Strokes of genius | Sunday Observer

Strokes of genius

2 May, 2021

A genius is someone who has an unusually high level of intelligence, mental skills or artistic ability. Mozart is a musical genius, Albert Einstein of ‘Theory of Relativity’ fame is a genius, Leo Tolstoy is an imaginative novelist of great genius while William Shakespeare is a genius as far as drama is concerned. An ordinary man would wonder why he is not a genius. A child may wish to know whether he could be a genius one day.

People who are gifted with high levels of intelligence, mental skills or artistic ability are in a way, creative thinkers. Today psychologists believe that creative thinking is not a mysterious gift possessed by a superior few. They say anyone could have strokes of genius.

Many people may not know Jacob Rabinow as a genius. He observed many short people whose feet could not reach the floor when they sat in chairs. Some of them carried footstools wherever they went, but it was a cumbersome practice. Being a creative thinker, Rabinow hit upon a solution for short people. He attached two pieces of sheet aluminum onto a hollowed-out book, when extended, formed a lightweight, portable and collapsible footrest. The invention attracted the attention of many short people.

The highway

You will see a never-ending stream of human beings only a few feet apart sitting comfortably in their vehicles and propelling themselves at 100 kilometres an hour on highways. There are at least two lanes in each direction. Such moments attest to a human perceptual ability and motor skill beyond the power of past generations. Whoever came up with the idea of making highways is a genius. Thanks to him we use highways today to reach faraway places within a few hours.

Most of us who wish to get a Passport, National Identity Card or a Visa have to wait in long queues wasting our precious time. Sometimes you waste a whole day to get something done. In developed countries there are companies that help busy people with such onerous chores. The brainchild of New Yorkers Oscar Allen and Donald Eggena’s Lendahand now has more than 150 employees who queue for hire at ticket offices, motor vehicle bureaus, banks, supermarkets – places where queues can try your temper.

Most of us use modern toothbrushes without knowing how they originated. The first toothbrush is supposed to have been made in China in the 11th century. It was made of bristles from Siberian hogs, which were raised in cold climate to increase their bristles. Later the bristles were attached to handles made of bamboo or wood.

Today we use toothpicks to remove food particles lodged between teeth. During the Dark Ages in Europe, dental hygiene consisted of using the tip of a knife as a toothpick. When hog-bristle toothbrushes were introduced into Europe in the 15th century, many people found the bristles too stiff. As a result, they started using toothpicks. In the late 19th century, England produced hog-bristle toothbrushes. A more creative man in the United States produced a toothbrush out of synthetic nylon. However, people found them also too stiff. The soft nylon toothbrush was produced in the 1950s. with it, the introduction of fluoride in 1956 by another genius caused a dramatic drop in cavities.

If not for such creative people, our life on this planet would have been somewhat unpleasant. However, I personally believe that a genius is never born but made. A good example is Henry Kaiser who first started looking for a job at the age of 13. In New York, employers shook their heads when Kaiser asked for a job. Who would want to employ a frail, painfully shy boy who messed up everything he had tried to do?

Kaiser followed the age-old trial and error method for many years. After becoming a successful businessman he revealed the secret of his success. He said most people use only one-tenth of their total capacity of work and original thought. If you wish to be a genius, you have to harness your full powers.

Happy elephant

At the age of 16 Kaiser approached the proprietor of a photographic studio and told him that he could treble the profits if he got an opportunity work for him. At first, the proprietor hesitated but later recruited him. Kaiser worked diligently for 18 hours a day and the studio prospered. Within two months he became a partner of the business. One of his partners later said, “Henry is like a happy elephant. He smiles and leans against you. After a while you know there’s nothing left to do but move in the direction he’s pushing.”

A genius has a dream. However, you have to decide what your real dreams are, and then reach for them. They could be closer than you think. Many people have dreams but they think that their dreams are impossible to come true. I met a retired professor of English who was once a bank clerk. He studied English in his spare time and became a graduate. He was offered a lecturer’s post at a university. After doing his Postgraduate studies he became a professor fulfilling his dream.

Just ask yourself, ‘What do I want out of life?’ That’s your dream. And no matter how silly or far-fetched it appears – you can reach it. At the beginning of World War II, Kaiser wanted to build ships, but he had no steel, no shipyard, no experienced shipbuilders, no plans, and no money.

Then he devised an original method of shipbuilding based on prefabrication. The system worked well and he became the most successful shipbuilder in the world. He built more than 1,500 ships.

The question

This question is often asked: Why couldn’t you come up with such creative ideas earlier? You could have done so if you had applied a few basic principles. As Prof. Sam Glucksberg says, “Creative behaviour is inherent in human nature. And people can be trained to increase their creativity.” Those who succeed in different spheres of life follow one more important principle. Give people what they don’t have. You may have heard of Hyman L. Lipman who fixed a piece of rubber onto the top of a standard wooden pencil. His stroke of genius helps us to erase letters or other marks we make by mistake.

Successful people follow another principle. Exploit a frustration. King Gillette was tired of sharpening his straight razor, so he invented the safety razor with a disposable blade. Today others have perfected the safety razor with more blades in one unit and made it durable.

Even an inventor can build on his unique skills.

Finally, if you wish to be a genius, think small. When you think small, big ideas come to you. The adhesive bandage, safety pin or even the paper cup are products of small thinking.

We are still importing adhesive bandages, safety pins and paper cups. Don’t we have people fired with imagination, curiosity and common sense? Once in a while we hear of a local inventor through the media. In order to become a genius you do not have to make a rocket or a ship. Just invent something that will be useful to the people.

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