Techniques to Boost Your Brain's Performance!
1995 SUCCESS Pages 55-62
we do depends on our minds -- yet we don't often think of the mind
as a tool whose powers can be multiplied dramatically.
bought thousands of copies of Dr. Win Wenger's earlier book,
A New Method for Personal Growth and Development, because
his focus is not on pathology, but opportunity. Dr. Wenger, a president
of the Institute for Visual Thinking in Gaithersburg, Md., has made
a specialty of understanding genius.
He argues that
those who make intuitive leaps of clarity, from Mozart to Einstein
to Edison, are able to read messages their subconscious minds are
trying to send them. The rest of us receive such messages, too,
but are not adept at listening to them. The gift of the gifted is
the ability to listen to their own minds.
The good news,
as Dr. Wenger and former SUCCESS senior editor Richard Poe
show in their new book, The Einstein Factor, is that we can
learn techniques that open our brains' capacity for genius.
numinous eyes, bushy mustache, and shock of silver hair remain the
quintessential image of "genius," the name a synonym for
supernormal intelligence. But as a child, Albert Einstein appeared
deficient. Dyslexia caused him great difficulty in speech and reading.
childhood development Proceeded slowly," recalled his sister.
"He had such difficulty with language that they feared that
he would never learn to speak
.Every sentence he uttered, he
repeated to himself softly, moving his lips. This habit persisted
into his seventh year."
language skills provoked his Greek teacher to tell the boy, "You
will never amount to anything." Einstein was expelled from
high school. He flunked a college entrance exam. After finally completing
his bachelor's degree, he failed to attain a recommendation from
his professors and was forced to take a lowly job in the Swiss patent
office. Until his mid-20s, he seemed destined for a life of mediocrity.
Yet, when he was 26, Einstein published his Special Theory of Relacivity.
Sixteen years later, he won a Nobel prize.
What did Einstein
have that we don't? That's what Dr. Thomas Harvey wanted to know.
He was the pathologist on duty at Princeton Hospital when Einstein
died in 1955. By sheer chance, fate had fingered Harvey to perform
Einstein's autopsy. Without permission from the family, Harvey took
it upon himself to remove and keep Einstein's famous brain. For
the next 40 years, Harvey stored the brain in jars of formaldehyde,
studying it slice by slice under the microscope and dispensing small
samples to other researchers on request.
had ever found a difference that earmarked a brain as that of a
genius," Harvey later explained to a reporter. Neither he nor
his colleagues found any definitive sign that would mark Einstein's
brain as extraordinary according to the ideas of brain physiology
of that time. But in the early 1980s, Marian Diamond, a neuroanatomist
at the University of California at Berkeley, made some discoveries
about brains in general and Einstein's in particular that could
revolutionize ideas about genius and help entrepreneurs who want
to become more innovative.
One of Diamond's
experiments was with rats, One group she placed in a super-stimulating
environment with swings, ladders, treadmills, and toys. The other
group was confined to bare cages. The rats in the high-stimulus
environment not only lived to the advanced age of 3 (the equivalent
of 90 in a man), but their brains increased in size, sprouting new
glial cells, which make connections between neurons (nerve cells)
As long ago as 1911, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, the father of
neuroanatomy, had found that the number of interconnections between
neurons was a far better predictor of brainpower than the sheer
number of neurons.
So, in rats,
Diamond had created the physical footprint of higher intelligence
through mental exercise. She then examined sections of Einstein's
brain -- and found that it, too, was unusually "interconnected."
It had a larger-than-normal number of glial cells in the left parietal
lobe, which is a kind of neurological switching station that connects
the various areas of the brain. It has long been known that unlike
neurons, which do not reproduce after we are born, the connective
hardware of the brain -- glial cells, axons, and dendrites -- can
increase in number throughout life, depending on how you use your
brain. The more we learn, the more of these pathways are created.
