Albert Einstein is perhaps the most famous genius the world has ever seen. The German physicist left quite a legacy, the most notable of which is the Theory of Relativity, otherwise known as e = mc2.
His long list of accomplishments earned him a Nobel Prize and the distinction of being the most influential physicist of the 20th century.
But did you know that there’s so much more to him than the scientist persona we all know?
Einstein was actually also quite the philosopher, and there’s just so much we can learn from his words of wisdom. Which have nothing to do with science, by the way.
Today, that’s what I’m going to talk about. Here are 9 things we can learn from Albert Einstein that can help us approach life with the right attitude – and don’t worry, none of them involve math.
Let’s dive in!
1) Get out of your comfort zone
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
If there’s anything Einstein was an expert in (aside of course from being a physicist extraordinaire), it was experimenting.
You don’t get to arrive at those mind-bending theories without being willing to take risks. As intelligent as he was, Einstein for sure made lots of mistakes during his explorations.
But that never stopped him. Neither should we let our fear of mistakes stop us from venturing out of our comfort zones.
We might not end up winning a Nobel Prize for being brave, but one thing’s for sure – we’ll learn a lot of new things and have a fuller life!
2) Work, but also stay balanced
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
I love this quote of Einstein’s because it’s just packed with so much meaning.
First, there’s the obvious meaning that thinking isn’t enough.
Of course, it’s important to think about the decisions we make in life, but until we act on them, those thoughts will merely circulate in our heads, where they can’t do anyone any good.
Second, balance. Think about it – isn’t a static bike harder to keep upright? You’d have to put your leg down just to avoid falling over.
But once you get moving and you get a rhythm going, that’s when things start feeling good. That’s when you begin feeling the wind in your hair and seeing the scenery change.
That’s pretty much how is it in life, isn’t it? Until you make concrete actions towards your goals and until you achieve the right balance, you’ll be stuck in a rut and life will be incredibly boring and unsatisfying.
And then, when the road turns from straight to twisted, from flat to uphill, remember this next lesson from Einstein…
3) Persistence wins the game
“It’s not that I’m smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
From this quote, you can see what a humble guy Einstein was, but more on that later.
What he’s pointing out here is that the success he’s had is due to effort rather than his natural genius (reputed to be a whopping 160-180).
And that’s good news for us non-geniuses. Because it means that in the real world, hard work counts for something. Matters more than smarts, actually.
And if you can combine both – work hard and work smart – well, then, there’s no limit to what you can achieve!
4) Cultivate mindfulness
“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”
You wouldn’t expect a genius with all sorts of intricate scientific theories in his head to impart wisdom using a cheeky example like above.
But he’s got a point, you know.
It’s all about mindfulness. Staying in the moment. Flow.
What he’s saying is that when you’re doing something, give it all you’ve got. Otherwise, it’s just a half-assed attempt. And that’s not how you get to excellence.
It’s an especially useful piece of advice in today’s busy world. Multitasking continues to be prized, even though lots of research has pointed out its counterproductiveness.
Einstein wants us to remember this: choose quality over quantity. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, whether it’s a scientific experiment or a kiss.
5) Be an independent thinker
“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
In case you didn’t know yet (and in case his messy shock of hair hasn’t clued you in), Einstein was a nonconformist.
There are so many instances when he showed this, such as when he challenged the established Newtonian view of the universe during his time.
His theory of relativity was groundbreaking and changed the very foundation of how we understand space, time, and the universe.
Not only that, but he also voiced out his protest against World War I and became an outspoken pacifist after the war. I can’t think of anything more subversive than these two examples.
However, it’s not really about subversion of authority; Einstein was more about thoughtful consideration. Meaning, we don’t have to automatically fall in line or follow the status quo blindly.
In short, we should aim to be independent thinkers. Critical thinkers who question and analyze the world around us so we can understand it before making our own conclusions.
That said, one of the most amazing things about Einstein was that even if he was a truly independent thinker, he wasn’t afraid to admit when he was wrong. Which brings me to my next point…
6) Be humble
“It’s convenient with that fellow Einstein, every year he retracts what he wrote the year before.”
That’s a statement he said about himself – rather like poking fun at his own fallacies.
See, that’s the genius about geniuses (pun intended), they’re smart enough to know they don’t know everything.
And if they’ve got the emotional intelligence to go with it, like Einstein did, they can admit when they were wrong.
Remember when I said that Einstein adopted a pacifist stance after World War I? Well, when World War II came around, and he saw the rise of Nazism, he reconsidered his anti-war position.
He urged the US to build an atomic bomb so they could get the jump on the Nazis.
And then, when he saw the damage that bomb did on civilians, he did another turnaround and openly regretted what he did. He then advocated for nuclear disarmament for the rest of his life.
(Did you get whiplash from all that?)
The point is, humility is a lesson we would all do well to remember. It’s the intelligent thing to do.
7) Value is more meaningful than success
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”
This quote is another glimpse into Einstein’s philosophical bent, and it’s rather profound.
And undeniably true. We all want to be successful, but the question is, successful at what?
If it’s just to get rich or to glorify ourselves, then that isn’t really much of a success in Einstein’s perspective.
For him, true success isn’t measured by personal achievements or material wealth, but by the impact we make in the world.
So, if you’re not sure where you stand in all of this, ask yourself:
- What do I contribute to society?
- Have I made a difference in someone else’s life recently?
- Does what I do have a positive impact on others?
- Am I aiming for mere success or for genuine value?
8) Let inner motivation and integrity drive you
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.”
Speaking of purpose and value, what drives you? I hope that the answer lies within you, not in external forces.
Not in people’s approval. Not in monetary rewards or recognition. Not in fear.
You see, most profound and lasting motivations stem from a deep sense of purpose, from the core of who we are.
I know that the times I’ve felt most fulfilled in my life is when I chose to teach and write. These are my two passions, so it didn’t matter if they didn’t pay as well as I’d like.
I was following my heart, and that inner drive made me want to excel, whether or not my bosses were watching.
We find true fulfillment when our actions align with our inner values. When we’re moved by passion and genuine concern for others, not just by external incentives.
Otherwise, we’d be a sorry lot indeed, as Einstein said.
9) Simplicity and gratitude are important
“A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?”
Finally, let’s get down to the basics. Literally, the basics. What does it take to be happy?
Well, look at the quote above. Isn’t it a very short list?
That’s what Einstein thinks – that for all the trappings of the world, it actually takes very little for us to be happy.
Or at least, that’s the way it should be.
Us folks in the modern world have a lot of unlearning to do. Our consumerist and success-based culture has had many of us fooled into believing that we need to earn a lot, have a lot, BE a lot to be happy.
But do we, really? I think you don’t need to be a genius to know the answer to that.