I wonder these things NOT because I feel that my own genius has gone unnoticed. No, I’m quite comfortable with my average intelligence and abilities. Intelligence is a curse, after all, and I appreciate the limitations that allow me great happiness and peace of mind. I wonder about Asher, however. It’s not that Asher is off-the-charts-smart. He’s academically suitable. But, like Jobs, he’s got a passion for invention and business. And also like Jobs, he sometimes comes across like a square peg in a round-holed world. But unlike Steve Jobs, Asher is inherently a sweet person. I wonder if being nice precludes success.
Take a closer look at Steve Jobs – well not literally because he’s dead and that would be challenging not to mention creepy. There was a guy who marched to the beat of his own drum and Honey Badgered his way through life. He didn’t give a shit that his diet created a ripe pong so offensive that he could only work the night shift at Atari. He couldn’t have cared less about earning a college degree. He chose to audit classes that interested him instead of taking classes that he considered useless. He was socially awkward on a good day and a wanker the rest of the time.
But the guy had the goods. He had vision (many visions after all the acid he dropped) and the business acumen that allowed him to focus on products and designs that would sell. Vision and business sense. Is that genius? Do the two guarantee success?
Over the holidays, a friend invited us to join her and her son on a tour of Thomas Edison’s invention factory. We jumped at the chance to bring Asher to a fellow-inventor’s lab. For a small fee, visitors can take the audio tour around the campus and then take a guided tour of his home a few blocks away.
One of Edison's invention labs
I couldn’t get over how much Edison and Jobs had in common. Neither responded well to conventional education. Neither excelled in social graces. And both of them were as unwashed as they were clever. If they were in the schools today, chances are they would both have been diagnosed with ADHD or Asperger’s or a variety of other social issues. I wondered if social deficiencies actually helped them focus on invention without having to worry about other people’s opinions. I wondered if fitting in prevents a person from standing out.
Asher has identified as an inventor for quite some time now. He loves science and studying how things work. He has an idea for a machine or gadget almost every day and includes a marketing plan with every pitch he makes. He talks about his price point for his inventions and how it will benefit people. He always offers his family mates rates, of course.
Asher’s desire to invent came from a good place. When the major earthquake hit Haiti, Asher was understandably unnerved by the unpreventable, random devastation and death. He vowed to create a helmet that would offer a force field function so powerful that it could repel falling buildings and keep everyone in Haiti safe. When my dad died this summer, Asher decided he would invent a pill that would stop us from ageing. He’s had lots of less-noble ideas, too, but everything he imagines serves a purpose and makes life easier or better.
While Asher may one day go on to invent a useful gadget or two, I don’t know that he’s genius material-or at least not the brand of genius that Edison and Jobs were. Then again, I don’t know that being a genius is all that. I’d love for him to pursue whatever career makes him happy and allows him to support himself. I’d love for him to have a family and good friends and for others to recognize his beautiful and kind spirit. Like Edison and Jobs, Asher may be an inventor, but he’ll never be an asshole. Does being an asshole separate the inventors from the geniuses?
After my unscientific research, I’ve identified the main ingredients in your typical Edison/Jobs genius. You think your kid is a genius? You tell me.
Genius Ingredients: Vision, determination, creativity, fearlessness, business acumen, intelligence, love of learning, disdain for being told what to learn, social disorder(s), bad hygiene, enabling parents.