If you want to be recognized for your brilliance, it’s best to do something that is less than completely brilliant. The reason for this is simple: Ideas that are very good but less than truly brilliant are generally well-received by the critics and the public. I can give you a million examples, from the Dyson vacuum to any novel by Maragret Atwood to the album The Lumineers, by The Lumineers. All that is required to be lauded as brilliant is to create or perform something that wouldn’t naturally occur to the dimmest member of your audience, and you are good to go.
Should you be so bold as to do something that is actually brilliant, however, you will only suffer one of two fates. You may be ignored, in the manner of post-1850 Melville or pre-Volkswagen-commercial Nick Drake. Worse yet, you may succeed beyond your wildest imagination, at which point it will be the firm opinion of everyone around you that you had only done the natural, nay, the obvious thing. Your work will be taken from you by the critics and given to your surroundings, or your time, or your generation. Historians will suggest that anyone could have done it, given your circumstances. A simultaneous discoverer will be discovered. Your success will be dismissed as having been certain from the beginning.
It’s a tough gig, doing something brilliant. Look at the people who designed the second-generation Prius. But it’s even tougher when you bet the proverbial farm on the results. As Ford did, eighteen long years ago around this time.
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