You’re already a genius. Paul Graham says so.

You just need to know how to unlock it

Paul Graham’s theory of genius is one of my favorite essays

It’s brilliant because it’s both simple and actionable

This is the practical value that every founder should take away from Paul’s work

The Bus Ticket Theory

A person who collects old bus tickets is driven by an interest that is both obsessive and disinterested - ie, not motivated by personal gain

A genius is driven by the same

The Recipe for Genius

The difference between a bus ticket collector and a genius is that the subject of the genius’ obsession ends up mattering

So, Paul’s recipe for genius is: “to have a disinterested obsession with something that matters”

What That Means…

…is that genius is a product of interest

Allowing interest to build to obsession leads to discovery + new ideas

It leads to genius

An Example

Darwin’s genius is often attributed to him having “better vision” or more talent

But he didn’t study species in such depth because he knew it would lead to amazing discoveries;

He just loved his work

How To Use It

Every founder wants to create something revolutionary

The potential for genius is there - it just needs to be unlocked

There’s no way to know exactly what obsessive interest will end up mattering

But there are indicators, like picking a difficult field

In a startup, this might look like tackling the current industry hot topic

Or it could mean disrupting a legacy industry with a revolutionary idea

But personal interest is key

Genius ideas don’t come from scrambling to jump on the bandwagon - just look at the crypto boom 

The People Problem

Why don’t 2 people with the same test scores become equally revered in their field?

The bus ticket theory gives us a simple answer:

Ability ≠ interest

The Antidote to Feeling Stuck

Paul suggests “the way to do great work” is to “remain irresponsible”

“Mess[ing] about” with side projects can stop you “slowing down” over time

It’s like Bezos’s idea of “giving yourself permission to wander” - innovation is not linear

The Lesson

a) Genius is the product of obsessive interest, but

b) that interest has to matter; and

c) understanding + honoring our interests makes for better startups

…and better, happier founders

Read Paul’s full essay here 


or to participate.