Do you know this guy on the left? Of course you do! The man, and in particular that photo, are icons. They represent creativity itself.
Yet Einstein is both an inspiration and an intimidation. His legend, unfortunately, has obscured much his story’s true value. He was, in many ways, unexceptional, but nevertheless managed to see the world differently and led others to do so as well.
Although obviously intelligent, he showed no special early aptitude. He was neither rich nor poor. While not tremendously popular as a child, he was no loner either. His extraordinarily genius was very much the product of a method and it is one which we can all follow.
Many believe that in order to be creative you must eschew conventional ideas and Einstein is often held up as an example. He isn’t.
Despite apocryphal stories that he failed math class, Einstein was a good, if unruly, student. He studied physics intensely, worked towards a doctorate and sought out a job as an ordinary physics professor. It was his poor lecturing ability (and possibly his poor behavior towards a professor) that kept him from a more conventional academic career.
Moreover, even his legendary burst of creativity in 1905, during what is now called his miracle year, focused on topics widely discussed among physicists of the time. His discoveries utilized concepts such as Planck’s law and Maxwell’s equations, standard for physicists but impenetrable to laymen, even today.
So while it’s true that he was somewhat of an outsider to the ivory towers of the physics community, it wasn’t by choice. He was, in fact, struggling to gain acceptance (of both himself and his doctoral dissertation). In a similar vein, the most creative people I have known have all been avid students of their field.
It helps to know what the rules are before you set out to break them.