Ep. 82: What is the relationship between musicianship, mental disorders, and genius? What is the difference between prodigy and genius? With Dr. Craig Wright

Image by Barbara A Lane from Pixabay 


February 16, 2021

As humans, we tend to be fascinated with certain groups of human outliers, like Olympians, the extremely wealthy, and, definitely, geniuses. Genius cannot be predicted by standardized tests, IQ, or prodigy. But there are some common denominators, or “enablers,” of genius. We talk about what they are, and what we can learn from them and adapt to our own lives, habits, and behaviors. Bonus: Tips for those who live or work with a genius!

Dr. Craig Wright


I may have shared before on this show that I am a total library nerd, and have an RSS feed where I can see new books that my library has ordered. And there was a title that caught my eye several months ago, called The Hidden Habits of Genius: Beyond Talent, IQ, and Grit – unlocking the Secrets of Greatness. I immediately ordered the book, and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of reading it. It is written by a musician, and takes a look at many musical geniuses, and geniuses who were musical, including Mozart, Einstein, Galileo, Igor Stravinsky, and Sir Paul McCartney.

I have the author with me today. Dr. Craig Wright has published seven books on music and cultural history, the most recent being The Hidden Habits of Genius; it was published in October 2020 and was an Amazon Top-20 Book Selection for 2020. Craig has multiple degrees from Harvard, including a Ph.D. in musicology. He has taught at Yale for more than forty-five years; during that time he developed a popular course called “Exploring the Nature of Genius.”


  • Wright mentions an academic joke in his book: “The A students get hired to teach in the universities, and the B’s get relatively good jobs working for the C’s.”
  • We discuss common denominators, or markers, of genius; which ones we can and should emulate; and which ones we should NOT adapt!

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In-Episode Promo

If you’re a regular listener of this show, you’ve probably heard me talk about my Rolflex Pro. It played a significant role in healing my repetitive use injuries; and I have continued to use it every day for years, both to prevent injuries – and because it feels so good! The Rolflex Pro is a foam roller tool with clam-shaped arms that provide leverage to adjust the pressure to whatever you like or can tolerate. I use it mainly on my arms and neck/shoulder area; but it can be used on any body part because of how it’s designed. I highly recommend it. As I mentioned, I’ve been using the Rolflex daily for years, and recently signed up as an affiliate; so you can help support the show – at no extra cost to you – by purchasing through this link. The Rolflex is eligible for reimbursement from Flexible Spending Accounts and HSAs; it’s also eligible for medical insurance reimbursement in certain situations. More information is on the Rolflex website. (Visit Ep. 80 show notes for a photo of my Rolflex Pro in my workout area in my basement.)


Dr. Wright discusses his relationship to Dvorak’s Symphony 9, and the memories it brings to him, and how “music is an invitation.” He plays a piano reduction of the opening of the Symphony’s 2nd (Adagio) movement.

Closing Words

And that is Craig playing a piano reduction of the opening of the 2nd movement of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, which was written Spillville, Iowa in 1893. Thanks so much to Dr. Wright for joining us today. Before I let you go, I want to let you know about another podcast that I listen to and you may enjoy. Cadence is hosted by neuroscientist and soprano Indre Viskontas (who was a guest on Ep. 35), and is a podcast that asks what music can tell us about the mind. The first season is a 10-episode journey answering the fundamental questions of how our brains turn soundwaves into music, what it takes to keep a beat, and how musical training shapes our brains. The 2nd season focuses on music as medicine, with stories of how music rewires the brains of patients with traumatic injuries, improves kids’ recovery from cancer, and helps immigrant women learn English. Now in season 3, Cadence explores how music influences us, from politics to pets, in ads and in prisons. Cadence: what music tells us about the mind. Find it wherever you get your audio, or on their website: TheEnsembleProject.com/cadence.  Thank you so much for joining me today. Until next week, may your life be enhanced with music. 


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