Wednesday, February 2, 2022

An Evening With Walter Isaacson

When you are a bit of an info-junkie, love at first sight comes in funny ways. It struck me in the pre-pandemic days when I was gifted a ticket to the Baltimore Speaker Series from a colleague to go see John Kerry. Her plans changed for the evening, opening up their ticket, making for a delightful evening for my husband and I to go to a beautiful venue and spend an hour or more listening to John Kerry talk on a multitude of topics. He is a fascinatingly brilliant man with a vast array of stories and experiences as well as an abundance of knowledge. Now, of course, he is ou first United States Special Presidential Envoy for the Climate.

The pandemic turned us all into homebodies for a good year and a half, but the Speaker series was always calling our names in the background...and now, mid-season tickets are ours for this year.

The first session we had tickets to this year was on January 11th. The speaker that night was historian, professor, and author Walter Isaacson. His curriculum vitae was extensive, being a former editor of Time Magazine, former CEO of CNN, and Fellow at the Aspen Institute (among other things).

As the author of what's come to be known as "The Genius Biographies," Isaacson knows a little bit about "genius," and the focus of his evening was the distillation of lessons learned from the many geniuses he has researched or interviewed and written about. And he should know since he's written books on Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Henry Kissinger, Jennifer Doudna (co-inventor of CRISPR and gene editing) and more.

As Walter Isaacson spoke throughout the evening, you came to see that "being smart" isn't enough. There are boatloads smart people out there.  But there's an extra "something" that makes "the greats" great. 

They have a sense of higher purpose and they push to see what they can do to push humanity forward. Additionally, what's key to inspiring creative and innovative, genius-level thinking are elements that innovators (and often entrepreneurs) have...YET, we all have it in us to do these exact things! Many of the these traits we nurture in our children; however, the true gift of genius is to never lose these gifts. We should spend our lifetime cultivating and curating the following to grow and enrich our lives:
  • Be passionately, playfully, obsessively curious--for his own sake.
  • Think outside of the box.
  • Be more observant.
  • Have a passion for your perfection, bringing beauty to what is important.
  • Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
  • Have some humility.
  • Creativity is a team sport and innovation is a collaborative act.
  • Focus on the shared values, for they are greater than the ones that polarize us.
  • Celebrate the diversity that makes collaboration work
  • Gratitude is vital.
It reminded me of one of the ideals I hold most true: it will take innovation to solve our environmental issues. The same is true when it comes to social and environmental justice. It will take those with genius to "think different" (as Steve Jobs was known to say) to create the solutions necessary. 

Yet genius can be within all of our grasps. Continuing the love of learning and being open to possibilities are all part of the process. I love how we all have the power and potential inside us to do this exact thing!

Information junkies, for the win!

Book images from, other pictures from my camera.

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