When we learn a skill such as riding a bicycle, We create connections
between brain cells that remain, even if we don't practice the skill
for decades. Mental power is, in a way, connective power.
mental development affected by some analogy to the swings, ladders,
treadmills, and toys of Diamond's super-rats? Did he, in some sense,
learn his inventive mental powers? Einstein himself seemed
to think so. He believed that you could stimulate ingenious thought
by allowing the imagination to float freely, forming associations
at will. For instance, he attributed his Theory of Relativity not
to any special gift, but to what he called his "retarded"
adult never stops to think about problems of space and time,"
he said. "These are things which he has thought of as a child.
But my intellectual development was retarded, and I began to wonder
about space and time only when I had already grown up."
In his Autobiographical
Notes, Einstein recalled having the first crucial insight that
led to his Special Theory of Relativity at age 16 while he was daydreaming.
As a boy, Einstein
had a favorite uncle named Jakob who used to teach him mathematics.
"Algebra is a merry science," said Jakob once. "We
go hunting for a little animal whose name we don't know, so we call
it x. When we bag our game, we pounce on it and give it its right
name." Uncle Jakob's words stayed with Einstein for the rest
of his life. They encapsulated his attitude toward mathematical
and scientific problems, which to Einstein always seemed more like
puzzles or games than work. Einstein could focus on his math studies
with the concentration most children reserve for play.
would it be like," Einstein wondered, "to run beside a
light beam at the speed of light?" Normal adults would squelch
such a question or forget it. Einstein was different. He played
with this question for 10 years. The more he pondered, the more
questions arose. Suppose, he asked himself, that you were riding
on the end of a light beam and held a mirror before your face. Would
you see your reflection?
classical physics, you would not -- because light leaving your face
would have to travel faster than light in order to reach the mirror.
But Einstein could not accept this. It didn't feel right. It seemed
ludicrous that you would look into a mirror and see nothing. Einstein
imagined rules for a universe that would allow you to see your reflection
in a mirror while riding a light beam. Only years later did he undertake
proving his theory mathematically.
his scientific prowess to what he called a "vague play"
with "signs," "images," and other elements,
both "visual" and "muscular." "This combinatory
play," he wrote, "seems to be the essential feature in
of the last 25 years has been to develop techniques and mental exercises,
based in part on Einstein's methods, that work in the short term
and also develop the mind's permanent powers.
the most spectacular modern example of a man who could dream while
wide awake. With few exceptions, the great discoveries in science
were made through such intuitive "thought experiments."
Howe labored long and hard to create the first sewing machine. Nothing
worked. Then, one night, Howe had a nightmare. He was running from
a band of cannibals -- they were so close, he could see their spear
tips. Despite his terror, Howe noticed that each spear point had
a hole bored in its tip like the eye of a sewing needle.
When he awoke,
Howe realized what his nightmare was trying to say: On his sewing
machine, he needed to move the eye hole from the middle of the needle
down to the tip. That was his breakthrough, and the sewing machine
dreams have inspired rulers, artists, scientists, and inventors
since Biblical times. But day after day, year after year, the vast
majority of people squelch their most profound insights without
even knowing it. This defensive reflex -- which I call The Squelcher
-- blocks us from achieving our full potential.
have their limitations. They are notoriously hard to control. We
have not yet learned how to summon them at will. And, most of the
time, we forget them.
In March 1977,
a group of us had heard about the revolutionary experiments Russian
scientists were making by tapping the subconscious for accelerated
learning. Although no one at that time had published reliable accounts
of the exact procedures, we reconstructed these as best we could
from odd corners of the scientific literature. We decided to conduct
an experiment in a friend's apartment in Arlington, Va.
I don't think
any of us really expected dramatic results.
We were completely
surprised. Nearly every technique produced striking
almost everyone in the group. Especially memorable was the experience
of a participant whom I shall call "Mary." Like all of
us, she had agreed to embark upon some new learning experience just
prior to the workshop. She chose the violin. Mary had her first
lesson just one week before our experiment. Until that time, she
had never touched a violin in her life.
