The Einstein Factor

Proven Techniques to Boost Your Brain's Performance!

NOVEMBER 1995 SUCCESS Pages 55-62

 

Everything we do depends on our minds -- yet we don't often think of the mind as a tool whose powers can be multiplied dramatically.

Entrepreneurs bought thousands of copies of Dr. Win Wenger's earlier book, A New Method for Personal Growth and Development, because his focus is not on pathology, but opportunity. Dr. Wenger, a president of the Institute for Visual Thinking in Gaithersburg, Md., has made a specialty of understanding genius.

He argues that those who make intuitive leaps of clarity, from Mozart to Einstein to Edison, are able to read messages their subconscious minds are trying to send them. The rest of us receive such messages, too, but are not adept at listening to them. The gift of the gifted is the ability to listen to their own minds.

The good news, as Dr. Wenger and former SUCCESS senior editor Richard Poe show in their new book, The Einstein Factor, is that we can learn techniques that open our brains' capacity for genius.

 

Today, those numinous eyes, bushy mustache, and shock of silver hair remain the quintessential image of "genius," the name a synonym for supernormal intelligence. But as a child, Albert Einstein appeared deficient. Dyslexia caused him great difficulty in speech and reading.

"Normal childhood development Proceeded slowly," recalled his sister. "He had such difficulty with language that they feared that he would never learn to speak….Every sentence he uttered, he repeated to himself softly, moving his lips. This habit persisted into his seventh year."

Later, poor language skills provoked his Greek teacher to tell the boy, "You will never amount to anything." Einstein was expelled from high school. He flunked a college entrance exam. After finally completing his bachelor's degree, he failed to attain a recommendation from his professors and was forced to take a lowly job in the Swiss patent office. Until his mid-20s, he seemed destined for a life of mediocrity. Yet, when he was 26, Einstein published his Special Theory of Relacivity. Sixteen years later, he won a Nobel prize.

What did Einstein have that we don't? That's what Dr. Thomas Harvey wanted to know. He was the pathologist on duty at Princeton Hospital when Einstein died in 1955. By sheer chance, fate had fingered Harvey to perform Einstein's autopsy. Without permission from the family, Harvey took it upon himself to remove and keep Einstein's famous brain. For the next 40 years, Harvey stored the brain in jars of formaldehyde, studying it slice by slice under the microscope and dispensing small samples to other researchers on request.

"Nobody had ever found a difference that earmarked a brain as that of a genius," Harvey later explained to a reporter. Neither he nor his colleagues found any definitive sign that would mark Einstein's brain as extraordinary according to the ideas of brain physiology of that time. But in the early 1980s, Marian Diamond, a neuroanatomist at the University of California at Berkeley, made some discoveries about brains in general and Einstein's in particular that could revolutionize ideas about genius and help entrepreneurs who want to become more innovative.

One of Diamond's experiments was with rats, One group she placed in a super-stimulating environment with swings, ladders, treadmills, and toys. The other group was confined to bare cages. The rats in the high-stimulus environment not only lived to the advanced age of 3 (the equivalent of 90 in a man), but their brains increased in size, sprouting new glial cells, which make connections between neurons (nerve cells) As long ago as 1911, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, the father of neuroanatomy, had found that the number of interconnections between neurons was a far better predictor of brainpower than the sheer number of neurons.

So, in rats, Diamond had created the physical footprint of higher intelligence through mental exercise. She then examined sections of Einstein's brain -- and found that it, too, was unusually "interconnected." It had a larger-than-normal number of glial cells in the left parietal lobe, which is a kind of neurological switching station that connects the various areas of the brain. It has long been known that unlike neurons, which do not reproduce after we are born, the connective hardware of the brain -- glial cells, axons, and dendrites -- can increase in number throughout life, depending on how you use your brain. The more we learn, the more of these pathways are created. When we learn a skill such as riding a bicycle, We create connections between brain cells that remain, even if we don't practice the skill for decades. Mental power is, in a way, connective power.

