What do geniuses have in common? Solitary immersion in their work.

Richard Gleick talks about one vital trait geniuses all seem to share.

James Gleick knows from geniuses, having written well-regarded biographies of Sir Isaac Newton, and theoretical physicist Richard Feynman. The two brilliant men were very different on a superficial level. Newton was argumentative and anti-social, Feynman was outgoing and charming. And apparently a great dancer.

Different as they were, though, upon reflection Glick came to the conclusion that in one critical way, the two men had one thing very much in common: a solitary immersion in their work that allowed those incredible minds to leave everyone else in the dust.

Gleick considered other geniuses from history and realized, "They all had the ability to concentrate with a sort of intensity that is hard for mortals like me to grasp."

It seems obvious, really, that getting so intensely good at something means spending a lot of time alone. No one develops genius-level skills without having put a great deal of time honing those skills, whether you're a Michelangelo, an Einstein or a Beethoven.

Music, in fact, is full of artists whose lives on the outside of Normal gave them the time alone they needed to pursue their passion, which, as Gleick notes, “doesn't lend itself to easy communication," further reinforcing their isolation. Bach was a crank, Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) was an abused child hiding in Four Freshman harmonies, and Prince was a shy, quiet kid practicing endlessly on guitar. In fact, scenes in the video for his song “Musicology" depicts those early days.

Whatever the field, an intense interest and the joy of mastery seems to drive the genius away from normal life, and often from other people. Even when they're social animals like Feynman, where a genius really takes flight is only in his or her own mind and imagination.

Headline image: AFP

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

The dos and don’ts of helping a drug-addicted person recover

How you talk to people with drug addiction might save their life.

  • Addiction is a learning disorder; it's not a sign that someone is a bad person.
  • Tough love doesn't help drug-addicted people. Research shows that the best way to get people help is through compassion, empathy and support. Approach them as an equal human being deserving of respect.
  • As a first step to recovery, Maia Szalavitz recommends the family or friends of people with addiction get them a complete psychiatric evaluation by somebody who is not affiliated with any treatment organization. Unfortunately, warns Szalavitz, some people will try to make a profit off of an addicted person without informing them of their full options.
Keep reading Show less

4 anti-scientific beliefs and their damaging consequences

The rise of anti-scientific thinking and conspiracy is a concerning trend.

Moon Landing Apollo
  • Fifty years later after one of the greatest achievements of mankind, there's a growing number of moon landing deniers. They are part of a larger trend of anti-scientific thinking.
  • Climate change, anti-vaccination and other assorted conspiratorial mindsets are a detriment and show a tangible impediment to fostering real progress or societal change.
  • All of these separate anti-scientific beliefs share a troubling root of intellectual dishonesty and ignorance.
Keep reading Show less

In a first for humankind, China successfully sprouts a seed on the Moon

China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.

Image source: CNSA
Surprising Science
  • China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
  • In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
  • The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
Keep reading Show less