If you’ve read The 24 Characteristics of Genius article by Dr. Alfred Barrios, we would like to show you an example of all twenty-four characteristics in a real-life example.
We’re going to list out the characteristics and show that this person has each one of these characteristics. For added fun we’ll make a game out of it. We’ve removed specific data such as the names of his companies, etc. to make it harder to guess who it is. See how fast you can figure out who it is we’re talking about. How many characteristics will it take for you to figure out who it is? Come on, let’s play!
THE 24 CHARACTERISTICS OF GENIUS
The individual we’ve selected works 80 to 100 hours per week. His viewpoint is that if a competitor is working 50 hours and he works 100 hours then he will get twice as much done. Thus, he started and ran several companies often investing nearing all his own money into those companies in an effort to keep them going. When others had given up he persevered and saved the companies, eventually selling the first two, earning him $22 million and $180 million respectively.
One of his companies was a couple days away from having to declare bankruptcy. He had tried to secure financing to make payroll and save the company but no financial institution would loan him the money to keep the company afloat. Instead of declaring bankruptcy, he instead saved the company by writing a check and investing all that remained of his wealth in the cash-strapped company.
3 DEVOTION TO GOALS
“I think it’s important to have a future that is inspiring and appealing. There has to be reasons you get up in the morning and want to live. Why do you want to live? What’s the point? What inspires you? What do you love about the future?”
Does he sound devoted to goals? No doubt.
“So I was this little bookwormy kid, and probably a little bit of a smart aleck, so, this was a recipe for disaster. So I just like, read a lot of books, and, uhh, tried to stay out of people’s way during school. I read all the comics I could buy, or that they let me read in the bookstore before chasing me away. I read everything I could get my hands on from when I woke up to when I went to sleep. At one point I ran out of books and started reading the Encyclopedia.”
However, books weren’t his sole method of learning. If he heard about a successful local businessman, he’d call them and try to get them to have lunch with him. He impressed one banker so much that the man offered him an internship at his bank.
CNN reported he shocked Wall Street by completely dismissing critical questions from two analysts as “boring,” and that his insults and refusal to respond to legitimate questions made for one of the weirdest corporate earnings conference calls in recent memory. His out of the ordinary performance sent [his company’s] stock plunging, wiping $2.8 billion off its market value and $632 million off his personal stake. After the conference, he admitted that it had been ‘foolish of me’ to ignore their inquiries. “I should have answered their questions, live,” he tweeted a day later.
Here is the tail end of an interview found at Wired.com:
Wired.com: How do you maintain your optimism?
Genius: Do I sound optimistic?
Wired.com: Yeah, you always do.
Genius: Optimism, pessimism, f*** that; we’re going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I’m hell-bent on making it work.
7 ABILITY TO JUDGE
It’s “the scientific method,” our mystery genius said. “It’s really helpful for figuring out the tricky things.” He describes his process this way, according to Rolling Stone reporter Neil Strauss:
- Ask a question.
- Gather as much evidence as possible about it.
- Develop axioms based on the evidence, and try to assign a probability of truth to each one.
- Draw a conclusion based on cogency [quality or state of being convincing or persuasive] in order to determine: Are these axioms correct, are they relevant, do they necessarily lead to this conclusion, and with what probability?
- Attempt to disprove the conclusion. Seek refutation from others to further help break your conclusion.
- If nobody can invalidate your conclusion, then you’re probably right, but you’re not certainly right.
Our unknown genius utilizes these six questions any time he comes up with an idea or tries to solve a problem or decides to start a business.
Go back and read the quote under Devotion to Goals and then consider this: when a reporter referred our genius to three separate failures at achieving a huge goal he’d set at one of his largest companies (thus losing the company millions and millions of dollars) he asked why our genius hadn’t just give up. He told the interviewer, “I don’t ever give up. I’d have to be dead or completely incapacitated.” It should be noted that on his fourth attempt at achieving the failed goal he was finally successful. Shortly after, a government agency offered him a billion dollar contract to continue his work for them.
9 WILLINGNESS TO TAKE CHANCES
Our mystery man is definitely a risk-taker. Here is what he says about that:
“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”
“It’s OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket.”
“There’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering.”
10 DYNAMIC ENERGY
He is a bookworm. In grade school, he read ten hours a day, everything in the school library and even all of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He finished a six-month BASIC (a computer programming language) course in just three days. If his reading achievements weren’t already a proof of his dynamic energy consider this: at the age of 12, he used the aforementioned BASIC skills to program Blastar, a self-made video game which he sold to PC and Office Technology for $500. He also doubled majored in physics and economics. Presently, he’s worth $21.3 billion and runs businesses that are aimed at creating a better future for mankind.
When he was 17, he bought a one way ticket to Canada from his homeland on another continent. He worked hard in vegetable gardens, shoveled in grain bins, and even chopped wood. When he ran out of work, he asked the local unemployment office for the “highest paying” job they had available. It turned out to be cleaning out the inside of a boiler room at a local lumber mill. Here’s what he had to say about that job:
“You have to put on this hazmat suit and then shimmy through this little tunnel that you can barely fit in. Then, you have a shovel and you take the sand and goop and other residue, which is still steaming hot, and you have to shovel it through the same hole you came through. There is no escape. Someone else on the other side has to shovel it into a wheelbarrow. If you stay in there for more than thirty minutes, you get too hot and die.”
Later he re-enrolled in college and soon after got the internship at the bank mentioned above.
Anyone who has watched the many YouTube interviews with our mystery genius has observed his obvious passion for his various projects and businesses. That passion is why he can persuade others to follow him. He lets his emotions show. He’s not shy about letting others see how much he truly cares. But anyone else could generate the same inspiration in their own employees or business partners if they were willing to exhibit their own forthright emotions to others. By doing so, anyone could become as persuasive as any other genius and people would follow them too.