The week following
our workshop, Mary had her second lesson. She worked as a secretary
in a Washington office and had only a moderate amount of time to
practice. Nevertheless, after Mary had played a few minutes, her
astonished instructor announced that he was going to reenroll her
in his advanced class! At our second experimental workshop, just
a few weeks later, Mary gave a fine concert with her violin.
Mary owed her
precocious ability to the "Raikov Effect." Using deep
hypnosis, Soviet psychiatrist Dr. Vladimir Raikov made people think
that they had become some great genius in history. When he "reincarnated"
someone as Rembrandt, the person could draw with great facility.
Later, the subject remembered nothing. Many would scoff in disbelief
when shown artwork they had done under hypnosis.
that talents unleashed under hypnosis left significant effects even
after the sessions. So the method was more than an experimental
oddity. It was a practical tool for learning. Moreover, as we were
to discover, it could be achieved without the aid of hypnosis. The
Raikov Effect is like the ancient practice by which prophets, oracles,
and tribal shamans took on the identity of gods, spirits, animals,
and inanimate objects, in order to gain knowledge.
In the Broadway
musical Camelot, the wizard Merlin "transforms" the young
boy who will become King Arthur into various animals in his imagination.
While soaring aloft as a hawk, Arthur hears Merlin ask, "What
does the hawk know that Arthur doesn't know?" Arthur looks
down and realizes that the hawk can see no borders in Britain. He
resolves to forge a single nation from the feuding tribes below.
this episode was inspired by a real tradition in Celtic folklore.
In an old Welsh epic, a bard boasts, "I have been in many shapes
have been a drop in the air; I have been a shining star
have journeyed as an eagle.... I have been a shield in fight; I
have been the string of a harp
.There is nothing which I have
flights of imagination -- if such they are -- inspire creative thinking
simply by juxtaposing a set of perceptions that do not ordinarily
belong together in the subject's mind. Efforts to "force"
a fit between these odd components will yield a provocative new
gestalt or insight.
played a big role in a productive brainstorming session at The Gillette
Co. in 1980. Executives were to pretend that they were shafts of
hair. While in their "hair" identities, they brainstormed
over what qualities would most please them in a shampoo. Some wanted
a powerful cleanser that would root out dirt from the scalp. Others,
fearing for their split ends, asked for a milder formula.
GBD.com without it costing you a dime. Learn
end, the human "hair shafts" settled on a new shampoo
that would automatically adjust to every hair need. Silkience, the
product they invented, remains one of the leading shampoos on the
George S. Patton
thought himself reincarnated from great generals of the past. This
odd belief may have catalyzed his eerie genius for applying the
lessons of ancient battles to modern mechanized warfare. Michelangelo
imagined his statues as living beings, awaiting only his hammer
and chisel to free them. His vision somehow aided Michelangelo's
genius for "freeing" forms from the stone.
missile is one of the most sophisticated "smart" weapons
that the high-tech arsenal has. It homes in on its target by infrared
scanner. Once locked on, it can outmaneuver a jet fighter. But the
Stinger still depends upon human operators, using intuition. Expert
Stinger shooters report that, just after hearing the beep that means
they have "acquired" the target and just before pulling
the trigger, they always stop and ask themselves, "Does it
feel right?" They know that if you fire the missile when it
"feels" wrong, you miss. But when it "feels"
right, you hit your mark. Military behavioral experts call this
the "K check," for "kinesthetic check."
how it works. In some way the eye, the mind, and the body cooperate
subconsciously to determine the most accurate trajectory for the
missile. That means taking into account the speed, size, and range
of the target, (the speed of the missile, the timing and angle of
its firing, and even the anticipated action of its homing technology.
Any conscious attempt to compute this many variables would overwhelm
even an Einstein. Yet ordinary soldiers -- including illiterate
Mujaheddin partisans, who used the Stinger to sweep Russian helicopters
from the Afghanistan skies -- do it easily and consistently under
The K check
is that majestic freedom that comes only when we have mastered
basic disciplines and technical skills. It is power unleashed when
right and left hemispheres of the brain work together. I have developed
the following technique to bring together learning and inspiration
in a conscious form of dreaming called "Image Streaming."
