What do “experts” know anyway?
A number of the world’s all-time great geniuses were at first thought to be anything but gifted.
Einstein, we know, left school in Germany because of poor grades in history and the language arts. The problem wasn’t Einstein, of course, but the type of learning he was forced to do, which required a lot of rote memorization and very little of the problem solving he was good at.
We find an even better example of unrecognized genius in the case of Emily Dickinson. Dickinson, now considered one of America’s greatest literary geniuses, died an obscure poet at 56. A handful of friends and family recognized her potential, but Dickinson herself longed to be known by the world.
In 1862 she wrote a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, an eminent literary man of this day, and enclosed four poems for his approval and advice. Higginson was impressed with the raw power of her poetic imagery, but didn’t think her poetry was publishable. When he tried adapting the poems to fit the florid, fancy style popular during the day, Dickinson lost interest in the project and gave up. As a result, only seven of Dickinson’s poems were ever published in her lifetime – five of them in her local paper.
When a cache of 1,700 poems was discovered in Dickinson’s cabinet after her death, ironically it was Higginson who published the first volume of her poetry. Within a few short years, Dickinson’s poetic genius was being hailed within the most respected literary circles.
You may look at your own experiences in life and find a teacher, a co-worker, a friend, a boss, or a spouse, who – for whatever reason – can’t seem to recognize the unique gifts or talents you possess. Maybe your gift is hidden below a shy, unassuming exterior. Maybe you’re not in the right environment for it to shine. Or maybe it’s still in the infant stages of what it will become with a little extra work.
Or maybe, just maybe, your gifts are so innovative and ahead of their time they can’t be appreciated by those schooled in older, more conservative traditions.
The point is, you shouldn’t let a few people’s “expert” opinions and judgments crush your hopes and dreams and keep you from exploring the full potential of your talents.
A better course of action would be to accept criticism for what it’s worth and continue sharing your talents with the world. Search for trusted mentors and role models who can give you honest, positive feedback to help you strengthen your skills while still being true to your authentic style. Read books and take courses. Whatever you do, don’t lose confidence in your ability to master your skill. With time, your talents can only get stronger. Besides, down the road, you may finally meet someone who will recognize your talents and give you that long-awaited opportunity to be noticed.
Sure, you may never be called a genius in your lifetime, but then again, very few geniuses ever are.
Emily Dickinson, American poet (1830-1886)
SUCCESS is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory,
As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.
– Emily Dickinson