Much has been written about our mystery genius and his introversion as a boy and teenager. This is good news for any of you that have similar experiences. Remember these 24 traits of genius are inborn but may not be manifesting in you for others to see. Sometimes it may be necessary for us to train ourselves on how to bring them out so that others can see them. That is exactly what our genius did. He overcame his introversion to such a degree that many media pundits have dubbed him as “the next Steve Jobs.” Today, you can find many videos on YouTube of our mystery man unveiling new products for live audiences that will contribute to the future survival of mankind. He always is striving to improve the culture, not tear it down or be critical of it.
14 ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE
When writing about our genius’s ability to communicate there are an abundance of articles on the internet reporting that our mystery man communicates using the present tense to make his audience or public feel that the future is happening right now. According to Noah Zandan, the founder and CEO of Quantified Communications, he uses the present tense four times as much as the average communicator. What gets overlooked is that communication is a two way street; one must be willing to listen as well. To illustrate the point, here’s an excerpt from an email our genius sent to all the employees of one of his companies:
“There are two schools of thought about how information should flow within companies. By far the most common way is chain of command, which means that you always flow communication through your manager. The problem with this approach is that, while it serves to enhance the power of the manager, it fails to serve the company.
“Instead of a problem getting solved quickly, where a person in one dept talks to a person in another dept and makes the right thing happen, people are forced to talk to their manager who talks to their manager who talks to the manager in the other dept who talks to someone on his team. Then the info has to flow back the other way again. This is incredibly dumb. Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company. No kidding.”
Here’s further proof that even our well-known genius had to work hard on himself to exhibit all of The 24 Characteristics of Genius. In an interview after some major failures at one of his companies he was asked what he had learned so far. He replied: “Patience is a virtue, and I’m learning patience. It’s a tough lesson.” To become your inner genius it may be necessary to learn how to manifest some of these traits that are more difficult for you to express than others.
Here is how this man perceives the patents for one of his companies; he gave away the company’s proprietary technology in 2014 so others would be free to use it. You heard that right. He gave away every patent. The company became fully open-source. Here was his reasoning: [Patents] “serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors.” While his company still legally holds the patents, it won’t sue other companies who are using his technology in good faith. “If we clear a path to the creation of [a better product], but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal.” On his company’s website he wrote, “[His company] will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”
Our mystery subject has admitted that he is an exacting perfectionist with an uncompromising technical viewpoint. As he says, “Constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”
18 SENSE OF HUMOR
Our mystery subject has pulled practical jokes on others and even has hidden “Easter Eggs” inside of his products. After his aerospace company had several major failures he created and posted online a blooper reel which included examples of such things as failed engine sensors, running out of hydraulic fluid, a collapsed landing leg, a radar glitch, and all the resulting crashes and explosions. Complete with self-deprecating humorous captions and a musical score of John Phillips Sousa’s The Liberty Bell, the video ends with footage of his company’s success at achieving aerospace history.
Our subject considers himself a nerd and used to dress up for Dungeons and Dragons tournaments. He played video games and wrote software and studied physics and economics in college at the University of Pennsylvania. The companies he founded are a model for versatility—an online marketing company, a quasi-banking company for safely transferring funds between two parties, a solar energy company, a car manufacturer, and an aerospace company.
You have to be able to adapt to changing conditions in business if you want to survive. Our genius is an expert at changing his business models. He turned his online bank company, X.com, into PayPal, a global payment transfer provider, and then sold it to eBay for $180 million. He immediately turned around and invested the proceeds from the sale into founding Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity. Can you guess who our mystery genius is now? We’ll give you a hint. He said: “I want to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”
Curiosity is being interested in something and finding out about it. For most people that means reading books about the subject they’re interested in. Our genius can read 1,000 words per minute. That’s extremely fast. He reads with a purpose in mind. He became a self-taught automotive and aerospace engineer so that he could apply the things he learned to manage Tesla and SpaceX. When he finds something he’s curious about he reads up on it and that helps him put together a business plan to help him achieve his goals.
Individualism is defined as the principle or habit of or belief in independent thought or action. Our genius gets his individualism by reasoning from “First Principles.” He credits his genius-level creativity and success to first principles thinking. Quote: “Well, I do think there’s a good framework for thinking. It is physics. You know, the sort of first principles reasoning … what I mean by that is, boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy. Through most of our life, we get through life by reasoning by analogy, which essentially means copying what other people do with slight variations.” It is this reasoning by first principles that allows our genius to bypass preconceived notions about how “something can’t be done.”
He could have turned SpaceX into a public company which would have undoubtedly made him and others millions if not billions of dollars. He expressed his reservation about why he had decided to keep the company private in a letter he wrote to SpaceX employees. “Creating the technology needed to establish life on Mars is and always has been the fundamental goal of SpaceX. If being a public company diminishes that likelihood, then we should not do so until Mars is secure.” Translation: When you’re serving and helping mankind money goals come second.
You probably have guessed a few bullet points ago that our mystery genius was Elon Musk. And of all The 24 Characteristics of Genius, imagination is probably his strongest point. He imagines what the future will be like and then puts his first principles thinking to work to solve the problems of creating that future for the good and continued survival of mankind. He actually looks like he is having fun doing it. He certainly is an amazing genius. We could use many more like him.
How about you?
Are you ready to discover your inner genius? Sure, you may not be running companies like Tesla or SpaceX or even want to be like Elon Musk. But that’s not our goal. Our goal is to show you how to become the most amazing genius you can be because that genius already resides within you.
Let’s bring that genius to life!