A touch of genius

By all reports, one of the most celebrated talks at this year’s TED conference was by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love.  Elizabeth starts with a compelling question she gets asked a lot lately, “Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to be able to top that?  Aren’t you afraid you’re going keep writing for your whole life and you’re never again going to create a book that anyone in the world cares about…at all….ever again?!”

Her answer is at times whimsical, at times profound, and I won’t try to do it justice except to summarize that she goes back to ancient Greece to revive the idea of daemons, external manifestations of genius or creativity that are outside and separate from us, who grab or touch us at some times and for some unknowable reasons.

Elizabeth Gilbert says that this construct gives her  some solace.  She (and we) can toil away all we want, but we don’t actually control when genius will visit us or our work.

This takes some of the pressure off, but implicit in what she’s saying is that you absolutely have to do the toiling.  That part isn’t optional, it’s necessary.  It just happens not to be sufficient.

More important still, it seems to me, you have to toil at the right things.  The daemon (genius) of a great book – or a great performance, a great presentation, a great pitch, a great product – by definition will only visit the person who is toiling away and putting their heart and soul into what they are creating.

With so much upheaval in the world right now, and so many tools at your disposal, now’s a good time to ask yourself: if I keep toiling at this and everything goes great, where will I be in 5 or 10 years time?

Enjoy the talk.

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One Response to A touch of genius

  1. This is one of my favorite TEDTalks. You bring up a very good point and one that I’ve been dealing with lately.

    My work with Nomsa has really helped to clarify my personal goals.

    I want to tell stories that matter and bring about change. It’s amazing how deep the effect of a truthful story can have on our soul. When an amazing story, told well, is paired with a way to take immediate action for change… well there’s an opportunity to see major shifts in cultural climates toward issues that hit at the heart of our humanity.

    This is why doing/creating things that cause people to cry “Allah! A glimpse of God” is so important when the work leads them down the right path.

    Thanks for the work you do. It’s so needed to rethink how to change hearts and see people take action on their emotions. You help, your heart and your words have stired the hearts of the Nomsa staff and volunteers to action more than once.

    You have the genius.
    :D

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