The fact is,
we are always dreaming.
that the stream of images in bur minds literally never ceases. Even
when our minds are preoccupied with work, conversation, or other
demanding tasks, the sensory mechanisms continue to generate imaginary
sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings. Many of these images
consist of memories, triggered by random associations. Others are
echoes or reinforcements of our conscious thoughts at the moment.
How, then, can we best gain access to the remarkable flow of subconscious
Over the last
25 years, I believe I have found answer. The Image Streaming technique
that I developed opens the mind to a flow of symbolic imagery as
potent as that of any dream. But, unlike dreaming, you can practice
Image Streaming while you're wide awake, and you can do it virtually
any time, anywhere. Ten minutes of Image Streaming per day will
suffice to induce profound, positive change in your life.
first "commandment" of Image Streaming is to describe
the images that come to you aloud.
second commandment is to use all five senses
third commandment is surely to "use the present tense."
Even if the image has already vanished from sight, you should never
say, "I saw such-and-such," in your description. Always
phrase it, "I see such-and-such," or "I am looking
now at such-and-such."
The idea here
is to connect and mine all the different parts of your brain at
once. Through speech and imagination, an Image Streamer talks, listens,
sees, smells, tastes, feels, analyzes, reflects, wonders, creates,
and generates mental imagery all at the same time. This unusual
combination of activities spans or bridges many opposing "poles"
of the brain. Over the past15 years, the quest to achieve balance
between the brain's analytical left hemisphere and its creative,
pattern-sensing right hemisphere has become a fad. Describing the
brain as divided merely between left and right has been overplayed.
Important functions are just as likely to be separated between top
and bottom or front and back. But any activity that links opposite
sides, or "poles," of the brain contributes toward the
brain's balance and increases its resources. Image Streaming is
one of many possible "Pole-Bridging" exercises.
The value of
Image Streaming was given some unexpected confirmation in a preliminary
experiment at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minn., in
1988. Physics professor Dr. Charles P. Reinert asked 79 of his first
year students to compare the effect of two mental exercises on IQ.
Half the students used the Whimbey Method, a standard program that
uses word problems to build analytical skills. For each hour of
study, these students' IQ scores gained .4 of a point The other
group used Image Streaming -- they gained more than twice that,
or .9 points.
In a comfortable chair, turn on a tape recorder. Sit back, close
your eyes, and . . . nothing happens?
If you are
among that 30 percent of the population that has difficulty generating
mental imagery, don't despair. Everyone has an Image Stream. You
simply need to learn how to stop squelching yours. The following
simple technique will give you access to your Image Stream.
Take a piece
of paper. Pick two corners or sections of the room you are in. On
one side of the paper, write about one corner, On the other side
of the paper, write about the other. Describe the first corner only
in terms of color, texture, form, and feel. As you describe the
second, use only abstract terms -- having nothing to do with sensory
impressions. You can say, "There's a picture hanging on the
wall and an upholstered chair wedged in the corner," but nothing
about how those objects look or feel. Take about five minutes to
produce your descriptions.
Look over your
results. Which description is more interesting? Which conveys more?
Obviously, the first description. It involves more neurological
contact because as you hear or read a description overflowing with
vivid sensory impressions, your brain automatically "lights
up" in the appropriate sensory areas, as it lights up in a
dream. The more different senses you evoke, the wider the base of
Start describing something:
surroundings; the room where you are sitting; some scene you pass
in the course of your day. It is important that you describe it
aloud -- to a tape recorder or another person.
Treat the tape
recorder as a telephone, as though you are describing the scene
to a friend. Your goal should be to describe it so richly that you
literally force the reality of it onto your listener, through the
sheer richness of detail and raw sensory description.
When in doubt,just
keep talking. Dont edit! Don't worry about making nice sentences.
