It’s nice to think that Einstein was born a genius and a mind like his is simply unattainable by us mere mortals. It means that we can slack off, because it’s simply not possible to be that smart; let’s fire up Big Bang Theory and keep the ol’ mental train in the station.
I certainly have this subconscious bias towards overvaluing innate “talent” over extended, intense effort.
But, a couple different things I read this year have changed my mind and have led me to believe that, given some reasonable baseline of innate ability, the person who simply puts in the hours can appear, many years later, as a “genius” destined for greatness from birth.
Richard Hamming, the famous mathematician, recounts a story of a “brilliant” co-worker his legendary lecture “You And Your Research” (which you should pop open some wine and watch in its entirety sometime):
Tim Urban, the mind behind Wait But Why, observed what happens when we tell ourselves that some people are just “born with it,” instead of recognizing the years of practice they’ve put in to get good at something:
Geniuses be warned: my new strategy is to just outwork you.