Albert Einstein, Genius, But Far From Perfect
The name Albert Einstein has almost become synonymous with the word genius. He is well known as one of the greatest physicists of all time, responsible for the theory of relativity and a contributor to the development of the theory of quantum mechanics. However, as an academic, he was not strong in all areas. Being a genius did not mean that he was “smart” about everything.
Where Einstein Excelled
E=mc2. The most famous equation in the world. He is known for all of his accomplishments in the world of physics and his influence on the philosophy of science. In addition to the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, he also discovered the law of the photoelectric effect. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.
In addition, Albert Einstein is known for his work ethic. He worked 10 hours a day 6 days a week for many years. He was a “big thinker” and was able to focus on his work for long periods of time. Before he became a professor, he worked at a Swiss patent office. He would finish his work in roughly 4 hours a day, and then would leave to work on his scientific papers. He developed the habit of working consistently.
He also believed in not waiting for inspiration before working on something new. He said “A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way…but intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.” Working consistently kept his ideas coming from what he had already learned.
Where Einstein Fell Short
Contrary to myth, Einstein did not fail math. He did well in school, although he failed his entrance exam to the Zurich Polytechnic the first time he took it. He passed the math part, but failed the language, zoology, and botany sections. Writing and language were not his strong suits, and as far as the zoology and botany he wrote “I see myself becoming a teacher of these branches of natural science, choosing the theoretical part of these sciences.”
At the Zurich Polytechnic he was rebellious and skipped classes frequently. He did not always do well in school and almost dropped out to sell life insurance. His poor performance led to less than stellar recommendations from professors; hence, he did not get a job in academia for nine years.
He worked at odd jobs to survive, and unfortunately his father died thinking that Einstein was a failure. After he finally got the job at the Swiss patent office, he used his spare time to do his own work, making his famous discoveries before he became a professor.
Why Einstein Succeeded
So why did Einstein eventually succeed? He could have worked to improve his weaknesses from the beginning by being a better student, improving his language skills, and trying to impress his professors to advance his career faster. But alas, he did not.
Einstein became successful because he knew his strengths and was focused on the work that fascinated him, rather than trying to be good at all things. He did not let his shortcomings slow him down, and he worked with the brilliance that he possessed in physics and in theoretical science.
He did not dwell on the setbacks in his life, including his difficult relationships and his long road to professorship. He used his setbacks as motivation and kept working harder, never wavering from his goals.
He also had theories that failed – but he kept going.
“To dwell on the things that depress or anger us does not help in overcoming them. One must knock them down alone.” – Albert Einstein
What We Can Learn from Albert Einstein
Perhaps the greatest lesson that we can learn from Einstein is to focus on what we do well and build as much as we can with our strengths. We can take what we are good at and make the highest level of contribution with it in science, business, or whatever it is that we do.
None of us can be good at everything, much as we might like to be. If we move past our shortcomings or failures, we can achieve much more by working within our abilities and becoming better and better at what we already do well. We can think beyond ourselves and use our gifts to provide value.
“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein
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