 

A "Retarded" Achievement

Was Einstein's mental development affected by some analogy to the swings, ladders, treadmills, and toys of Diamond's super-rats? Did he, in some sense, learn his inventive mental powers? Einstein himself seemed to think so. He believed that you could stimulate ingenious thought by allowing the imagination to float freely, forming associations at will. For instance, he attributed his Theory of Relativity not to any special gift, but to what he called his "retarded" development.

"A normal adult never stops to think about problems of space and time," he said. "These are things which he has thought of as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, and I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up."

In his Autobiographical Notes, Einstein recalled having the first crucial insight that led to his Special Theory of Relativity at age 16 while he was daydreaming.

As a boy, Einstein had a favorite uncle named Jakob who used to teach him mathematics. "Algebra is a merry science," said Jakob once. "We go hunting for a little animal whose name we don't know, so we call it x. When we bag our game, we pounce on it and give it its right name." Uncle Jakob's words stayed with Einstein for the rest of his life. They encapsulated his attitude toward mathematical and scientific problems, which to Einstein always seemed more like puzzles or games than work. Einstein could focus on his math studies with the concentration most children reserve for play.

"What would it be like," Einstein wondered, "to run beside a light beam at the speed of light?" Normal adults would squelch such a question or forget it. Einstein was different. He played with this question for 10 years. The more he pondered, the more questions arose. Suppose, he asked himself, that you were riding on the end of a light beam and held a mirror before your face. Would you see your reflection?

According to classical physics, you would not -- because light leaving your face would have to travel faster than light in order to reach the mirror. But Einstein could not accept this. It didn't feel right. It seemed ludicrous that you would look into a mirror and see nothing. Einstein imagined rules for a universe that would allow you to see your reflection in a mirror while riding a light beam. Only years later did he undertake proving his theory mathematically.

 

Einstein attributed his scientific prowess to what he called a "vague play" with "signs," "images," and other elements, both "visual" and "muscular." "This combinatory play," he wrote, "seems to be the essential feature in productive thought."

My project of the last 25 years has been to develop techniques and mental exercises, based in part on Einstein's methods, that work in the short term and also develop the mind's permanent powers.

Einstein is the most spectacular modern example of a man who could dream while wide awake. With few exceptions, the great discoveries in science were made through such intuitive "thought experiments."

Inventor Elias Howe labored long and hard to create the first sewing machine. Nothing worked. Then, one night, Howe had a nightmare. He was running from a band of cannibals -- they were so close, he could see their spear tips. Despite his terror, Howe noticed that each spear point had a hole bored in its tip like the eye of a sewing needle.

When he awoke, Howe realized what his nightmare was trying to say: On his sewing machine, he needed to move the eye hole from the middle of the needle down to the tip. That was his breakthrough, and the sewing machine was born.

Insights from dreams have inspired rulers, artists, scientists, and inventors since Biblical times. But day after day, year after year, the vast majority of people squelch their most profound insights without even knowing it. This defensive reflex -- which I call The Squelcher -- blocks us from achieving our full potential.

But dreams have their limitations. They are notoriously hard to control. We have not yet learned how to summon them at will. And, most of the time, we forget them.

In March 1977, a group of us had heard about the revolutionary experiments Russian scientists were making by tapping the subconscious for accelerated learning. Although no one at that time had published reliable accounts of the exact procedures, we reconstructed these as best we could from odd corners of the scientific literature. We decided to conduct an experiment in a friend's apartment in Arlington, Va.

I don't think any of us really expected dramatic results.

We were completely surprised. Nearly every technique produced striking

results for almost everyone in the group. Especially memorable was the experience of a participant whom I shall call "Mary." Like all of us, she had agreed to embark upon some new learning experience just prior to the workshop. She chose the violin. Mary had her first lesson just one week before our experiment. Until that time, she had never touched a violin in her life.

The week following our workshop, Mary had her second lesson. She worked as a secretary in a Washington office and had only a moderate amount of time to practice. Nevertheless, after Mary had played a few minutes, her astonished instructor announced that he was going to reenroll her in his advanced class! At our second experimental workshop, just a few weeks later, Mary gave a fine concert with her violin.

