Albert Einstein: From Mediocre Student to Genius

Everyone knows Einstein as a scientist who published ground-breaking scientific papers and won the Nobel Prize to cement his status as a genius. But not many know him as a lazy and below-average student that was "destined for failure".

Albert Einstein: From Mediocre Student to Genius

When we think of the word "genius", one of the first name to spring to most people's minds is Albert Einstein – the globally recognised genius.

It may then be surprising to hear that Einstein was a below-average child. His parents worried that he had a learning disability because he was very slow to learn to talk. He also had extraordinary temper tantrums and avoided other children. He dropped out of school when he was 15 and failed his first attempt of the entrance examination to the Federal Polytechnic in Zurich.

After retaking his exams, he eventually gained admission to study mathematics and physics at the Polytechnic. His results were poor and he quickly found himself below his peers – he was a less than average student. Some of his professors doubted that he would even graduate.

It was during his time at the Polytechnic that he was described by teachers and faculty members as lazy. He often skipped classes, partied, chased girls and was more interested in having a good time than he was studying mathematics or physics. He was by all accounts, a mediocre student.

Einstein did eventually graduate (only just), but he struggled to land a job for a few years following his graduation from university. He couldn't even secure a job as a lab assistant or a tutor.

On the occasion that he was able to find an entry-level job, he kept getting fired. The first job he was really able to hold was as an administrative assistant at the Swiss Patent Office – not exactly the breeding ground for "geniuses."

Fast forward a few years, and Einstein, a student described as lazy and destined for a mediocre career, wins a Nobel prize. He's published countless ground-breaking scientific papers, which explain how the world around us works and has cemented his status as the most notable genius along the way.

Einstein didn't become a genius; he was always a genius.

Einstein Has Always Been a Genius

I want to throw something out there that may initially appear to contradict what I have said so far. The idea that Einstein always had a little bit of "genius" within him. He just needed to find himself and immerse himself in a field that would allow him to maximise his potential.

If a less than average student like Einstein can become a genius, then it may be possible that there's a little bit of genius within each and every one of us. Society failed to recognise Einstein's genius because of the way society evaluates genius.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” - apparently Einstein

I love the image above.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words; the picture above saves me from writing a thousand words to capture its sentiment. Society's yardstick for measuring genius favours some and disadvantages others. But this shouldn't impact how we see ourselves.

We all have a little bit of genius within us.

"Geniuses" like Einstein, Marie Curie, Mozart and Messi didn't particularly stand out too much from their peers while growing up. Their achievements are a direct result of their hard work, dedication and consistency over decades to their craft. Is "natural talent" is a fallacy? Possibly.

Many "geniuses" were only recognised as such posthumously. They weren't considered anything special during their lifetimes. It why a genius like Shakespeare didn't receive the recognition he deserved during his lifetime. Or Vincent van Gogh not being able to support himself financially during his lifetime.

If many geniuses were only recognised as such posthumously, it makes me question who is alive today that will be universally accepted as geniuses many centuries into the future — Elon Musk? Maybe if he manages to get us all driving Tesla on Mars, which were bought with Dogecoin! I digress.

Everyone has a story, experience, or knows something that others don't. We don't need permission from others to learn and we all have something to learn from each other. Each of us has our own little bit of genius within us.

Subscribe below to receive new post updates the minute they are published. You will also receive my weekly newsletter, where I share interesting articles, books, quotes and lessons that I have learnt during the past week.