Scottish 19th century author Samuel Smiles is credited as one of the oldest writers in the self-help book genre. He is perhaps most well known for his point of view on the role of patience, as evidenced by his popular quote -
"Genius is patience."
The quote comes from his book, appropriately titled Self-help. I haven't actually read the book but I was introduced to it in the opening pages of Roy Baumstein and John Tierney's Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.*
Now, granted, I'm a huge sucker for self-help books and positivity quotes. But I found Smiles' statement, although short, to be one that holds plenty of truth. So much truth that it appears that Smiles wasn't the only person to find importance in the virtue. Other renditions of the "genius is patience" quote include Michelangelo's "Genius is eternal patience" and French scientist George-Louis Lecler de Buffon's claim that "Genius is only a greater aptitude for patience." I believe this last quote dovetails quite nicely with the importance of perseverance, which I've also acknowledged when discussing Ira Glass' take on the gap between our taste and work. How? Because recognizing the need for a higher aptitude for patience means knowing that in order to be truly great one must be willing to opt in for the long haul, the toil, and the more than occasional self-doubt.
Taken another way, Smiles' view on genius is actually a simplification of all the glory and intangibility we associate with genius work. While it's true that most people we strike as geniuses are brilliant, innovative, expressive, and hard-working, according to Smiles the common denominator is simply having the patience to continue after the first days, months, years, or even decades.
So yeah, being genius is just as easy as that.
* more on this book to come in a later post