Mary owed her precocious ability to the "Raikov Effect." Using deep hypnosis, Soviet psychiatrist Dr. Vladimir Raikov made people think that they had become some great genius in history. When he "reincarnated" someone as Rembrandt, the person could draw with great facility. Later, the subject remembered nothing. Many would scoff in disbelief when shown artwork they had done under hypnosis.

Raikov demonstrated that talents unleashed under hypnosis left significant effects even after the sessions. So the method was more than an experimental oddity. It was a practical tool for learning. Moreover, as we were to discover, it could be achieved without the aid of hypnosis. The Raikov Effect is like the ancient practice by which prophets, oracles, and tribal shamans took on the identity of gods, spirits, animals, and inanimate objects, in order to gain knowledge.

In the Broadway musical Camelot, the wizard Merlin "transforms" the young boy who will become King Arthur into various animals in his imagination. While soaring aloft as a hawk, Arthur hears Merlin ask, "What does the hawk know that Arthur doesn't know?" Arthur looks down and realizes that the hawk can see no borders in Britain. He resolves to forge a single nation from the feuding tribes below.

Although fictional, this episode was inspired by a real tradition in Celtic folklore. In an old Welsh epic, a bard boasts, "I have been in many shapes…. have been a drop in the air; I have been a shining star….I have journeyed as an eagle.... I have been a shield in fight; I have been the string of a harp….There is nothing which I have not been."

Perhaps these flights of imagination -- if such they are -- inspire creative thinking simply by juxtaposing a set of perceptions that do not ordinarily belong together in the subject's mind. Efforts to "force" a fit between these odd components will yield a provocative new gestalt or insight.

Such "force-fitting" played a big role in a productive brainstorming session at The Gillette Co. in 1980. Executives were to pretend that they were shafts of hair. While in their "hair" identities, they brainstormed over what qualities would most please them in a shampoo. Some wanted a powerful cleanser that would root out dirt from the scalp. Others, fearing for their split ends, asked for a milder formula.


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In the end, the human "hair shafts" settled on a new shampoo that would automatically adjust to every hair need. Silkience, the product they invented, remains one of the leading shampoos on the market.

George S. Patton thought himself reincarnated from great generals of the past. This odd belief may have catalyzed his eerie genius for applying the lessons of ancient battles to modern mechanized warfare. Michelangelo imagined his statues as living beings, awaiting only his hammer and chisel to free them. His vision somehow aided Michelangelo's genius for "freeing" forms from the stone.

The Stinger missile is one of the most sophisticated "smart" weapons that the high-tech arsenal has. It homes in on its target by infrared scanner. Once locked on, it can outmaneuver a jet fighter. But the Stinger still depends upon human operators, using intuition. Expert Stinger shooters report that, just after hearing the beep that means they have "acquired" the target and just before pulling the trigger, they always stop and ask themselves, "Does it feel right?" They know that if you fire the missile when it "feels" wrong, you miss. But when it "feels" right, you hit your mark. Military behavioral experts call this the "K check," for "kinesthetic check."

Nobody understands how it works. In some way the eye, the mind, and the body cooperate subconsciously to determine the most accurate trajectory for the missile. That means taking into account the speed, size, and range of the target, (the speed of the missile, the timing and angle of its firing, and even the anticipated action of its homing technology. Any conscious attempt to compute this many variables would overwhelm even an Einstein. Yet ordinary soldiers -- including illiterate Mujaheddin partisans, who used the Stinger to sweep Russian helicopters from the Afghanistan skies -- do it easily and consistently under combat conditions.

 

PURPOSEFUL DREAMING

The K check is that majestic freedom that comes only when we have mastered basic disciplines and technical skills. It is power unleashed when right and left hemispheres of the brain work together. I have developed the following technique to bring together learning and inspiration in a conscious form of dreaming called "Image Streaming."

The fact is, we are always dreaming.

