If our understanding of the world were based solely off of the most shared, viewed, read, or liked headlines online, they would have you believing that because you create you’re a genius and if you’re not making brilliant work all you have to do is find a way to tap your latent genius.

Don’t believe me? Let me give you a run down of some most shared headlines in the last year:

  1.  marked by the ability or power to create :  given to creating
    the creative impulse, creative genius

  2.   having the quality of something created rather than imitated :  imaginative
    the creative arts, creative writing

Let me ask you, did you make a meal last night? Did you put an outfit together this morning? Have you ever drawn a picture? Did you write an email today? Have you ever spoken a sentence? Have you ever had a thought? If you answered yes to any one of these then you’re creative. Creative simply means you have the power to create. That’s it. The word creative, by definition, doesn’t place a value on what you create. It only means that you made something. Anything. **But side note, even Merriam-Webster is falling into the creative genius trap. Did you see the example they gave? I  just can’t.** In all of our human glory and human error we have turned a beautiful word into this thing that feels unreal. If asked at a dinner party whether or not you were creative, would you say yes? Or if someone praised you for being particularly creative would you blush and say, “Oh, anyone can do it” without actually believing your own words? I’m going to guess that for the majority of us this sounds familiar. Why? Because we believe, whether or not we think we do, that being creative right now means you have to make something brilliant. Time and time again. Maybe you were particularly creative that one time when you did something really cool or extraordinary. But that time has passed so you’re no longer part of that club.

Let me break it to you gently. You’re not a hecking genius and prescribing to the Headline School of Thought is doing nothing but hurting you and your work. None of us are geniuses but in buying into the “creative genius” axiom we end up holding ourselves to a standard of producing work that is unattainable. Furthermore, because you’ll consistently fail at achieving the genius standard you’ll start taking the path of least pain–do not pass go, do not collect $200, go straight to the jail of quit making work. Right now, that jail is full so you’ll have to bunk up with everyone else.

Give. Yourself. A. Break. You’re not a genius. Don’t feel bad. Neither am I. Neither is your neighbor. Or your best friend. But maybe you’re not convinced. Let’s go ahead and define genius since we haven’t done that yet.

  1.  a single strongly marked capacity or aptitude; had a genius for getting along with boy
  2. extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity
  3. a person endowed with extraordinary mental superiority;

Clearly the bigger burden falls on the geniuses of the world, because if you’re a genius and you’re not creative, well then….you might not be a genius. But if you create and you’re not a genius. Well, you’re still creative. I think that’s cause for celebration. I’d much rather be creative than a genius. It’s possible to fail at achieving your own standards, but literally impossible to fail at being creative (Oh hey, did you just have a thought? You’re creative.)

It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional artist or a weekend warrior, you likely didn’t win the genius lottery. What you did win is the human lottery and with every one of those tickets is a guaranteed jackpot of creativity. Start enjoying the jackpot, get real about your genius, and quit setting impossible standards.

2 thoughts on “Quit Kidding Yourself, You’re Not a Genius

  1. I enjoyed this. “Genius”, like “awesome”, is overused and has lost its punch. A friend has the quote in their email signature, ““Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (attributed to Albert Einstein but there is no substantive evidence that Einstein made this statement.) Sorry, but everyone is not a genius. If we continue telling everyone they are, a) we won’t recognize true genius when it comes along, and b) people like most of us who are average will wonder why they’re not being recognized for their “genius” ability. Glad to know I don’t have to live up to “genius” expectations.


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