- The book is a guide to help readers cultivate their originality and unleash their unique talents by challenging the status quo, questioning their assumptions, and exploring new possibilities.
- The book draws on the author’s experiences as a former rocket scientist and law professor, as well as stories from history, science, art, and business, to illustrate how extraordinary people think and act differently from the crowd.
- The book provides practical tools and exercises to help readers discover their first principles, escape their intellectual prisons, generate original insights, and give birth to their genius.
Awaken Your Genius (2023) is a straightforward yet philosophical guide to releasing the aspects of yourself that don’t suit your growth. Through a five-step process, it shows readers how they can find their way back to their unique and authentic genius selves.
Introduction: Unlearn the habits stifling your creativity and awaken the genius within
Table of Contents
- Introduction: Unlearn the habits stifling your creativity and awaken the genius within
- We are all geniuses – we just have to remember how
- The death: To awaken your genius, offload that which no longer suits you
- The Birth: Identify your building blocks and put yourself back together in new ways
- The Inner Journey: Unlock the playful, creative, wise person within
- Engage meaningfully with the world outside
- Let go of the future to truly embrace your own
- About the author
Picasso, Galileo, Beethoven, Curie – some geniuses need no validation or explanation.
But those are just the famous ones. The truth is, we are all geniuses. Each one of us is born into this world as a unique individual. Yet, as we spend our lives within the scaffolding of school, work, society, and family, we stop questioning who we are and what we really want, instead following a path that becomes increasingly narrow as we age.
It’s never too late to break free. In Awaken Your Genius, learn how to (gently) kill off the old bits of you that no longer work, be born into a new version of yourself, and rewrite your story.
We are all geniuses – we just have to remember how
Gordon Mackenzie, a Hallmark Cards artist, noticed an interesting trend when he visited schools to talk to kids. When he asked students how many artists were in the room, almost every kid in a first-grade classroom leaped up. By third grade, that number had dwindled to a third of the room. By sixth grade, barely one or two raised their hands.
What happened? What caused creativity to dry up?
Each one of us is a genius. You are completely unique, a one-and-only byproduct of a very specific set of circumstances, lineage, and environmental factors. Yet, as we proceed through life, gaining an education in a structured school, taking on the expectations of parents, friends, and society, we begin to shed that which is unique and instead add layers that obscure authenticity.
We are hiding our genius. But it’s never too late to try to get it back.
To awaken your genius, you will need to undergo an internal journey, one that requires reflection, unloading the baggage of learned thinking and expectations, and setting yourself on a path to awakening.
In this summary, you’ll learn about the five steps to doing this.
In the first step, “the death,” you will learn to unload that which no longer serves you. This isn’t easy – you are probably attached to your identity – but for something new to come, something old has to go. This “death” opens the gateway for the second step: the birth of the new you. Next, we’ll talk about kindling your creativity during your inner journey, and the fourth step shows you how to adjust to the world outside. This takes us to the final step – transformation.
The death: To awaken your genius, offload that which no longer suits you
You may know the late Gillian Lynne as the choreographer of Cats and the Phantom of the Opera. By any measure, she was a success.
But when Lynne was little, she was considered a problem child and bad student. Running out of options, her mother took her to a doctor. After some observation, the doctor asked her mother to leave the room with him, but left Lynne behind with the music turned on. Through the glass door, they watched the child leap and twirl to the music.
The doctor’s prescription? Enroll this child in dance class right away.
Like Lynne, many of us are trapped within a system that doesn’t suit us. Most of us are the products of traditional educational systems, hierarchical environments that encourage memorization and passive absorption.
To awaken your genius, the first step is to relearn. And to do that, you have to first unlearn, or discard that which no longer suits you.
Maybe you excelled in biology and volunteered in hospitals, but while applying to medical school, decided that you were no longer stoked by the idea of practicing medicine. It might be hard to throw off years of work and the identity you claimed as an aspiring doctor, but remember this: You are not your identity.
Your identity is a story you tell yourself, but it is not actually you. You may love music and play in a band, but you are not just a musician. You may drive a Mercedes, but that is what you have, not what you are. Choosing one aspect by which to define your whole self minimizes your vastness and reality.
Become comfortable in the gray area of uncertainty. Entertain and accept contradictory thoughts. Reject a tribal mentality that dictates that you always align your thoughts with a particular group. Treat your attention as the most important commodity you have – don’t give it away cheaply to every alert on your phone, the demands of the 24-hour news cycle, or the siren song of social media.
Once you have created the space within, sit still. And wait to be reborn.
The Birth: Identify your building blocks and put yourself back together in new ways
On Valentine’s Day in 2005, three bored young engineers decided to create a website for singles to post videos and introduce themselves to prospective significant others. The idea didn’t take off, but the effort wasn’t a complete waste of time. Today, you’d know it as YouTube.