Evidence suggests that the stream of images in bur minds literally never ceases. Even when our minds are preoccupied with work, conversation, or other demanding tasks, the sensory mechanisms continue to generate imaginary sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings. Many of these images consist of memories, triggered by random associations. Others are echoes or reinforcements of our conscious thoughts at the moment. How, then, can we best gain access to the remarkable flow of subconscious perception?

Over the last 25 years, I believe I have found answer. The Image Streaming technique that I developed opens the mind to a flow of symbolic imagery as potent as that of any dream. But, unlike dreaming, you can practice Image Streaming while you're wide awake, and you can do it virtually any time, anywhere. Ten minutes of Image Streaming per day will suffice to induce profound, positive change in your life.

• The first "commandment" of Image Streaming is to describe the images that come to you aloud.

• The second commandment is to use all five senses

• The third commandment is surely to "use the present tense." Even if the image has already vanished from sight, you should never say, "I saw such-and-such," in your description. Always phrase it, "I see such-and-such," or "I am looking now at such-and-such."

The idea here is to connect and mine all the different parts of your brain at once. Through speech and imagination, an Image Streamer talks, listens, sees, smells, tastes, feels, analyzes, reflects, wonders, creates, and generates mental imagery all at the same time. This unusual combination of activities spans or bridges many opposing "poles" of the brain. Over the past15 years, the quest to achieve balance between the brain's analytical left hemisphere and its creative, pattern-sensing right hemisphere has become a fad. Describing the brain as divided merely between left and right has been overplayed. Important functions are just as likely to be separated between top and bottom or front and back. But any activity that links opposite sides, or "poles," of the brain contributes toward the brain's balance and increases its resources. Image Streaming is one of many possible "Pole-Bridging" exercises.

The value of Image Streaming was given some unexpected confirmation in a preliminary experiment at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minn., in 1988. Physics professor Dr. Charles P. Reinert asked 79 of his first year students to compare the effect of two mental exercises on IQ. Half the students used the Whimbey Method, a standard program that uses word problems to build analytical skills. For each hour of study, these students' IQ scores gained .4 of a point The other group used Image Streaming -- they gained more than twice that, or .9 points.

You're ready? In a comfortable chair, turn on a tape recorder. Sit back, close your eyes, and . . . nothing happens?

If you are among that 30 percent of the population that has difficulty generating mental imagery, don't despair. Everyone has an Image Stream. You simply need to learn how to stop squelching yours. The following simple technique will give you access to your Image Stream.

Take a piece of paper. Pick two corners or sections of the room you are in. On one side of the paper, write about one corner, On the other side of the paper, write about the other. Describe the first corner only in terms of color, texture, form, and feel. As you describe the second, use only abstract terms -- having nothing to do with sensory impressions. You can say, "There's a picture hanging on the wall and an upholstered chair wedged in the corner," but nothing about how those objects look or feel. Take about five minutes to produce your descriptions.

Look over your results. Which description is more interesting? Which conveys more? Obviously, the first description. It involves more neurological contact because as you hear or read a description overflowing with vivid sensory impressions, your brain automatically "lights up" in the appropriate sensory areas, as it lights up in a dream. The more different senses you evoke, the wider the base of neurological contact.

Get started. Start describing something:

Your physical surroundings; the room where you are sitting; some scene you pass in the course of your day. It is important that you describe it aloud -- to a tape recorder or another person.

Treat the tape recorder as a telephone, as though you are describing the scene to a friend. Your goal should be to describe it so richly that you literally force the reality of it onto your listener, through the sheer richness of detail and raw sensory description.

When in doubt,just keep talking. Don’t edit! Don't worry about making nice sentences. If you're wondering whether to include some nuance or some triviality in your description, go ahead and describe it. There is no "right" way to describe something. The only mistake you can make is to hesitate, to stop, or to edit.

After a few days of this exercise, your ability to describe surroundings will have improved vastly. As soon as you have grown comfortable with the descriptive process, start describing scenes and pictures that aren't physically there, but exist only in your mind.

