“An unusually engaging book on the forces that fuel originality across fields.” —Adam Grant
Looking at the 14 key traits of genius, from curiosity to creative maladjustment to obsession, Professor Craig Wright, creator of Yale University's popular “Genius Course,” explores what we can learn from brilliant minds that have changed the world.
Einstein. Beethoven. Picasso. Jobs. The word genius evokes these iconic figures, whose cultural contributions have irreversibly shaped society.
Yet Beethoven could not multiply. Picasso couldn’t pass a 4th grade math test. And Jobs left high school with a 2.65 GPA. What does this say about our metrics for measuring success and achievement today? Why do we teach children to behave and play by the rules, when the transformative geniuses of Western culture have done just the opposite? And what is genius, really?
Professor Craig Wright, creator of Yale University’s popular “Genius Course,” has devoted more than two decades to exploring these questions and probing the nature of this term, which is deeply embedded in our culture. In The Hidden Habits of Genius, he reveals what we can learn from the lives of those we have dubbed “geniuses,” past and present.
Examining the lives of transformative individuals ranging from Charles Darwin and Marie Curie to Leonardo Da Vinci and Andy Warhol to Toni Morrison and Elon Musk, Wright identifies more than a dozen drivers of genius—characteristics and patterns of behavior common to great minds throughout history. He argues that genius is about more than intellect and work ethic—it is far more complex—and that the famed “eureka” moment is a Hollywood fiction. Brilliant insights that change the world are never sudden, but rather, they are the result of unique modes of thinking and lengthy gestation. Most importantly, the habits of mind that produce great thinking and discovery can be actively learned and cultivated, and Wright shows us how.
This book won’t make you a genius. But embracing the hidden habits of these transformative individuals will make you more strategic, creative, and successful, and, ultimately, happier.
About the Author
Craig Wright is the Henry L. and Lucy G. Moses Professor Emeritus of Music at Yale University, where he teaches the popular undergraduate course, “Exploring the Nature of Genius.” A Guggenheim Fellow, Wright has received an honorary Doctorate of Human Letters from the University of Chicago, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was awarded the Sewall Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at Yale (2016) as well as the DeVane Medal for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship (2018). He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and a Ph.D. from Harvard.
“Wright…provides details on the routines of successful people in this informative, anecdote-heavy book about famous people. Each of the fourteen chapters highlights one quality or personality trait the author believes is tied to genius, such as childlike wonder or ‘opposite thinking….’ Wright’s freewheeling profiles of those considered to be geniuses will inspire readers to rethink their natural gifts.”
— Publishers Weekly
“As a musicologist, Craig Wright has a keen grasp of what it takes to produce a work of genius. He’s written an unusually engaging book on the forces that fuel originality across fields.”
— Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take, and host of the TED podcast WorkLife
"Genius is a skill, which means that genius is a choice. Craig Wright offers us a fine way to understand what's at stake."
— Seth Godin, author of This Is Marketing
“In business and entrepreneurship, cross-border thinking, contrarian action, and rule-breaking are essential for innovation. These are also qualities that Craig Wright has identified as key drivers of genius, and he shows readers how to harness them in this brilliant book.”
— Kevin P. Ryan, founder, Gilt Groupe and Business Insider
“Which would you rather be: Effective or genius? Most of us would prefer to be the latter, but believe it is not achievable and settle for the former. But that’s the wrong way of thinking. In this essential book, Craig Wright reveals how genius inhabits each of us by uncovering the hidden habits of geniuses from all walks of life across history.”
— Francesca Gino, Harvard Business School professor and author of Rebel Talent
“In a book that constantly surprises and delights, Wright argues persuasively that the true measure of genius is its impact on society. Geniuses are norm busters, and every generation has a limited tolerance for them, which prevents countless brilliant people from reaching genius status. This is a must read!”
— Roger McNamee, author of Zucked and co-founder, Elevation Partners
“Bad news: You’re probably not a genius. Good news: In this fascinating and practical book, Craig Wright has unpacked 14 specific traits shared by geniuses throughout history, providing a wealth of insights for anyone looking to be more creative, use their time more effectively, and make the most of their unique gifts.”
— Mason Currey, author of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
“Genius is coveted but overrated, not least because it is so under-analyzed and ill-understood. Like so many masks, Craig Wright lifts off the many faces of genius in this accessible, probing distillation of lessons learned from many years of teaching his fabled Yale ‘Genius Course.’ The reader comes away learning a great deal: that genius is as much a curse as it is a gift, and that much of what people confuse with genius is actually freeing our non-genius selves to be willing to let go, become a child again, and think oppositely from the conventional wisdoms that imprison us.”
— Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law and former Dean, Yale Law School
“Geniuses change the world—but how? The Hidden Habits of Genius investigates the creative practices and behaviors of genius and shows us how to cultivate them. Rejecting long-accepted markers of genius, Craig Wright brilliantly points to the unseen habits of a panorama of remarkable individuals from different ages and cultures, probing their scientific and human dimensions. How geniuses work, play, focus, rebel, agonize, bounce back, obsess, and even relax their way to stunning achievements makes for fascinating reading in this remarkable book.”
— Anne Walters Robertson, Dean, Division of Humanities, The University of Chicago