How to Become a Genius

Mark Schaefer
7 min readSep 4

One of the highlights of my career was meeting Walter Isaacson. Walter has had a remarkable career as an academic, civic leader, and publisher, but he’s best known for authoring bestselling books on geniuses like Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, and Leonardo DaVinci. There’s no better person who would know what it takes to become a genius.

So … I asked him.

His answer was surprisingly simple.

How to become a genius

Walter explained to me that there are two common characteristics to the geniuses he studied for decades:

  1. They have an insatiable curiosity
  2. They see patterns and “connect the dots” in a new way

See, I told you it was simple! The Isaacson Genius Formula. But can anybody learn to become a genius? I love questions like that, so today, I’ll connect my own dots and help you think through that puzzle.

Let’s start with step one: Curiosity …

Can you learn to be curious?

“The important thing is not to stop questioning … Never lose a holy curiosity.” Albert Einstein

Curiosity is more than an element of genius. I regard it as one of the best marketing skills you can have! Curiosity leads to competitive advantage.

I am a naturally curious person. For example, I drive my wife crazy on hikes. I’m always stopping to take photos and look up names of rocks, trees, and plants. If you drive people crazy with your curiosity, you’re good to go. Skip to the next section!

But what if you’re not curious? Can you train yourself to become more curious? When I researched this subject, I came across a great surprise: there is almost no research on this subject! Could be an idea for you. No need to thank me.

The best resource I could find was a Psychology Today article called “Cultivating Curiosity” from way back in 2006. Here’s what the author Elizabeth Svoboda recommended:

1. Reframe “boring” situations.

If you’ve got an inquiring mind, it’s possible to turn even mundane events, like waiting in line at the DMV, into something meaningful. Look for details…

Mark Schaefer

Keynote speaker, marketing strategy consultant, Rutgers U faculty and author of 10 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Belonging to the Brand!