This stimulating book by Michael J. Gelb, author ofHow to Think like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, continues his tradition of presenting
outstanding, historical figures to model, guide, and, hopefully, persuade us to use
their respective achievement strategies in today's world. Why? First, because we
have innate potential that we can maximize, experience, use, and strengthen through
out the life cycle. Second, we can learn from the wisdom and experience of history's
great minds to get in touch with and facilitate more happiness, beauty, truth, goodness,
and service in our every day lives.
Gelb presents his selection criteria (universality of impact, original revolutionary
breakthrough, utlitity to the reader), then presents his Genius Dream Team in
chronological order: Plato, Brunelleschi, Columbus, Copernicus, Elizabeth I,
Shakespeare, Jefferson, Darwin, Gandhi, and Einstein. In the process the author
identifies significant antecedents that influenced and interacted with each team
member's comprehensive, often nonacademic, learning and major achievements
as well as descriptions of outstanding individuals who benefited from this dream-
team's knowledge, values, and insights while contributing mightily to a global
audience expanding up to the present time.
Gelb asks the reader to reflect on self-assessment questions (which can be turned
into self-affirmations) after extolling in each chapter specific individual's purposes,
revolutionary impact, life-style, and breakthrough achievements. Some exercises
are lighthearted, relaxing, and fun while others require more serious self-reflection
and focus in order to find an enjoyable pace and rhythm. For example, you can
make a list of 10 wonderful things, memories, imaginings, observations, dreams,
and experiences that filled you with amazement, reverence, and awe. You can
imagine and visualize like Albert Einstein, then generate combinatory play and
engage in thought experiments. You can concentrate on 10 objects of beauty that
you admire and enjoy visualizing. You can strive to open your heart and mind to
forgive someone who may have hurt or harmed you in some way. You can practice
self-sacrifice, altruism, more sensitive forms of emotional intelligence, communication, leadership, democratic and nonviolent behavior.
The author encourages us to keep a notebook of daily insights, observations,
visualizations, and imaginative experiences. He suggests ways to correct pessimism
for more optimism. The author offers ways to strengthen courage; improve memory
(e.g. how to use imagery to tell a story to remember the planets in the solar system);
establish a bias towards purposeful action; cultivate creativity and problem solving.
The author emphasizes how the arts, literature, music, theater, drama, humor, and
poetry can inspire meaning, joy, and open-mindedness. All the exercises underscore
and can deepen our appreciation of life, civil rights, freedom, choices, and lifetime
learning. All can be used to reinforce goals, skills (e.g., listening, leadership, emotional intelligence), and empower reason, passion, creativity, invention, social action, valued achievements.
Discover Your Genius challenges us to know how we can more effectively keep
commitments to ourselves as we become aware of inner potential, take on challenges,
and new paths to learn about morality, truth, "soul power," service, and humanity.
Although the book relies on some word magic and general speculation regarding
human behavior, a number of dazzling quotes, interesting book, music, and live resources
fill out and complement the learning experience. This book is highly recommended. It
provides an ideal, straightforward, classical, self-help and dialogue approach to learning essentials of life from masters who have stood on and towered over the shoulders of giants!
© 2002 by David
L. Johnson, Ph. D., for Curled Up With a Good Book