Genius and Inspiration
Two quick categories I wish I'd thought about earlier
Congratulations! You are a distinctly valuable person to the people in your life and to a lot of people who haven’t yet been lucky enough to meet you.
Here is an important question for you: are you a genius, or are you an inspiration?
It’s easy to be a bit of both, but I want to assert that the two are distinct categories.
To be a genius is to contribute to others in a way that is inaccessible to other people. There is no way that anyone else could possibly do what you do, no matter how much determination and training they bring to bear. You are categorically superior. When people compare their abilities to yours they just want to lay down and give up.
To be an inspiration is to contribute to others in a way that is accessible to other people. Not only do you do wonderful valuable things, you also illuminate how other people can do them too. Other people look at your excellence and see it as a possibility for themselves, and they feel motivated to reach for those possibilities in their own life.
A key thing to note about both of these categories is that both are defined by contributions to other people - you can have wildly original ideas all by yourself and just be thought of as crazy. You can have wildly original ideas and be thought of as crazy because you are terrible at communicating those ideas.
You can be a genius in some areas of your life and an inspiration in others - for example, you could be a genius as an artist and an inspiration in your recovery from an abusive era in your life.
Being a genius is, by definition, a hard thing to conjure - being an inspiration, by definition, is a lot easier to conjure. To become an inspiration, all you have to do is look at your own life and look at the difficulties you’ve overcome, the lessons you’ve learned the hard way, and create some way of sharing the person you’ve become. Inspiration is a deeply democratic phenomenon, something that in-principle everyone can access.
For a lot of us - for me, anyway - the category of genius is the only one that I had access to, and it hurt me a lot to slowly discover that such a category didn’t fit me. It’s been a great relief - and a great inspiration - to discover inspiration as a possibility, and to have it be something that I want to spread as far and as wide as is possible.