If you're wondering whether to include some nuance or some triviality
in your description, go ahead and describe it. There is no "right"
way to describe something. The only mistake you can make is to hesitate,
to stop, or to edit.
After a few
days of this exercise, your ability to describe surroundings will
have improved vastly. As soon as you have grown comfortable with
the descriptive process, start describing scenes and pictures that
aren't physically there, but exist only in your mind.
more easily in a relaxed, but alert, state. A simple method for
attaining this state is "Velvety-Smooth Breathing." Close
your eyes and keep them closed for the next 10 minutes. Don't look
for any images. You'll just aggravate yourself if you can't find
them. Focus instead on your breathing. Breathe in and out so smoothly
that there is no pause between the "in" breath and the
"out" breath. It is just one, long continuous, flowing
b-r-e-a-t-h, like a slow, sensuous sigh.
Let it stroke
you, as you might stroke a smooth piece of velvet Then, with
your eyes closed, try describing a familiar person or object
in great detail: your mother, your child, or your spouse. Then describe
the Taj Mahal or another interesting building.
read the instructions for Velvety-Smooth Breathing, please put down
this magazine and actually try the technique before moving on.
If you succeed
in this simple task, congratulations! You have just started "working"
with mental imagery. Many people will deny that they saw an image.
But it is psychologically impossible to describe a person or object
from memory without first forming a mental image of it.
Now you are
ready to experience spontaneous imagery.
spontaneous images, you must be ready for anything. You're not "supposed"
to see any particular thing. Imagery can come in any form. A fence,
a face, or a tree branch. The feel of touching sand, a whiff of
gingerbread, or even an emotion. Or it might be a splotch of color,
a few crisscrossing lines, or a pinpoint of light.
It is vital
to report every image you see, no matter how vague, trivial, or
puzzling. Bob S., who was participating in an Image Streaming session
with me in Ravenna, Ohio, felt he shouldn't. For when he closed
his eyes, he immediately got a perfectly clear image of an old automobile
tire. He tried to block the tire out of his mind, because he refused
to believe this was what he was "supposed" to be seeing.
But as Bob finally described the tire to his partner, a realization
crept over him. He had seen this tire before. It was the
right rear tire of his fiancee's car. He had the impression now
that there was something wrong with it.
out and phoned my fiancee," recalls Bob. '1 got her father,
and he was the one who went out to check that tire. He found the
side was bruised and cut almost through." Had the weakened
tire blown out on the freeway at 65 mph, it could easily have killed
everyone in the car. This incident stands out not as unusual, but
as typical. Our subconscious minds are spewing forth images, hunches,
and subtle perceptions almost 24 hours each day.
The moment an image or impression congeals in your awareness,
describe the dickens out of it! Many people fail at this point,
because they think the image must remain in their conscious view
the whole time they're describing it. Not so. Even if it flickers
for one second and disappears, you can still keep describing it
from memory, just as you described the Taj Mahal. Indeed, the act
of describing will bring it back into view.
about accuracy. It doesn't matter if you "fudge" a
bit. Feel free to enhance, exaggerate, or make up parts of your
description, if these embellishments give the image more vividness
and life. Remember to fudge in all five senses. Sometimes noting
a certain smell will provoke a visual image, or a sound will remind
you of a taste.
The Image Stream
is self-reinforcing. Almost any stimulus will serve to get it started
and trigger the stream of images. But from that point on, it is
your own flow of verbal description that keeps the Image Stream
going. In general, the more you describe something, the more of
it you get.
the first commandment of Image Streaming is to describe the images
out loud. Many beginners think they know better. When they bother
to describe the images at all, they do so silently, to themselves.