YouTube’s first iteration may not have worked, but by taking it apart and retrieving usable building blocks, those engineers were able to build something that did.
What are YOUR building blocks? Your skills? Your talents? It might be something that comes so easily to you that you don’t recognize as a talent. It might be something that made you think of yourself as “weird” or different, but is actually a superpower. And don’t limit yourself to one facet. You can be an athlete who writes, a musician who practices law, a chef who climbs mountains and runs marathons. Discover and combine the multitudes that live within you.
While undergoing this process of rebirth, ask yourself: What is my mission? My purpose in life? Keep an energy journal to note what energizes you – and, conversely, what drains you. What is exhilarating, and what makes you feel heavy?
Dive into possibilities by exploring other careers and ways of being. Talk to those who do what you might be interested in and try to experience their world a little.
While you undergo this wondrous journey of experimenting with what you might like to do or become, here’s one thing you do NOT need to take along for the ride: external validation. Consider that Jason Alexander was nominated eight times for an Emmy for playing George Costanza on Seinfeld, and never won. Or that Isaac Asimov didn’t make the New York Times bestseller list until he’d written 262 books. Imagine if either Alexander or Asimov had decided that the lack of accolades correlated to a lack of talent, and stopped producing their work.
In relying on external validation, you allow others to set your agenda. Things like beauty, compassion, and creativity can’t truly be measured, and therefore, no award or medal truly captures their fullness.
The Inner Journey: Unlock the playful, creative, wise person within
Here’s one quick way to do this: DON’T Google.
Don’t oversaturate your mind with other people’s thoughts, opinions, and ideas instead of germinating your own. Instead, keep a Word document open on your computer so you can put ideas down as they come up. Keep your ideas private and honest. Listen to your gut instinct. Connect with others to brainstorm, but make sure you collect a diverse group of thinkers.
Go for long walks – this is especially helpful in the lull between having a good idea and actually working on it. In a Stanford study where two groups of people were given a divergent creativity test, the group that walked on a treadmill before the test scored higher than the one that had spent the time sitting down.
Ignore your inner critic who crankily points out the inconsistencies and lack of reason in your ideas. You don’t need that guy to put a lid on your creative juices as they are flowing – of course your new idea is unreasonable. It doesn’t exist yet!
What fosters creativity? Play! At any age. Checklists are great when you’re performing surgery or flying a plane, but when you’re trying to make a new thing happen, sometimes you need to follow your interest, like Charles Darwin did when he read books about geology for fun. Or like the cast of The Office did when they got stuck: They wrote an episode of another show! (Next time you’re stuck at work, maybe try to come up with an idea for a competitor’s product.)
Think about where you do your thinking, and consider playing with whatever noun you answered that with. Office? Boring! How about an idea lab? Instead of a meeting, how about a collaboration cave? At Brazilian can-manufacturer Brasilata, there are no employees. Everyone who works there is an inventor.
Not knowing (and not over-researching or over-preparing) can help you launch something truly new and creative. Ignore the critics; they are the same people who called Galileo, Stephen King, and Walt Whitman stupid, prejudiced, and blasphemous. “Care about other people’s approval, and you become their prisoner,” said Lao Tzu.
Engage meaningfully with the world outside
In this Information Age, most of us have become consumers of what we assume are facts. But how many of us question them? “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” we parrot to our children, not bothering to do the research that would show us how that theory was proposed by cereal-maker Kellogg.
Skepticism is important, especially today when misinformation can be instantaneously transmitted without fact-checking. Questioning also exposes us to different ideas and viewpoints that are otherwise easily avoided by algorithms that choose what we view.
When seeking to engage with the world meaningfully, it is tempting to reach out to guides and leaders. But beware the guru – for what you see of them is what they want you to see.
Take one of America’s most beloved icons, Henry David Thoreau, who built and lived in a cabin by Walden Pond to experience and write about life at its most basic. You may have admired him while reading Walden – but did you know his cabin was two just miles from his home, or that his mother brought him pastries on weekends, or that he often popped by his buddy Ralph Waldo Emerson’s nearby house for dinner? Kind of puts a different take on Walden, doesn’t it?
You rarely see the full truth of someone else’s trailblazing path, whether it’s an Instagram influencer, a writer, a musician, or a scientist. You don’t always need to follow other people’s advice, either – remember that when they advise you, they do so based on their personal experience, not yours. So seek out multiple and diverse voices, and then apply their suggestions to your own situation to see if it works for you.
