fit in, no matter the cost.
- You were not taught to discover many ways to receive inspiration or focus a compelling vision to meet any problem.
- You didn’t learn basic design or planning skills so you could bring your ideas into concrete form.
The result now: you block, distort or ignore inspiration and information that could be really useful. You get stuck in same-old supposed solutions. You don’t do your best thinking and you don’t get your best results.
Miss Your Lost Genius?
Fortunately, it’s surprisingly easy and delightful to bring back lost childhood brilliance. Future posts will offer many ideas.
Now, please explore the posts and pages here, including visioning lessons from the multi-talented Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer.
Comments and ideas are welcome. What’s now missing for you? How have you lost those gifts? How have you kept alive or reclaimed other gifts? What advice do you have for others?
About the art: thanks to Andrea, on a Creative Commons license.