What is Genius? Part V - Environmental Circumstances and Conclusion
My previous posts explored internal contributors to genius, but one external factor cannot be overlooked. Environmental circumstances are essential to genius. Being at the right place at the right time, having the right family, teacher (or mentor) are keys to one's success. Some say this is luck, but I say it is more. The stars essentially have to align for a genius to become a genius.
Take Terence Tao for instance, widely recognized as one of the best minds in mathematics today. He was born in Australia to Chinese parents who emigrated from Hong Kong. Winner of the Fields medal at 31, Tao was a child prodigy. His father was a doctor; his mother a math and physics teacher. Hence the brains. Early on, Tao's parents encouraged their son to learn at his own (fast) pace and his elementary school tailored a specialized gifted program for him. Tao surely has intelligence, creativity (in order to win the Nobel equivalent in math), and a lot of grit as he often humbly emphasizes that hard work is required. But he also had great supportive parents and schools that allowed his giftedness to blossom. Even his father once remarked had Tao lived in a war-torn country, "he would had no chance."
Many other geniuses also have the stars to thank in their rise to meteoric success. Most Renaissance greats such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo had good mentors in their formative years. The Curies enjoyed a husband-and-wife partnership, supporting each other in their pursuit of radioactivity and discovery of new isotopes. George Washington Carver, though born into slavery and battled racism in his early life, was backed by civil rights believers who sent him to college against social norms. He eventually went on to become the most prominent black scientist of the 20th century.
In conclusion, when promise and opportunity collide, the chances are good for genius to be born. There is one final thing however: take action. The promised one needs to recognize and seize an opportunity when their paths cross. Taking action is easier said than done however. Unfortunately, life can easily return to mediocrity if an opportunity is missed. Hence don't overthink. Take the leap. After all and paraphrasing Mark Twain, ignorance and confidence have led many to success. The difference being, in case of genius, ignorance is a choice.