How to be a Creative Genius #8

30 12 2009

Life Lessons from the childhood of Einstein

8.   Immerse yourself in a stimulating environment

        My family encouraged my curiosity. They provided books and emotional support. They valued education and gave me a stimulating environment.   There was peace in the family. My Uncle had an engineering company. My father was an amateur electrical inventor. 

         It was electricity that fascinated me.  It was invisible, powerful, dangerous and magical.  Electricity was like some mysterious secret.  I pestered my father and uncle with lots of questions.  How fast is electricity?

        Is there a way you can see electricity?

        What is it made of?

 Mother stimulated me with literature, music, the art of Michelangelo

My parents encouraged my independence and curiosity. 

They made learning fun and challenged me with interesting examples.

  My Uncle Jakob was a strong influence in my life. He gave me math books about algebra and geometry.  Uncle Jakob described algebra as “a fun science”.   He said algebra could be compared to hunting a little animal. You did not know the name of the animal, so you called it “X”. It would hide from you. You would hunt all over for this animal.  I would try to find this animal.  Then when I finally found the animal, I would capture it and gave it the correct name.

 Once a week my parents invited a poor medical student, Max Talmey to eat with us. Max brought science books to share with me, and we became good friends. He taught me the Geometry game. We would find shapes in all places of our house. My family made learning fun for me and also provided a model for teaching that I would later use. In the future I would explain my theories by using everyday examples of trains, elevators, and ships. 

 Immerse yourself in a stimulating environment

How to be a Creative Genius #7

30 12 2009

Life Lessons from the childhood of Einstein

7.  Orchestrate connections in your thinking 

I was given violin lessons when I was six years old and by the time I was 14 I was playing Beethoven and Mozart sonatas. My favorites were Mozart, Bach and Handel.  I was a passionate violist most of my life.  But I lost interest in music until I discovered that music and math had a lot in common. Both are born of the same source and complement each other.

When I hear students say they do not like math, I see those same children singing, clapping their hands, moving themselves to music. This is mathematics!!

Of all the subjects, math is most closely connected to music.  Music is all based on fractions and patterns.  Music focuses on divisions of time for the rhythm.  Counting is fundamental to playing music.  One must count beats per measure and count how long to hold notes.  There are patterns to music.  There is geometry in music because students use shapes to remember the correct finger positions for notes or chords.  Reading music requires an understanding of ratios and proportions. Bach and Mozart were mathematical in their music. Mozart’s music is so pure and beautiful that I see it as a refection of the inner beauty of the universe.

 It was the famous mathematician named Pythagoras who also saw that math and music had much in common.  He played the string instrument called the lyre. He noticed that the length of strings and where you strike the strings changed the pitch in a mathematical way.  This caught my interest and I was hooked on music for the rest of my life. I found a connection that sparked my interest.   Whenever I felt that I had come to the end of the road and unable to answer the questions I pondered over or into a difficult situation, I would take refuge in music and that would usually resolve all my difficulties.

        Orchestrate connections in your thinking


How to be a Creative Genius #6

24 12 2009

Life Lessons for the childhood of Einstein

6.  Build precision and persistence in all you do.

  As a child I loved a solitary game that required patience and precision. I would take playing cards and pile them up one at a time.  I would build things with these cards.  I would add more cards and build more with these cards.  This process of adding cards seem never ending.  I would not give up.  I was determined to build something taller and taller.  I never gave up on a problem no matter how difficult it was or how long it took.  I was building patience one card at a time.

 I would never give up.  It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.  I built concentration and diligence which would serve me well in my later research. 

 I was determined to stay at a problem until I found some understanding. I was building precision- to be exact.  I built card towers one card at a time. One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved.  One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one’s greatest efforts.

 Persistence and tenacity were becoming part of my character.  I would build with these cards until they became a large card castle.

  My sister did not have the persistence like I did to stay at this. One time my card castle was 14 stories high. Not just with card towers but whatever you do …do it as precise as you can.  Persist at it until you get it right. Build not just card towers but the ability to persist at precision.  Be precise and persistent in your quests and questions.

