Was Steve Jobs Smart? Scientists on the Keys to Success

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In other words, the kid who has all the answers deserves no more encouragement than the one who asks curious questions, clear evidence of a "hungry mind."

The study doesn't attempt to explain how to create that hunger. Encouraging those annoying questions may help, but it probably sends us back to that old debate over nature vs. nurture. Some kids are probably born with it, others learn it in a home that encourages curiosity.

Psychologist Dean Keith Simonton of the University of California, Davis, who has spent decades studying what it takes to be a genius, argues in a new book that it takes more than good genes. It also takes good surroundings.

Other factors also contribute, like good health, financial support, and a little luck.

Any genius needs that. Theirs is not an easy road to follow.

Stanford University researchers, for example, found a link between genius and mental illness, including manic depression. Most highly creative achievers, they concluded, are a little disturbed, which in turn gives them a broad emotional range that possibly contributes to their creative efforts.

And, by the way, over the years I've interviewed many brilliant scientists who easily rank as geniuses. They aren't all nuts.

The only person to receive two Nobel prizes in physics, John Bardeen of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was described in a biography by historian Lillian Hoddeson as "a humble, calm, soft-spoken Midwestener who had plenty of friends and who liked to play golf and have picnics with his family."

He was also very bright, worked very hard, and had a "hungry mind."

That leaves us with this question. How many Bardeens are there out there who will never get that spark that ignites their intellectual curiosity?

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