Imagery comes more easily in a relaxed, but alert, state. A simple method for attaining this state is "Velvety-Smooth Breathing." Close your eyes and keep them closed for the next 10 minutes. Don't look for any images. You'll just aggravate yourself if you can't find them. Focus instead on your breathing. Breathe in and out so smoothly that there is no pause between the "in" breath and the "out" breath. It is just one, long continuous, flowing b-r-e-a-t-h, like a slow, sensuous sigh.

Let it stroke you, as you might stroke a smooth piece of velvet Then, with your eyes closed, try describing a familiar person or object in great detail: your mother, your child, or your spouse. Then describe the Taj Mahal or another interesting building.

Now, having read the instructions for Velvety-Smooth Breathing, please put down this magazine and actually try the technique before moving on.

If you succeed in this simple task, congratulations! You have just started "working" with mental imagery. Many people will deny that they saw an image. But it is psychologically impossible to describe a person or object from memory without first forming a mental image of it.

Now you are ready to experience spontaneous imagery.

When awaiting spontaneous images, you must be ready for anything. You're not "supposed" to see any particular thing. Imagery can come in any form. A fence, a face, or a tree branch. The feel of touching sand, a whiff of gingerbread, or even an emotion. Or it might be a splotch of color, a few crisscrossing lines, or a pinpoint of light.

It is vital to report every image you see, no matter how vague, trivial, or puzzling. Bob S., who was participating in an Image Streaming session with me in Ravenna, Ohio, felt he shouldn't. For when he closed his eyes, he immediately got a perfectly clear image of an old automobile tire. He tried to block the tire out of his mind, because he refused to believe this was what he was "supposed" to be seeing. But as Bob finally described the tire to his partner, a realization crept over him. He had seen this tire before. It was the right rear tire of his fiancee's car. He had the impression now that there was something wrong with it.

"I dashed out and phoned my fiancee," recalls Bob. '1 got her father, and he was the one who went out to check that tire. He found the side was bruised and cut almost through." Had the weakened tire blown out on the freeway at 65 mph, it could easily have killed everyone in the car. This incident stands out not as unusual, but as typical. Our subconscious minds are spewing forth images, hunches, and subtle perceptions almost 24 hours each day.

Stay alert. The moment an image or impression congeals in your awareness, describe the dickens out of it! Many people fail at this point, because they think the image must remain in their conscious view the whole time they're describing it. Not so. Even if it flickers for one second and disappears, you can still keep describing it from memory, just as you described the Taj Mahal. Indeed, the act of describing will bring it back into view.

Don't worry about accuracy. It doesn't matter if you "fudge" a bit. Feel free to enhance, exaggerate, or make up parts of your description, if these embellishments give the image more vividness and life. Remember to fudge in all five senses. Sometimes noting a certain smell will provoke a visual image, or a sound will remind you of a taste.

The Image Stream is self-reinforcing. Almost any stimulus will serve to get it started and trigger the stream of images. But from that point on, it is your own flow of verbal description that keeps the Image Stream going. In general, the more you describe something, the more of it you get.

Remember that the first commandment of Image Streaming is to describe the images out loud. Many beginners think they know better. When they bother to describe the images at all, they do so silently, to themselves. This is one of the surest ways I know to fall asleep. In fact, if you are troubled by insomnia, I strongly recommend Image Streaming silently as you lie in your bed.

 

Image Streaming won’t work without having a friend listen to you as you ''stream " or using the tape recorder as though a friend were there to listen.

Remember that the Image Stream makes use of all five senses, not just sight. Your brain is so wired that vision will always tend to dominate the creative process. That's all right. But, when we describe mental images into our tape recorder, we should take care to include in those descriptions other senses as well, especially those of taste and scent, which are often neglected. LSD researchers discovered that psychedelic compounds tend to break down the boundaries between different senses so that you might "hear" the color red or "smell" a Bach concerto. Image Streaming seems to draw much of its Pole-Bridging power from this hidden mechanism, playing upon links between senses that most of us thought were quite distinct, in a process called synesthesia

Synesthetic perceptions seem to flood our cortex from the limbic brain, without most of us being aware of them. The Squelcher blocks these signals from our consciousness, but synesthetic vestiges emerge in common turns of speech, as when we speak of the "coolness" of blue, the "sweetness" of a woman's voice, or a "piercing' sound. These metaphors make no rational sense. Yet, we understand them instinctively.

