Reverse Engineering Human Genius

Have you ever watched someone do something and thought: "I wish I could do that." It might have been Tiger Woods hitting a golf ball or a child playing with wild abandon. How do they do that?

Has anyone ever said to you: "How do you do that?" They're amazed about something that you do effortlessly. Maybe it's your ability to connect with people, resolve a conflict, or run a marathon.

Each of us has three kinds of mental software: betaware, vaporware, and pure genius. Betaware is the everyday abilities like driving a car, but we don't have the genius of a Nascar driver. Vaporware is the software you wish you had, but don't. And genius is not an IQ, but the ability to do something elegantly and effortlessly. Genius is often the result of trial and error and steady refinement with a dash of natural talent thrown in.

In "Frames of Mind," Howard Gardner identified at least seven "intelligences" that we all have to greater or lesser degree: linguistic (i.e., speaking), musical, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Our school systems prize logical-mathematical and visual-spatial. Many people I've met, who weren't particularly good at either of these came out of school thinking they were dumb, if not outright stupid. But they were beautiful musicians, speakers, or connectors.

Although we tend to be naturally inclined toward one or two of these intelligences, it is possible to study and reverse engineer the essence of these other abilities. For example, I'm pretty good at math, logic, and spatial problems, but I was never particularly good at sports or interpersonal relationships. I was an only child so I spent more time getting to know myself - intrapersonal intelligence. But I play golf to develop my kinesthetic intelligence.

Having studied good athletes, I found that the key difference between them and me is that they have NO internal dialogue. They SEE someone do something and then they DO it, first using micro muscle movements and then full movements. I, on the other hand, tend to see the motion, talk to myself about it, then try to do the full movement. My internal program is different from theirs. Once I discovered that, I've been systematically working on changing my internal strategy to match better athletes. Guess what: when I get the internal dialogue out of my golf swing, I score much lower, often by 5-10 strokes per round.

Then, you listen to Jack Nicklaus talk about golf: "It's 90% visualization and 10% swing." Ah, so he visualizes the path of the ball and let's his body produce the result. (I spend most of my time thinking about the setup and the swing, not the flight of the ball.) Another player said: "I pick a landing area the size of a sprinkler head." Ah, so they see a much smaller target (I was looking at the whole fairway.)

Whenever geniuses talk about their abilities, they are always offering clues to their success, but they rarely know how they do it. Through my training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP - Inter- and Intrapersonal intelligence) I've learned to listen and watch closely when experts talk about their abilities, because they're always offering clues to their mastery. I'm always wondering: "What are they seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, or tasting that gives them the edge? What's the sequence of steps they follow unconsciously to produce the result?" As I get bits and pieces of the puzzle, I try it out and see how it works for me. Over time, I develop a step-by-step map that covers the essence of what the geniuses do.

Am I ever going to end up on the PGA Tour? Not likely. Jack and Tiger have decades of practice and refinement that it will take me years to develop. Am I a better golfer because I've studied how they think? Definitely, and I'm going to keep getting better because I keep adding to my map of golf genius.

And you too can reverse engineer the genius in any human ability: meeting people easily, growing wealth, attracting romance, or stand-up comedy. There's a difference between our betaware and their genius. And when you find it, you can "install" the genius strategy by simply stopping your automatic process and stepping your way through the genius strategy. Through repetition, the genius strategy will become automatic. That's how to Upgrade Your KnowWare!

If you've noticed a skill or ability you'd like to develop, send me an email: Over the coming months we'll explore some of these abilities and the essence of genius.

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