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Excerpted from Wishcraft by Barbara Sher. Copyright © 1979 by Barbara Sher. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"You had original vision when you were 2 years old."

  Barbara Sher, Wishcraft, Part 4

OK, let's take the three characteristics I named as defining genius--great brilliance, original vision, incredible determination--and see whether you had them when you were 2 years old.

"Great brilliance" is a little hard to define. We've found out now that we can't test I.Q. very reliably after all. But even if we could, it only measures one very narrow range of knowing and doing. So we'd better call "great brilliance" a special case of "original vision": intellectual vision, as opposed to the artistic or musical kind, or a dozen other kinds of vision we have or haven't discovered yet: political, emotional, athletic, humanitarian ... you name it.

You had original vision when you were 2 years old. You may not remember, but that's because it's always difficult to remember things we don't have words for. The fact is, in those early years you were seeing the world in such an original way that no one around you could give you the words for it. And if you found the words for it, usually no one could understand them!

If you’ve ever listened to a very small child--if you're a mother, for instance--you know that they say some pretty strange and amazing things. That is because they are trying to tell us what the world looks like, seen for the first time, from a point of view that has never existed before! Great poets are people who have held on to that ability to see things new and say what they see, but we all had it once. You had it, when you were 2. You were very busy when you were 2. You were not only reinventing the English language for your own purposes, you were, as a physicist friend of mine told me, doing original research into the nature of the universe.

So you had that: original vision. A new way of seeing the world that was all your own.

You also had "incredible determination."

You knew perfectly well what you loved and what you wanted. And you went after it without the slightest hesitation or self-doubt. If you saw a cookie on the table, you didn't think "Can I get it? Do I deserve it? Will I make a fool of myself? Am I procrastinating again?" You thought, Cookie. And you cried, you wheedled, you crawled, you climbed, you piled boxes up on the floor, you did everything you could think of to get that cookie. If you didn't get it, you made a fuss, took a nap, and changed the subject. And it didn't stop you in the least from going right for the next wonderful thing you saw.

Notice that you don't need "self-confidence" when you're like that. The word has no meaning. You're not even aware of yourself. You're completely focused on the thing you're after.

Those "rare" and "special" qualities we think distinguish geniuses from all the rest of us? You had them. I had them.

Where did they go?

As long as you were too young to listen to reason or to be trained to do anything "useful," you had a marvelous freedom to be who you were. By the time you were 5 or 6, if not even sooner, the precious right to make choices based on your own wishes began to be taken away. As soon as you were old enough to control yourself and sit still in school, the honeymoon was over.

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