Full-fledged synesthesia is unusual, unnecessary, and sometimes unpleasantly distracting. Dwelling upon it consciously can be as futile and enervating as obsessing over our own heartbeat or trying to "feel" the secretion of our glands. As with many other bodily functions, synesthesia does its best work when we are totally unaware of it.

But its work is critically important in Image Streaming.

Here are some more techniques to get a good Image Stream started:

• Recall the most beautiful natural landscape you have ever seen - a real place you have been to, not an imaginary one.

• Stare at a 40-to-60-watt light bulb for 30 seconds or so. Then close your eyes and describe the afterimage you see.

• Describe an old dream you recall, filling in the gaps with"fudged" remembrance of sensory details to keep your momentum going, if necessary.

• Recount a story you have read, heard, or seen in a movie, and embellish it.

• Listen to music. Nineteenth-century French music such as Ravel, European classical music (1750-1825), and progressive jazz are among the most effective.

• Blindfold yourself and walk around the house; feeling objects and describing them.

• Eat or smell something blindfolded and describe the experience in detail.

Are you having problems with The Squelcher? Leap over your self-consciousness by creating the "Surprise" effect in your mind. You need to set up an "Answer Space" - a psychological area you cordon off to attract surprising messages from your right brain, much as you would set out a bird feeder to attract birds. For example, imagine yourself wandering through a garden and coming upon a mysterious door leading to another enclosure. Picture yourself opening that door suddenly. What do you see? A solution to your problem will often reveal itself in that moment, just beyond the "threshold."

In general, as with ordinary Image Streaming, the degree to which you are surprised by what you see in your answer space is roughly correlated to its value.

INTERPRETING INSIGHT

Interpreting your visions, Like Image Streaming itself, grows easier with practice. Eventually, you will gain an instinctive feel for the language of your right brain, letting you make quick interpretations much of the time. When you're beginning, however, adhere to the following eight-step regimen in analyzing an image:

1) Ask yourself if the image is literal or symbolic. The best way to judge is simply to think about it in a relaxed state and see what pops to mind.

2j Decide if the image represents fact of feeling. In other words, have you discerned something that's true -- or are you just expressing your feelings about it?

3) Identify key associations. Associations are simply those secondary thoughts that the images bring to mind. Think back over the Image Stream or play your tape, and clear associations with other images, places, people, and things will occur to you.

4) Start compiling your personaI decoder. Symbolism in the mind is highly personal. Keep track of the images that recur in your Image Streams. They are your own symbols; becoming familiar with them will make you better at discerning what your subconscious brain is trying to tell you.

5) Apply the 'when-then" test. That is, why did the things in your Image Stream happen in the order they did? If you saw a crystal ball turn into an egg when it was removed from the fire -- ask yourself why it didn't happen the other way around. If you put the egg back into the fire, would it become a crystal ball again? These speculations, while they appear nonsensical, reveal hidden cause-and-effect relationships, and they will trigger insights about your problem.

6) Last is best. In Image Streaming, as in brainstorming of any kind, the best ideas are not usually the first to bubble up, but tend to occur toward the end of the session.

7) Pursue the specific. Vague, general, philosophic conclusions are probably not the real message. Image Streaming insights are highly specific. If generalities are all that emerges, try the "Surprise" thresholding technique.

8) Look for the "Aha!" If an answer or insight is still eluding you, look at your Image Stream again for an element that seems particularly pregnant with emotion, meaning, or importance, and ask for the answer again. It may jump at you with an "Aha"

CHANGING HiSTORY

Einstein once wrote that "all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative individuals."