This is one of the surest ways I know to fall asleep. In fact, if
you are troubled by insomnia, I strongly recommend Image Streaming
silently as you lie in your bed.
wont work without having a friend listen to you as
you ''stream " or using the tape recorder as though
a friend were there to listen.
the Image Stream makes use of all five senses, not just sight. Your
brain is so wired that vision will always tend to dominate the creative
process. That's all right. But, when we describe mental images into
our tape recorder, we should take care to include in those descriptions
other senses as well, especially those of taste and scent, which
are often neglected. LSD researchers discovered that psychedelic
compounds tend to break down the boundaries between different senses
so that you might "hear" the color red or "smell"
a Bach concerto. Image Streaming seems to draw much of its Pole-Bridging
power from this hidden mechanism, playing upon links between senses
that most of us thought were quite distinct, in a process called
perceptions seem to flood our cortex from the limbic brain, without
most of us being aware of them. The Squelcher blocks these signals
from our consciousness, but synesthetic vestiges emerge in common
turns of speech, as when we speak of the "coolness" of
blue, the "sweetness" of a woman's voice, or a "piercing'
sound. These metaphors make no rational sense. Yet, we understand
synesthesia is unusual, unnecessary, and sometimes unpleasantly
distracting. Dwelling upon it consciously can be as futile and enervating
as obsessing over our own heartbeat or trying to "feel"
the secretion of our glands. As with many other bodily functions,
synesthesia does its best work when we are totally unaware of it.
But its work
is critically important in Image Streaming.
Here are some
more techniques to get a good Image Stream started:
the most beautiful natural landscape you have ever seen - a real
place you have been to, not an imaginary one.
at a 40-to-60-watt light bulb for 30 seconds or so. Then close your
eyes and describe the afterimage you see.
an old dream you recall, filling in the gaps with"fudged"
remembrance of sensory details to keep your momentum going, if necessary.
a story you have read, heard, or seen in a movie, and embellish
to music. Nineteenth-century French music such as Ravel, European
classical music (1750-1825), and progressive jazz are among the
yourself and walk around the house; feeling objects and describing
or smell something blindfolded and describe the experience in detail.
Are you having
problems with The Squelcher? Leap over your self-consciousness by
creating the "Surprise" effect in your mind. You need
to set up an "Answer Space" - a psychological area you
cordon off to attract surprising messages from your right brain,
much as you would set out a bird feeder to attract birds. For example,
imagine yourself wandering through a garden and coming upon a mysterious
door leading to another enclosure. Picture yourself opening that
door suddenly. What do you see? A solution to your problem will
often reveal itself in that moment, just beyond the "threshold."
as with ordinary Image Streaming, the degree to which you are surprised
by what you see in your answer space is roughly correlated to its
your visions, Like Image Streaming itself, grows easier with practice.
Eventually, you will gain an instinctive feel for the language of
your right brain, letting you make quick interpretations much of
the time. When you're beginning, however, adhere to the following
eight-step regimen in analyzing an image:
yourself if the image is literal or symbolic. The best way to
judge is simply to think about it in a relaxed state and see what
pops to mind.
if the image represents fact of feeling. In other words, have
you discerned something that's true -- or are you just expressing
your feelings about it?
key associations. Associations are simply those secondary thoughts
that the images bring to mind. Think back over the Image Stream
or play your tape, and clear associations with other images, places,
people, and things will occur to you.
compiling your personaI decoder. Symbolism in the mind is highly
personal. Keep track of the images that recur in your Image
Streams. They are your own symbols; becoming familiar with them
will make you better at discerning what your subconscious brain
is trying to tell you.
the 'when-then" test. That is, why did the things in your
Image Stream happen in the order they did? If you saw a crystal
ball turn into an egg when it was removed from the fire -- ask yourself
why it didn't happen the other way around. If you put the egg back
into the fire, would it become a crystal ball again? These speculations,
while they appear nonsensical, reveal hidden cause-and-effect relationships,
and they will trigger insights about your problem.
is best. In Image Streaming, as in brainstorming of any kind,
the best ideas are not usually the first to bubble up, but tend
to occur toward the end of the session.
the specific. Vague, general, philosophic conclusions are probably
not the real message. Image Streaming insights are highly
specific. If generalities are all that emerges, try the "Surprise"
for the "Aha!" If an answer or insight is still eluding
you, look at your Image Stream again for an element that seems particularly
pregnant with emotion, meaning, or importance, and ask for the answer
again. It may jump at you with an "Aha"
wrote that "all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and
moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through
countless generations to certain creative individuals."
