Are You a Genius?

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by his ability to climb a tree, he will live his whole life believing he is stupid.” — Albert Einstein

Did you know that there are different types of intelligence?

I grew up unaware that there are so many ways a person can be “smart.” Typically, people measure how “smart” we are by our grades in school or how much education we have.

Quote from Albert Einstein

I love this quote from Albert Einstein; it says, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” This quote is brilliant because it illustrates the bizarre notion that there is only one way to measure intelligence. Look at the image above. You will see a series of animals, including a monkey, an elephant, and a fish. The “instructor” is attempting to be “fair” by giving all the animals the same test — climb a tree. Which animal, based on the instructors definition of intelligence, is the “smartest” of the bunch? Probably the monkey. Imagine the confidence that monkey has going forth in his or her life, believing it is a genius! Conversely, imagine the damage that is imparted on the elephant and fish, who will likely go through life with a lower self esteem regarding their capabilities.

As I’ve gotten older, I have come to learn that there are actually 9 different types of intelligence! It turns out that in order to be intelligent, you don’t have to memorize the entire works of Shakespeare, know the square root of ‘y’, or know the different taxonomic ranks of organisms. So if you don’t excel in one area, you are not a failure. You have 8 other areas to try out! Exploring these 9 areas will help you determine what you excel at. The more you know about your strengths, the more confident you are going to be.

Types of Intelligence

The image above describes the 9 different types of intelligence. The types are: musical, spatial, natural, intra-personal, linguistic, body-kinesthetic, interpersonal, existential, and mathematical-logical.

Schools usually measures the mathematical-logical type of intelligence. That is not a bad type of intelligence at all — in fact it is very important! It is very unlikely, however, that every student happens to have that type of intelligence. Perhaps someone is a musical savant, but has a low interest in math? Do you think that student is likely to try as hard in math, and thus be told he or she is a genuis?

Rather than having a test be “equal,” I suggest that we strive to make the world more “equitable.” Equal means everyone gets the same. Equitable, on the other hand, means something is adaptable for each individual. This is a much more accurate way to measure intelligence.

I hope that we as parents, educators, and mentors can make a concerted effort to teach others about these different types of intelligence. We are not born knowing our strengths, we have to discover them. Instead of focusing on what we don’t do well, focus on the things that you excel in! I encourage you to share this with your family, class, and team to help them discover what area of life they are a genius in!