He was talking about people like Imhotep. Who can imagine Egypt without her pyramids? If not for those famous monuments, most people would have little idea who the Egyptians were, and the world of the pharaohs would have remained as obscure to us as India's lost city of Mohenjo-Daro. Yet the invention of the pyramid was in no way inevitable or intrinsic to the Egyptian soul.

No such structures would have existed in Egypt had it not been for the genius of a single man. Five thousand years ago, the pharaohs of Egypt were buried in squat, mud-brick structures called "mastabas." Then the court architect Imhotep had a better idea.

Instructed to build a tomb for the pharaoh Djoser, Imhotep piled an incredible 850.000 tons of limestone into a structure soaring 200 feet above the desert. Nothing like it had ever been built, not in Egypt, not anywhere. From the glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre to the

Transamerica Pyramid that dominates the San Francisco skyline, today's architects continue to imitate Imhotep's work. Indeed, each time modern builders lay one stone upon another, they are in debt to this man, who virtually invented the craft of stonemasonry. This was not only the first pyramid, but the first high-rise stone edifice of any sort that men built. Imhotep's genius is still with us.

When modern track and field events began in the 19th century, it was considered physically impossible for a human being to run a mile in four minutes. Decade after decade, the greatest runners fell short of this milestone. Then, on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister stunned the world by doing the impossible -- running the mile in three minutes and 59.4 seconds.

Since then, four-minute miles have become routine.

For centuries, the greatest chess masters in the world tested their mettle by playing blindfolded. It was long believed that three blindfolded games at once marked the limit of human capacity. Then, in 1933, Alexander Alekhine successfully played 32 simultaneous blindfolded games. Later, grand masters left Alekhine's record in the dust. Koltanovski set the current record, playing 56 blindfolded games in 1960. He won 50 and drew the rest.

THE KNACK OF GENIUS

Over the years, my studies have lead me consistently to the conclusion that geniuses are little more than ordinary people who have stumbled on some knack or technique for widening their channel of attention, thus making conscious their subtle, subconscious perceptions.

Some years ago, I visited a friend whose son was trying out for the high school baseball team but feared he wouldn't make the cut because of his poor batting average. I worked with the boy for about an hour. The boy discovered that he had the greatest success when he imagined a tiny flyspeck on the baseball and aimed his bat at that, rather than at the ball itself. It gave him the extra focus he needed to connect with the ball.

This may seem a trivial insight, but its effect on the boy was astonishing. In baseball, a .250 to .300 batting average is quite good. But during the first 10 games of the season, this boy batted .840! He not only made the team, but went on to be named Most Valuable Player in the league.

But the most surprising discovery was yet to come. I did not see this boy again until several years later. He was still playing baseball, and he clearly remembered our one-hour session as having marked the turning point in his athletic career. But the boy had entirely forgotten the details of what he had learned at that session. He remembered nothing about the fly speck and no longer consciously envisioned it when striking the ball. Indeed, he was just as mystified as his teammates as to just how he had become a great batter so quickly.

It's easy to argue that this boy must have had a talent for baseball all along. I'm sure he did, but when I met him, there was none in evidence. Only when he discovered the trick of the flyspeck were his latent talents catalyzed. All of us possess hidden talents, often in the very areas where we think ourselves weak. Study, practice, and hard work can bring incremental improvement. But if we wish to unleash the full power of our genius, we must find that crucial catalyst, that simple trick or knack that brings our bodies, senses, and minds into critical focus

 

Win Wenger, Ph.D. teaches creativity techniques to corporations through his Institute for Visual Thinking in Gaithersburg, Md.

Richard Poe, a former SUCCESS senior editor, is the author of numerous self-help books.


©1998 by Project Renaissance (regarding this internet version only, other copyrights may apply). While we encourage the free distribution of this article (complete text only, including this notice and acknowledgement of source), we do require that expressed permission be granted by Project Renaissance for any major republication. For minor printing and sharing, we only request that you notify us.

To reach Win Wenger, please visit his website at Project Renaissance

This version originally published on Anakin's Brain (now Genius By Design)


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