Discover Your Genius

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-09-04
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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Everyone is born with the potential for genius, according to Gelb. In "Discover Your Genius, " Gelb draws upon a wellspring of imagination from the minds of ten of history's greatest geniuses including Plato, Filippo Brunelleschi, Christopher Columbus, Nicholas Copernicus, Queen Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare, and others.

Table of Contents

Foreword xiii
Acknowledgments xv
Introduction: On the Shoulders of Giants 1(23)
Deepening Your Love of Wisdom
Expanding Your Perspective
Going Perpendicular: Strengthening Your Optimism, Vision, and Courage
Revolutionizing Your Worldview
Elizabeth I
Wielding Your Power with Balance and Effectiveness
Cultivating Your Emotional Intelligence
Celebrating Your Freedom in the Pursuit of Happiness
Developing Your Power of Observation and Opening Your Mind
Applying the Principles of Spiritual Genius to Harmonize Spirit, Mind, and Body
Unleashing Your Imagination and Combinatory Play
Conclusion: I Link, Therefore I Am 344


Discover Your Genius
How to Think Like History's Ten Most Revolutionary Minds


On the Shoulders of Giants

You wereborn with the potential for genius. We all were; just ask any mother.

In 1451, in the Italian seaport of Genoa, a new mother saw it in the eyes of her firstborn child, unaware that the scintillating power of the 100 billion neurons in his brain would one day redefine the shape of the planet on which she lived. Decades later, the wife of a prosperous Polish merchant saw it in the eyes of her baby, though she would never have dared to predict that the connections his adult mind would eventually make would effectively reorder the universe. Three centuries and an ocean away, a woman of land and privilege didn't know that what she saw in the eyes of her child was the dawn of the capacity to grasp and synthesize the essence of Classical, Renaissance, and Enlightenment thinking—and reinvent the notion of personal liberty for centuries to come.

Few of us may claim to be geniuses, but almost every parent will tell you of the spark of genius they saw the first moment they looked into their new baby's eyes. Your mother saw it too. And although she may not have realized it, the newborn brain she saw at work shared the same miraculous potential as the infant minds that would one day achieve the greatness described above.

Even if you have yet to revolutionize anyone's ideas about the planet or its inhabitants, you came into the world with the same spark of genius beheld so long ago by the mothers of Christopher Columbus, Nicolaus Copernicus, and Thomas Jefferson. By its very design, the human brain harbors vast potential for memory, learning, and creativity. Yours does too—far more than you may think. The 100-billion-neuron tally is a simple fact of human physiology, according to the great neurologist Sir Charles Sherrington, who described the human brain as "an enchanted loom" ready to weave a unique tapestry of creative self-expression.

But its power can be as elusive as it is awesome, and can be unlocked only with the knowledge of how to develop that potential, and put those hundreds of billions of fact-learning, connection-building neurons to work in the most effective, creative ways possible. It's far from automatic. We must learn to make the most of what we have—even if that requires us to accept on faith the premise that we have more than we're already using.

Fortunately, we don't have to do it alone. History has produced enough intellectual giants to convince anyone of the potential power of the human brain. Familiar to all of us, their discoveries and innovations have shaped the world in which we live. But as indebted as we are to them for the fruits of their mental labor, we can also turn to the most revolutionary minds in history for guidance and inspiration on how to use our brains to realize our own unique gifts. For just as they have shown us the way in geography, astronomy, and government, these great minds can also show us the way to our own full potential. We needn't aspire to the same incomparable heights to learn from their accomplishments; after all, they've already done their work. But who among us doesn't have to restructure our universe, redefine our world, or renegotiate our relationships with others on an almost daily basis? Indeed, such are the dynamics by which our individuality is developed and expressed.

The full expression of our unique genius does not come without our concerted effort; it requires our embarking upon a deliberate plan for personal development. In a world that drives us down toward a lowest common denominator of taste, thought, and feeling, we all need all the help we can get in manifesting the best in ourselves. Think about it: your brain is the most powerful learning and creative problem-solving system in the world. But most of us know less about how our brains work than we do about our cars. Of course, cars come with instruction manuals and brains don't; even in school, most of us spend more time studying history, mathematics, literature, and other subjects than trying to understand and apply the most important subject of all, learning how to learn.

The individuals whom history recognizes as revolutionary geniuses have done a better job than most of harnessing the mind power with which they were born. Part of their success can be attributed to an intuitive understanding of how to learn. You can learn anything you want to, and you'll surprise yourself with what you can achieve when you know how to learn. In Discover Your Genius you'll develop that understanding for yourself. And as you apply the wisdom of history's great minds, you'll improve your mental abilities as you get older. Imagine unleashing your creativity by enjoying the benefits of the mental play that helped inspire the theory of relativity. Or evaluating your business climate with the combination of keen observation and an open mind that yielded the theory of evolution. Or navigating your life path with the same love of knowledge and truth that spawned all of Western philosophy.

The individuals behind these revolutions of thought live on in our collective memory as models for tackling the challenges that lie ahead. The difference between your mind and theirs is smaller than you think, and is less determined by inborn capacity than by passion, focus, and strategy—all of which are yours to develop. Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson writes that the great minds of history "were obsessed; they burned within. But they also had an intuitive grasp of inborn human nature accurate enough to select commanding images from the mostly inferior thoughts that stream through the minds of all of us. The talent they wielded may have been only incrementally greater, but their creations appeared to others to be qualitatively . . .

Discover Your Genius
How to Think Like History's Ten Most Revolutionary Minds
. Copyright © by Michael Gelb. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Discover Your Genius: How to Think Like History's Ten Most Revolutionary Minds by Michael J. Gelb
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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