I used to think of genius as an undefinable and inherently elusive concept. I still think it's incredibly difficult to obtain. It might even be predetermined by genetics. Yet now I better understand what genius really is.
Genius is the integration of intuition and reason.
We see intuition and reason starkly contrasted in most realms:
Yet a few people have been able to tame and converge these seemingly competing impulses, blending them together as if by magic. I have been fortunate to have experienced this in my personal life at times:
Looking more widely, we rarely witness genius. I suspect this is due to vested interests that protect their parochial way of thinking - whether it is religious people who feel threatened by scientific discoveries, or scientific people who balk at or scorn the idea of the intangible, imaginative, or metaphorical. A small handful few people in our present day, and for that matter over the course of history, have been able to see past this division, unifying these two halves and bringing us works of genius. I have identified a few of the genius accomplishments I've encountered:
When I think of people who did genius work, Steve Jobs comes to mind. He tended to refer to himself as primarily intuitive, and cited that as his core inspiration. And indeed, the intangibles of what he and the others at Apple made were all deeply intuitive. But he also had a deep understanding of how technology worked and was progressing. He timed major releases to correspond with advances in engineering, while pushing what could be engineered. There was a tension between the intuitive and rational sides of Steve, and this drove him to create products that were deeply intuitive and thoroughly engineered. He also left behind a company that had this fusion as its mantra. Whether Steve himself was more on the intuitive side or more in the middle is difficult to say; regardless, he marshalled the rational thinkers around him to make products and an organization that would embody the two:
- My roommate, for debating intuition and reason with me
- Walter Isaacson, for providing an insightful look at the genius of Steve Jobs
- Steve Jobs