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About that Immigrant Genius Thing

Updated: Jun 30, 2019

Ever wondered what it takes to be a genius?

According to a Wall Street Journal article by Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places, From Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley, “Having your world turned upside down sparks creative thinking.”

In the article, titled “The Secret of Immigrant Genius,” Weiner seeks to go beyond conventional explanations of immigrant success – immigrants work hard and are bolstered by supportive family and therefore succeed.

Surpassing the Merely Talented

Weiner notes instead that immigrants surpass the merely talented in large part due to their “oblique perspective … uprooted from the familiar, they see the world at an angle.” Immigrants also possess “openness to experience,” observing that such openness often sparks ingenuity in entire societies where cultural influxes occur. He notes that not all cultural collisions end well and not all “immigrants become geniuses.”

Fundamental Mindset Shifts

Setting aside the image of immigrants possessing “oblique perspective” or viewing the world “upside down,” Weiner makes some sound points. Viewing things from a fresh perspective and certain forms of disruptions in life, such as the migration experience, do spark creativity because they lead to fundamental shifts in mindsets.

Unlocking Your Genius

One definition of genius describes it as “exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.”

Perhaps not everyone wants to acknowledge their genius, but everyone is indeed a genius.

If you still believe genius is reserved for artists, musicians, and scientists locked up in labs, consider this. The June 2017 issue of Fast Company magazine features 100 Most Creative People in Business. The ideas for which these creatives are celebrated include nourishing the spirit, turning buildings into giant batteries, reshaping fitness wear, facilitating payments across borders, sharpening tools for precision medicine, piloting a travel site that goes the distance, letting clothes speak for themselves, reading teenagers’ minds, teaching coal miners to code, and concocting a better bleach – to mention a few.

Everything around us is fertile ground to make an impact and bring forth our genius.

The question for us is how to recognize, realize, and bring forth that genius into the world.

I believe the how of unlocking our genius involves three core commitments:

1. Creativity Commitment: Embrace the idea of unique, creative expression, and put your own mark on this world.

2. Immigrace Commitment: Embrace the aspects of you that make you unique. These are often the very things you seek to downplay in that effort to blend in. Those unique aspects help you view the world around you from a different perspective, form your unrepeatable story, and likely hold the key to unlocking your genius.

3. Passion Commitment: Harness a specific skill, passion, or purpose, and stick with it until you make your mark on the world. And do that over and over, with as many subjects as you care about.

Think about the exceptionally creative immigrant women you know. What attribute or practice sets them apart from the pack?

What one action will you take to harness your genius this year?

Share your thoughts on my Facebook Page, and don’t forget to connect with me on social (Twitter and Instagram.)

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