September 21, 2009

Michelangelo Quote

Genius is eternal patience.
~ Michelangelo


  1. Yes, I agree as well with both Michelangelo and you both. But could we maybe add 'humbleness' to that (A. Einstein).

  2. (sorry, I don't know how to "blog")

    Hi Coert, Vanessa, Caroline
    I need your explanation help!
    I would really like to know: What is the connection between a genius = person with exceptional ability and originality (da Vinci, Mozart, Einstein etc...) and patience or humbleness?
    Sometimes my intuition helps me be a useful coach and I am happy to contribute to a break through. That is where I try to stay humble and grateful for this (divine?) inspiration - and yes, it takes a bit of patience to experience this again; but I must admit, I am probably not a genius. The proof: I don't even know exactly how to blog :-)
    Cheers from Perth, down-under

  3. Hi Andre, thanks for your question. I think there is indeed a connection between genius, patience and humbleness. Recently two books have been published which show how top performance is achieved. One is by Malcom Gladwell and it's called OUTLIERS (see The other one is the book TALENT IS OVERRATED (see Both books show that the best performing people in each discipline are thones which have practiced hardest and longest and that luck plays an important factor in getting acknowledgement for top performance. Geniuses like Mozart have of course reached a level of genius but as books like these have shown, hard and deliberate work played a crucial factor in their genius and talent (although undeniably there) did not play the crucial role).

  4. Interesting question, I'm not sure about the relationship of humility to exceptionality per se, but there's a strong case based on heuristics and biases data for what Jon Baron calls "active open-mindedness" in problem solving. The idea is to compensate for our various natural tendencies to reinforce what we already believe (see his "Thinking and Deciding" for his data and his slant on this). I tend to agree. And this seems to be closely related to some kind of humility. Edward de Bono makes much the same point in his thinking courses. I think there's a lot to it.

    Also, as Coert pointed out, expertise has been found to require a lot of deliberate practice, and that seems to imply plenty of patience in most cases, since that much natural motivation is unusual. Hard to imagine a pianist *wanting* to do all those thousands of hours of scales that it takes to become a virtuoso!

  5. Thanks Todd, in addition to your points there are some anecdotal indications of a relationship between exceptionality (nice word) and humbleness.

    Here are a few quotes from recognized geniuses:

    Isaac Newton: I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

    Albert Einstein: You ask me if I keep a notebook to record my great ideas. I’ve only ever had one…

    Charles Darwin: With such moderate abilities as I possess, it is truly surprising that I should have influenced to a considerable extent the belief of scientific men on some important points.

    JS Bach: “There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself”

    JS Bach: “I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed . . . equally well.”

    I could go on ...


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner