The Misunderstood Genius

Joan Marques - Ed.D., MBA.
Burbank, California

A misunderstood genius was walking on a plain not far from a great metropolitan city, at 3 pm while the sun was high in the sky, and the earth was splitting from drought. He was there because he needed some time to contemplate in a quiet environment. However; his troubled state of mind was not cooperating too well with his desire to generate some fruitful ideas.

He kicked a single cactus that just eyed a little too bouncy and bubbly for his antagonistic mood. "The nerve of this plant to stand there so vivacious in such sizzling sun. It should be against the law!" he grumbled. But the cactus stung him right through his canvas shoe, and the misunderstood genius uttered a cry from pain.

While rubbing the sore toes of his right foot with his left hand, the misunderstood genius saw a middle aged woman in light khaki observing him with a gaze that held the middle between amusement and mild aggravation.

"Silly man," the woman said, "You should have known how the cactus would respond to your foolish deed."

"Cactuses can't talk, woman, and I just didn't kick it hard enough, I guess."

"Oh you kicked hard alright," replied the woman, "But the cactus was not going to let you get away with your unfounded aggression. Everything has a message for you, don't you know? The cactus just told you that you should never hurt or insult others without expecting the same in return. So, in fact the cactus just maintained the golden rule: Don't do unto others what you don't want to be done unto yourself. But tell me, why are you actually so upset today?"

"Well, not that it's any of your business, but my life has not been running very smoothly lately," answered the misunderstood genius. "I just got laid off from my job as a promising engineer because some character at the other end of the world offered my company similar service for half the hourly rate. And that happened just while I was well on my way to developing a new device at home: a device that would cut the production costs for my company in half, while shortening the delivery time with 35%. But I guess it just took a little too long, and the extent of my luck was just a little too short to achieve my goal before they let me go."

"So, what does it take for you to finish the development of this new device on your own and sell it to either the company you recently worked for, or another?"

"Hmmm...I hadn't thought about that. Actually, it wouldn't take too much additional effort, since the blueprint is almost ready." The misunderstood genius was actually starting to smile again. His energy noticeably increased, while a gleam replaced the dimness that had been in his eyes just a moment ago. "In fact, I am pretty sure that I will get an opportunity to present my plan if it is well constructed and comprehensive enough. They never ignore proposals that can possibly result in capital generation and efficiency increase. And I believe that the very fact that I am providing the company that recently let me go with this primer instead of vindictively offering it to their main competitor, may create a different dimension in our relationship."

"Wise thinking!" replied the woman, "You are not repaying good with evil. Your genius is on the rise!"

Just as sudden as the woman had appeared, was she gone again. But the misunderstood genius felt reenergized, hurried home, finished the blueprint, settled his copyright issues, and made an appointment with the top management of the company he had been working for during the preceding 4 years. Within three weeks he gave a spectacular presentation, and became a very prestigious consultant for the company, making ten times more money than he used to as an employee.

But the financial prosperity was not the most important improvement in the genius' life. Even more essential to him was the dignity that he regained by learning to perceive himself as an equal partner with the company he was once just working for. This newly gained dignity spawned tremendous inspiration within the genius, and device after sophisticated device he developed, not only for the company he was now advising, but also for others in- and outside the industry where he used to work.

His quest to develop elicited a new curiosity within him, and he started approaching organizations far outside the borders of his country as well.

One day, while he was daydreaming in his small, but state-of-the-art workplace that he had built annex to his house, the middle-aged woman in khaki appeared. "Congratulations, my friend, you did it!" she said smilingly. "Now let's see, what have you gained in the past few months? You became an independent worker: your own boss, and you feel good about this responsibility. In fact, you feel so good about it that your creative juices have been triggered and have flowed richly since then. You have established connections with companies in countries located in at least 3 continents of the world. You are about to do some nice traveling in the near future, and will make yourself familiar with the world "out there." Your Rolodex looks good: it has at least 17 new names in it. You became multi-facetted. You see yourself as an organization nowadays, and not as the victimized worker you used to be. Heck, you have even been contemplating to write a technical guide for your line of expertise! You simply took the challenge that was placed on your path by that "overseas character" that stole your job, and transformed it into an opportunity for yourself. You learned from his example, and really got yourself going! And throughout this entire mental crash course you took, you also learned about self-respect, respect for others, the essence of familiarity with various cultures, and the overall importance of being proactive. But do you know the main message that life conferred to you in the past months?"

The genius didn't even have to think about that one: "I have learned that there is a misunderstood genius in all of us, and that we have a choice: We can either dwell on the aggravation of being neglected or misunderstood, and make the world an increasingly worse place for ourselves and all others around us, or we can change our attitude and find other ways to earn recognition for our genius. The secret lies in searching, persevering, and daring."

The woman in khaki winked and disappeared...and the genius woke up from his refreshing afternoon nap...