You Might Be A Genius Without Realizing It

In the last 18 months, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time reading books and listening to podcasts detailing the backstories of highly successful people. Inventors, tycoons, philanthropists—who’s names you’d recognize. People who relentlessly chased their dreams. People who are highly admired and sometimes worshiped. People considered to be geniuses.

I have come to the firm conclusion that, in most every case, those people didn’t possess any superior abilities or intellect than the rest of us. In fact, there was a time when those same people were completely unknown. They didn’t suddenly become geniuses overnight. They were geniuses the whole time. 

After 20 years as a creative in advertising, I’ve learned that genius ideas are rarely recognized for their genius. The only thing that gives an idea the recognition it deserves is actually selling it. 

Salesmanship might be the most important skill a person can acquire. If Steve Jobs was unable to successfully sell the first computer that he and Steve Wozniak created, we might have never heard of them. If Henry Ford was unable to successfully convince the public to buy his motorized buggy, he would have faded into obscurity. If Thomas Edison was unable to sell his light bulb, we might still be using kerosene lamps. 

Now, I understand these weren’t the only innovators in their categories, so those advancements might have been inevitable. But the point is, without salesmanship, great ideas go nowhere. So why don’t we spend more time training ourselves to be better salespeople? Why isn’t it emphasized more in school?

Everything requires salesmanship. Men and women must sell themselves to each other as suitable partners worthy of marriage. We must sell ourselves to potential employers to get that job we want. An actor must sell himself to a director in order to get the part. The director must sell the premise of his movie to build an audience. A politician must sell his or her ideals to the public in exchange for votes. Nothing can be bought (or endorsed) by anyone unless it is first sold. All negotiation is sales. All diplomacy is sales. All teaching is sales.

Every audience must be convinced and sold. But how we sell is another subject entirely. There are many books written about it, so take your pick.

I’ve never been the greatest salesman. I’ve worked at it, but I’ve naively assumed that idea development deserved the lion’s share of my focus. For the longest time, I just thought great ideas would be automatically recognized. Wrong. It very rarely happened. Maybe one percent of the time, if the stars aligned just right.

The next time that you endeavor to convince someone of something or sell a product or service, you are doing yourself and your idea a massive disservice if you are a weak salesperson. 

Which brings us back to genius. We each have it, locked away somewhere inside us, waiting to be honed and developed. What separates the acknowledged geniuses from the rest of us is that they successfully sold their genius. They promoted themselves and their ideas masterfully and reaped the benefits. Had they failed to do that, their genius inventions would be covered in cobwebs somewhere in the recesses of their minds.

As the late Steve Jobs said, “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you, and you can change it, you can influence it….that’s maybe the most important thing, is to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just going to live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it….once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

Whatever idea has been nagging you to get out. Let it see the light of day. Nurture it. Learn how to sell it. It might be a genius idea that could change peoples lives.