 Build precision and persistence in all you do.

How to be a Creative Genius #5

24 12 2009

Life Lessons form the Childhood of Einstein

5.   Perceive the universe as a puzzle to be solved

As a child I loved to solve jigsaw puzzles.

Solving jigsaw puzzles is a wonderful metaphor of thinking.  When some are asked how to solve jigsaw puzzles they say “one piece at a time”.  This method may work but is not very efficient or fun.  I wanted to solve puzzles by using my mind. 

1.  Dump pieces out and turn them all face up on the table.

2.  Sort the pieces by edges and inside pieces.

3.  Locate the corners and construct the frame of the puzzle.

4.  Sort inside pieces by color and design. 

5.  Switch modes of thinking constantly by: Finding pieces to go in a particular space and look for a space for a particular piece

What is the missing piece in the puzzle?  The missing piece is curiosity

Life is full of mysteries.  Science is the solving of puzzles.   There is a huge world out there that stands like a great puzzle filled with mysteries piled one on top of the other.  Science is that attempt to understand these mysteries with logical thought.  When we find a puzzle we look for a clue the only way we can- by what we see and experience.  Then we use our imagination to solve these puzzles.  To solve a puzzle you must be curious and determined.  Ask question after question until you can come up with something- a theory that explains the puzzle. A good theory will explain this puzzle and many other puzzles.  There is no shortage of puzzles.  In our quest in solving puzzles we must stand on the shoulders of thinkers who came before us. Learn from great thinkers of the past who wanted to solve the puzzles of the universe.  It is not just math and science that you need a sense of curious determination. There are puzzles in every field of study– Art, history, reading and every topic.

Puzzles to me became a symbol for how I desire to figure things out.  The world is put together in an orderly way and we have the mind to solve the puzzles and mysteries of the universe. I kept on looking until it started to make sense.  Missing piece for many is curiosity.   When you develop curiosity you will see the universe as a puzzle to be solved.

      Perceive the universe as a puzzle to be solved

How to be a Creative Genius 4.

24 12 2009

Life Lessons from the childhood of Einstein

4. Energize your childlike imagination 

I loved toys! I used to love watching a toy boat floating on the top of the water in a pail.  It filled my imagination. I would watch the boat move around the pail and was amazed that it floated.

  There was no end to my imagination. 

I imagined being in that boat. Little did I know at the time I was experimenting with water displacement and had the same wonderment that a famous scientist named Archimedes had before he shouted, “Eureka!”

I loved to play with toys and let my mind wander and wonder. Why do some things float and others do not?

There was no end to my imagination


Later in my live I actually learned to sail.  I would go out into the lake in a sailboat and just float around.  Some people thought I was crazy because they would see this old man with crazy hair who spoke a strange accent sailing aimlessly around in a lake.

 I did many things that people thought were odd. I never wore socks and never learned to drive.      

A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?  

But“In a sailboat I become oblivious to everything else in the world.”

 There was no end to my imagination.

  I loved toys with moving parts-cars and trucks. When I was told that I would have soon have a baby sister I imagined a new kind of toy.  When I saw sister Maja for the first time, I said, “Yes it is nice, but where are the wheels?”

 I am also told I had quite a temper when I was a little boy.  I threw things around-sometimes hitting family members with objects in my anger. I remember hitting my sister with a shovel.  My sister said later in her life “It takes a hard skull to be the sister of a genius.”  That is one part I do not recommend. But I do hope all of you keep your playful imagination alive.

 I imagined in pictures.  Just as I imagined what it would be like in the sailboat, I imagined what it would be like to ride on a beam of light across the universe.  I loved to learn and to know.  I discovered that the development of science was to satisfy my longing for knowledge. I was on a pursuit to learn and now I realize that the pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.

The main source of all technological achievements is the divine curiosity and playful drive of the tinkering and thoughtful researcher, as much as it is the creative imagination of the inventor.

 Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

 There was no end to my imagination. 

Energize your childlike imagination

How to be a Creative Genius 3.

