Want to be a Genius?

November 10th, 2012 | Posted by Michael Taleff in Uncategorized

A recent article in Scientific Mind (Nov/Dec 2012) devoted a lot of space to the genius phenomenon. The usual suspects who epitomized geniuses were brought up: Galileo, Newton, Kant, Einstein, Hawking. Specifically, this group, and a few others, attained the genius status due to their exceptional achievements and intelligence.

All well and good, but one short article in this edition dared to lay out three steps for you and I to try our hand at being a genius. I immediately thought of the addiction field in two respects. First, who would we consider to be our geniuses? For the hell of it, go ahead and make your list, if there is one to be made.

Second, I thought it brash that someone would claim that three simple steps are the royal road to genius-hood; and all we have to do is just follow them. After reading the steps it was evident this was not be the case. Simple steps rarely live up to their hype. Yet, these three steps seemed a broad guide that might separate better addiction professionals from the mediocre.

What are these magical steps and how might they relate to addiction professionals. They are autonomy, value, and competence. There possible relationship to addiction professionals follows.

Autonomy is about feeling in charge of what you want to do. It would seem that attaining a sense of autonomy brings about extra energy and motivation to then do more, learn more, create more, and pursue your goals. The autonomous addiction professional example might include those who spend time browsing the reputable journals on the Internet to read the state of the art addiction research that might translate to counseling work, something they want to do. The more research and reputable books they read the more energy is elicited, and more one feels in charge, which brings more autonomy, and hence more energy. Simply the autonomous addiction counselor is learning for learning’s sake because it makes them feel like they are in charge of their counseling skills.

Autonomy stands in contrast to feeling directed. As an example, I do a lot of workshops each year. I have made it a habit to ask people why they choose to come to this particular workshop. The standard answer is to get hours for their recertification. Honest, but not autonomous. This group feels directed by the certification process to attend workshops for their needed hours. This directed state stands in contrast to autonomy and squashes the feeling of being in charge of one’s education.

Value is the next genius step. This entails the meaning one places on a subject. If subject is deemed important, the linked behavior becomes one where a strong amount of independent investigation is deposited into the valued subject. Simply, if I feel a subject to be important, I will invest a significant amount of energy to investigate all I can about the subject. Moreover, I will do it on my own time, and devote a great deal of effort to learn as much as possible,

An addiction illustration might include a professional who discovers the growing importance of evidence-based practice. The smitten addiction counselor then begins reading, studying, even writing short essays on this valued subject and then translates the golden nuggets of such evidence based research to his/her daily work.

The last genius step is competence. As the counselor mentioned above begins to apply more and more golden nuggets of research based practices to his/her caseload, they begin to see their skills improve and then realize a greater level of competence. The greater the felt competence, the greater the effort is put into gaining even more superior levels of evidence-based practice.

As I said, these three genius elements in and of themselves are simplistic. Yet, they contain the germ of what indeed might separate the really competent (dare we say genius) addiction counselor from the rest of the pack.


Yuhas, D. (Nov/Dec 2012). So you want to be a genius. Scientific American Mind, 23, 5, 49.

+ posts

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 Both comments and pings are currently closed.