What does it take to be a genius?
Europeans of the Romantic Era tended to ascribe the accomplishments of the great to an inborn spark. In contrast, in this age in which voracious competitiveness must rationalize itself in politically correct terms, American self-help books, such as Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and David Shenk’s The Genius in All of Us, denigrate the importance of talent. They even go to the comic extreme of citing Mozart, who could compose music as fast as he could jot it down, as evidence for the dominance of nurture over nature.
To reach the pinnacles of achievement, to be, out of the 100 billion or so humans who have ever lived, one of the few hundred individuals to be remembered by one name—to be a Mozart, a Beethoven, a Bach—does it help to have innate talent? How about ten thousand hours of practice? An intense work ethic? An obsessive personality? A supportive family? A conducive culture? Role models? Personal connections? Energy? Being in the right place at the right time? Not dying before adulthood? Sheer luck?
Few of the all-time greats were fortunate enough to have every single one of these factors in abundance, but they typically had more than a few. Nobody can accomplish all that solely on his own. Conversely, no family, culture, or state can concoct a genius without a unique individual. ...
And, yet, the notion that golden age German-speakers enjoyed some genetic advantages in musical talent is not implausible. Why?
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