Genius of Excellence

posted in: Books I Like, Deven's Journey | 0
Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
I am always intrigued by stories and ideas from people who are genuinely good at what they do. In this article, I share what I have learned from various examples, books, and my own personal experiences.


I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell – he has shared the fascinating journey and background of several successful people in his book, Outliers. My takeaway from the book’s examples is that people succeed because of their background, their opportunities, and their diligence in pursuing what they like so much.
  1. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates got into the computers when computers were about to explode on the scene and take the world by storm. They grew up with a passion for them, had opportunities to access computers easily, and spent all they had working with computers.
  2. People in Southern China developed attention to detail and precision from generations of work in rice paddies, where they were forced to make the best use of every square foot of the land. That ingrained precision and ethic for the hard work paved the way for their academic success.
  3. Michael Jordan had an incredible routine and discipline to train and practice, and his talent played a significant role in his success as a professional basketball player.

What ignites the fire, and what keeps it going?

Stephen Covey talked about detecting a mission in life and how a vision from inside ignites the fire and brings energy. In Shape Your Destiny, Tony Robbins explained so well that we need to connect, contribute, and excel. When we take on tasks that fulfill these needs, we generate energy in a living story that overcomes past beliefs and experiences and transforms lives.
I recently read Daniel Pink’s DRiVE. Daniel talks about having autonomy in daily routines that self-motivate people to do meaningful things. Engaging in something that we like so much drives us to keep improving at what we do. An overriding purpose to contribute something beyond yourself brings out the best in people. It makes so much sense.

Talent is Overrated

When I spotted the book Talent is Overrated at Barnes and Noble, the title intrigued me. I picked it up, and I am so happy that I did. Geoff Colvin attributed success to consistent, deliberate practice and repetitions focused on specific areas to improve. That is over the natural talent or gifts.
The book has fascinating examples –
  1. Jerry Rice, the most successful wide receiver in the NFL, used intense practice routines to build his explosiveness, flexibility, and incredibly good stamina, which he used so well in playing. He wasn’t the fastest, strongest, or most athletic player ever to play wide receiver, but he was the most effective when and where it mattered the most.
  2. Tiger Woods started playing golf when he was very young, and the playing time and repetitions he had even before he became a teenager allowed him to develop incredible physical abilities and talent.
  3. Geoff has an eye-popping summary highlighting that Mozart became such a prodigy at a very young age because he got to play and practice music when he was very young. What looked like naturally gifted talent also had a lot to do with the practice and repetitions he got even before he was 5 years old.

The initial push can come from outside, such as parental encouragement to try something at an early age.

Genius of Excellence

Connecting back to Edison, what is it that makes you a genius?
From my own experience, push sometimes comes from a need. I saw the need to develop as a communicator in my career. The initial push came from the sheer need to do better. In time, I became passionate about it so much that I have continued learning and improving on it for years. That passion and fun I get from it drives me to coach youth now in communication. It’s a hobby. I never ran when I was young. I started running almost accidentally and discovered it could be a powerful energizer. It gave me the passion and fuel to run a couple of marathons.
What is the recipe for excellence – love what you do, or do what you love?
I think it’s both. You need a purpose that resonates with you naturally. But, then, keep plugging away day in and day out with clear goals and plans.

What are your thoughts?