24 12 2009

Life Lessons from Einstein’s youth

3.  Pursue your sense of wonder

When I was 5 years old I came down with an illness that forced me to take bed rest. 

My father gave me a gift that would change my life.  To many this gift would not even stir their interest.  But because of my curiosity this gift changed my life. What many people would just pass by I pondered.

  This gift was a compass. 

 What makes this point to north no matter where I stand?  I shook it up, spun it around and it would still point north. I would stand behind trees, behind old pillars, inside of buildings. It would still point north.  Most people go through their lives with the least thought of the mysteries of the universe.  This compass caused me to question.  It kindled in me a life-long need to know how nature worked.  What my father kindled in me was more valuable than the dull reciting of the times tables.  There is a force in nature, a magic!

  In our everyday lives most preoccupy themselves with what they readily understand- what they see. 

But nature itself tells us there is much more than what senses cannot explain.   It was the first time I experienced wonder!

  The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. Something deeply hidden had to be behind things. Wonder was ignited in me by a compass. Many years later I invented another kind of compass and also wrote a famous paper on magnetism.

 What gives you a sense of wonder?

 What gives you questions?

 Pursue your wonder.

 Follow it!!

 Pursue your sense of wonder

How to be a Creative Genuis 2.

23 12 2009

   Life Lessons for the childhood of Einstein

2. Get hooked on the joy of learning

  I was born on March 14th 1879 in Ulm, a small city in southern Germany.  My father’s name was Hermann and mother’s name was Pauline.  They were a middle class Jewish couple.  My father worked as a featherbed salesman.   Later when the family moved to Munich he started an electrical company.  My first memory is that I was hooked on learning

 As a child I was slow to speak.  I did not speak until I was about three years old.  When I did speak I would repeat under my breath and rehearse my words before I spoke. Every sentence I uttered no matter how routine I repeated softly to myself.  The babysitter we had thought I was repeating everything because I was not very bright.  My parents were worried because I began to speak fairly late, so that they even consulted a doctor.  The family legend said that I actually just liked to think about what I said before I said it.  My sister recalled that I would nearly always “pause before speaking, as though pondering what I was going to say.

 Like ever child I was hooked on learning.  I wanted to explore. I wanted to understand.  I was curious. I was hungry for knowledge.  I had a childlike eagerness. I was interested!

 But many children lose that sense as they grow up.  There are many children who sit and passively wait for the world to come to them.  I saw the world as a hook that attracted me to discover and explore.  I pursued learning.  If there was one thing that I want you know is to stay hooked on learning and let no one take that away from you.  

  Get hooked on the joy of learning

How to be a Creative Genuis 1.

23 12 2009

Life Lessons from the Childhood of Einstein

1. Exercise your creative thinking
Many times I would take a train to travel to Universities and to Switzerland. I was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of every passenger. When he came to me, he was surprised that the great Einstein was on his train.

“Look everyone it is the great Einstein!” he said.

I reached into my vest pocket. I could not find my ticket, so I reached into my trouser pocket. It was not there, so I looked in my briefcase but could not find it. I looked in the seat beside me. I still could not find it.

The conductor said, “Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.”

I nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw me on my hands and knees looking under my seat for my ticket.

The conductor rushed back and said, “Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry, I know who you are. No problem. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.”

I looked at him and said, “Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going. If I do not find my ticket I won’t know where to get off the train.”

As a child I myself did not know where I was going but I had a passion-a desire to know. But the conductor had a point of view. He thought I was looking for my ticket to show him whereas I was looking for my ticket because I did not know where to get off the train.
Point of view—sometimes we get stuck into a point of view. One point of view you can get stuck in is that your intelligence is fixed and cannot be changed but I can tell you that we can grow in your intelligence but it will take some effort.

We often think that effort is just work. For me, as a child the effort was fun and a part of my character. I would like to tell you how my childhood set the stage of how I became, what many have said, the most famous scientist of the world and what many have said the smartest person who ever lived.
Would you like to know 12 secrets of how to make learning more fun and to make you more intelligent? The first one is this. Genius is mostly effort.

Exercise your creative thinking