Genius Formula

My dear friend, Tom Ruwitch, founder of Story Power Marketing, sent me an article which offered the following formula for determining genius:

“Genius equals significance times the number of people influenced times duration.”

As many of you know I shy away from the term genius (a personal quirk), but I am intrigued by the formula. Here’s why:


While many of us are amazed when we hear little known facts, we rarely retain them. But when what we hear improves our lives, we embrace it. We recall these insights for decades to come and often share them with others. We alter our behaviors to take advantage of what we’ve learned, which helps us grow personally and professionally.

Now that we have a sense for why significance is an essential element of genius, let’s look at people influenced.

People Influenced

I believe that most of us would agree that knowledge is worthless until it’s employed. Knowing that a healthy diet and regular exercise will keep me healthy isn’t enough. I actually have to eat healthy and exercise regularly.

Even if I do these things I’m limiting the value of my knowledge. The value of this knowledge grows exponentially as I influence more and more people to eat healthy and exercise regularly.

Bob Burg, author of The Go-Giver, says that our value is related to the number of people we serve…which adds validity to this element of the formula.


Finally, the influence must have a lasting impact on others’ lives. When others’ are still acting on what you taught them years earlier (possibly decades earlier), you’ve achieved the duration criteria. You’ll know when you hear people you’ve never met say that someone quoted you and the quote moved them to action. This ripple effect is a sure sign that you’ve met the duration criteria.

Counterintuitive thinking

Craig Wright, PhD, who came up with the formula above, also said that if you’re a contrarian thinker you’re on your way to genius.

Being a contrarian doesn’t mean that you’re obstinate or rigid in your thinking. It means that you question everything…especially well-known “facts.” Many people consider confidence a trait that some possess and others don’t. When I challenged that premise I discovered that confidence is a spectrum and where we fit on that spectrum depends on the situation we’re facing.

Similarly, many of us put a spin on things when we make a mistake. Our goal is to avoid losing face, and more importantly credibility, with others. When I applied Dr. Phil’s question “How’s that workin’ for ya?” I realized that this approach seldom works, people have a BS meter that let’s them know when someone is putting a spin on reality. The result is that people using spin lose the very thing they hope to retain…credibility.

Conversely, people who readily admit their mistakes appear confident and honest, thereby retaining credibility.

These are two examples of how contrarian thinking brings us to more accurate perceptions of life and the way it works. The key to becoming a contrarian thinker is to continuously ask “Is this true?”…especially when what you’re hearing is conventional wisdom. More often than not, conventional wisdom is an easy explanation, not an accurate one.

For you

While you, like me, may not aspire to being considered a genius, there are advantages to be gained by developing a contrarian mindset.

One is that you see things more clearly and find solutions to challenges more quickly than your counterparts. As you become known for this ability, you find that people seek your counsel and invite you into their initiatives. This gives you influence.

Over time the numbers who seek your counsel, or regularly quote you, grow which increases the number of people you influence…many indirectly as well as directly. When you achieve this level of recognition you know that what you offer has both significance and duration. In other words, whether or not you intend to exhibit genius, you are doing so according to Dr. Wright’s formula.

The key though is that you’re helping countless people enjoy richer, fuller, joyful lives, That’s a goal worth pursuing.

For our kids

Help your kids develop the habit of contrarian thinking…of challenging conventional wisdom. You can do that by simply asking “Is that true?” whenever you see them employ conventional thinking.

Another way to ask the question is “When would that not hold true?” This question gets kids to think situationally, and in doing so, realize that situations alter the accuracy of any bit of advice we might offer. I often use this approach in the classes I teach. Asking people to examine the flip side of the coin opens their minds to new perspectives and better solutions.

Give the gift of contrarian thinking to your kids. They’ll thank you throughout their entire lives.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share them in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link).

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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