Remember also that when we look at heroes, we see only survivors. Not every person who dropped out of college and moved to Silicon Valley ended up founding the world’s biggest computer company. Steve Jobs’ success may have come to him regardless of whether or not he graduated from college. We have no way of knowing – so it does not make sense to drop out of college because he did.
Let go of the future to truly embrace your own
“Will it help?”
Three small words, one simple question.
Will it help … to read another article about the college your child did not get into? To check out statistics about plane crashes before a big trip? To see what the experts have to say about a new pandemic?
The truth is, even “experts” don’t always get it right. No one can predict the future. Worrying about what may never come to pass is a complete waste of time and energy.
To move toward your transformation, it is necessary to let go of your notion of your future. Having a general idea is one thing, but trying to force life along a predicted, planned path will often not work because of things beyond your control. A life that works out exactly as you planned is not just unlikely, it may not be as satisfying, as you have removed the potential for growth and exciting possibility.
The only constant is change. Consider the peppered moths of Britain. Before the 1800s, 98 percent of them were light-colored and two percent were dark. Over the 50 years of the Industrial Revolution, the ratio flipped to the total opposite. Why? Soot from coal-burning factories darkened the bark of trees, so the light-colored moths that had previously been camouflaged by the light-colored lichen were now easily spotted by predatory birds. No one could have predicted such a thing, but what was once the most favorable thing to have – the light camouflage – was no longer desirable at all in this new world.
If you tie yourself too tightly to a particular version of yourself, you are stifling the potential of the future versions of you that cannot come into the light until you have extinguished the present version of you. It is painful to leave the familiar, especially when the familiar is so closely tied to your identity. If you are thinking of leaving a career in law to teach, for example, you may wonder if you are still yourself if you are no longer a lawyer. Others around you may react negatively, resenting you for removing your “old” presence, or for reminding them of their stagnation. Their discomfort is not your burden to bear.
Consider that for the butterfly to unfurl, the caterpillar has to no longer exist in its form. Living up to the full potential of your genius life means letting the old one go – the one that is bound to all sorts of preconceived notions – and truly embracing the unique brilliance of you.
You are a genius, even if you’ve never thought of yourself as one. By truly examining your life, values, and choices, and by listening closely to your true voice, you can be reborn into an authentic version of yourself that interacts meaningfully with the world around you.
Ozan Varol is a rocket scientist turned award-winning professor and bestselling author. A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Ozan moved to the United States by himself at 17 to attend Cornell University and major in astrophysics. While there, he served on the operations team for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers project that sent two rovers to Mars. Ozan then pivoted and became a law professor to influence others to make giant leaps on Earth. His work has been featured in various domestic and foreign media, including the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, BBC, TIME, CNN, and the Washington Post. You can follow him at ozanvarol.com.
Motivation, Inspiration, Mindfulness, Happiness, Philosophy, Creativity, Nonfiction, Self Help, Psychology, Business, Productivity, Characteristics and Qualities, Self-Improvement, Emotions, Relationships, Personal Growth, Management, Leadership, Money, Business Decision Making, Decision-Making and Problem Solving, Success Self-Help
The book is a guide to help readers unlock their originality and unleash their unique talents. The author, Ozan Varol, is a former rocket scientist turned law professor and bestselling author of Think Like a Rocket Scientist. He argues that genius is not for a special few, but can be cultivated by anyone who is willing to challenge the status quo, question their assumptions, and explore new possibilities. He draws on his own experiences as well as stories from history, science, art, and business to illustrate how extraordinary people carve their own paths as leaders and creators. He also provides practical tools and exercises to help readers discover their first principles, escape their intellectual prisons, generate original insights, and give birth to their genius.
I enjoyed reading this book and found it inspiring and insightful. The author has a clear and engaging writing style that makes complex concepts easy to understand and apply. He uses anecdotes and examples from various fields and domains to show how geniuses think and act differently from the crowd. He also challenges the reader to question their own beliefs and assumptions, and to experiment with new ideas and perspectives. The book is not only informative, but also entertaining and humorous. The author injects his own personality and humor into the book, making it fun to read.
The book is also well-structured and organized. Each chapter focuses on one aspect of genius, such as curiosity, courage, contrarianism, creativity, etc. The chapters are divided into sub-sections that explain the concept, provide examples, and offer exercises or questions for the reader to practice or reflect on. The book also has a summary at the end of each chapter that highlights the main points and takeaways. The book is easy to follow and digest, and can be read in any order or pace.
The book is suitable for anyone who wants to awaken their genius and become more original and extraordinary in their work and life. The book is not a formula or a recipe for success, but rather a guide to help readers find their own voice and shape their own destiny. The book encourages readers to embrace their uniqueness and potential, and to pursue their passions and dreams. The book is a powerful reminder that genius is not a gift, but a choice.