He was talking
about people like Imhotep. Who can imagine Egypt without her pyramids?
If not for those famous monuments, most people would have little
idea who the Egyptians were, and the world of the pharaohs would
have remained as obscure to us as India's lost city of Mohenjo-Daro.
Yet the invention of the pyramid was in no way inevitable or intrinsic
to the Egyptian soul.
No such structures
would have existed in Egypt had it not been for the genius of a
single man. Five thousand years ago, the pharaohs of Egypt were
buried in squat, mud-brick structures called "mastabas."
Then the court architect Imhotep had a better idea.
to build a tomb for the pharaoh Djoser, Imhotep piled an incredible
850.000 tons of limestone into a structure soaring 200 feet above
the desert. Nothing like it had ever been built, not in Egypt, not
anywhere. From the glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre
Pyramid that dominates the San Francisco skyline, today's architects
continue to imitate Imhotep's work. Indeed, each time modern builders
lay one stone upon another, they are in debt to this man, who virtually
invented the craft of stonemasonry. This was not only the first
pyramid, but the first high-rise stone edifice of any sort that
men built. Imhotep's genius is still with us.
track and field events began in the 19th century, it was considered
physically impossible for a human being to run a mile in four minutes.
Decade after decade, the greatest runners fell short of this milestone.
Then, on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister stunned the world by doing
the impossible -- running the mile in three minutes and 59.4 seconds.
four-minute miles have become routine.
the greatest chess masters in the world tested their mettle by playing
blindfolded. It was long believed that three blindfolded games at
once marked the limit of human capacity. Then, in 1933, Alexander
Alekhine successfully played 32 simultaneous blindfolded games.
Later, grand masters left Alekhine's record in the dust. Koltanovski
set the current record, playing 56 blindfolded games in 1960. He
won 50 and drew the rest.
Over the years,
my studies have lead me consistently to the conclusion that geniuses
are little more than ordinary people who have stumbled on some knack
or technique for widening their channel of attention, thus making
conscious their subtle, subconscious perceptions.
ago, I visited a friend whose son was trying out for the high school
baseball team but feared he wouldn't make the cut because of his
poor batting average. I worked with the boy for about an hour. The
boy discovered that he had the greatest success when he imagined
a tiny flyspeck on the baseball and aimed his bat at that, rather
than at the ball itself. It gave him the extra focus he needed to
connect with the ball.
This may seem
a trivial insight, but its effect on the boy was astonishing. In
baseball, a .250 to .300 batting average is quite good. But during
the first 10 games of the season, this boy batted .840! He not only
made the team, but went on to be named Most Valuable Player in the
But the most
surprising discovery was yet to come. I did not see this boy again
until several years later. He was still playing baseball, and he
clearly remembered our one-hour session as having marked the turning
point in his athletic career. But the boy had entirely forgotten
the details of what he had learned at that session. He remembered
nothing about the fly speck and no longer consciously envisioned
it when striking the ball. Indeed, he was just as mystified as his
teammates as to just how he had become a great batter so quickly.
It's easy to
argue that this boy must have had a talent for baseball all along.
I'm sure he did, but when I met him, there was none in evidence.
Only when he discovered the trick of the flyspeck were his latent
talents catalyzed. All of us possess hidden talents, often in the
very areas where we think ourselves weak. Study, practice, and hard
work can bring incremental improvement. But if we wish to unleash
the full power of our genius, we must find that crucial catalyst,
that simple trick or knack that brings our bodies, senses, and minds
into critical focus
Ph.D. teaches creativity techniques to corporations through his
Institute for Visual Thinking in Gaithersburg, Md.
a former SUCCESS senior editor, is the author of numerous self-help
by Project Renaissance (regarding this internet version only, other
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To reach Win
Wenger, please visit his website at Project
originally published on Anakin's
Brain (now Genius By Design)