[“The roots of genius are in the Latin root genio, which translates to creator or begetter. Interestingly, though, the creator was not a person but rather a guardian spirit (daimon) assigned to a person and meant to govern his or her fortunes and protect the family home.” (Negus & Pickering, 2004)] 

What is a genius? It depends on who you ask. There are quite a few definitions of a genius out there.  Here are the main ones. A genius is a person who has: 

  • An intelligence test score above a certain threshold 
  • Accomplished universally recognized “great deeds” 

There’s the IQ genius, sometimes referred to as a psychometric genius, a person whose psychology is used to measure their genius. Next there is the genius of deeds, sometimes referred to as the historiometric genius, a person whose ability is measured by their performance over time.   

[Geniuses must not just be original but must also be exemplary. – Immanuel Kant paraphrased(1)] 

This could be further simplified; there are two types of geniuses: smart and accomplished. Plenty of smart people aren’t accomplished (we’ve never heard of them) and plenty of accomplished people aren’t the smartest. For example, Darwin is estimated to have had an IQ as low as 135(2). At the end of the day, however, deeds speak louder than test results. What good is intelligence if the person doesn’t do anything of import with it? Society confers titles upon individuals to reflect its relationship to that person. We say: that person is a celebrity.  Or, he is a criminal. Or, she is a saint. The title of genius is societally conferred: 

What a genius!  

Psychometric geniuses still have something to prove and there is only one kind of genius worth their salt, and that is the kind that accomplishes notable and serviceable feats. Yes, that statement challenges the role of intelligence in genius. More on that later. 

[The Intelligence quotient (IQ) is measured reputably by a standardized cognitive test such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale 4th Edition (WAIS-IV) or Cattell Culture Fair Intelligence Test (CFIT) III] 

If you fall into the IQ genius category and you haven’t any intention of putting it to good use beyond winning at chess and poker, then this book is not for you. If you are interested in making good on the promise of your high IQ then read on.  

[A genius is a person “to whom the world deliberately acknowledges itself largely indebted.” – Galton(2)] 

In no case do I enumerate a person that thinks or says that they are a genius.  There are, of course, self-proclaimed geniuses that are actually geniuses (ex. Salvador Dali) but in my book, genius is a title to be earned.  

[“Anyone who has worked their way up to the very top of the distribution with respect to performance in a given domain is said to be a genius” – Dean Keith Simonton](6) 

So what is a genius? What’s important is what it means to you.