What are some secret things geniuses do to solve problems? originally appeared on Quora -- the knowledge-sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

I think the main difference between geniuses and "average" people is not so much raw intelligence but mindset, mental habits, and work ethic.

Many average people tend toward laziness, and also lack belief in their own abilities, so they are afraid of attempting anything that seems like too much hard work, or seems too difficult, in case they fail.

Geniuses, on the other hand, tend to be quite industrious and hardworking, and love getting their teeth into really difficult problems. And they don't mind attempting challenging problems because they are less afraid of failure -- both the possibility of it and the consequences of it for their egos; they know they are smart, and don't have anything to prove to anyone, so it doesn't affect their self-esteem whether they succeed or not, and they adopt a relaxed and carefree attitude to their work and simply enjoy it. What average people regard as "work," geniuses tend to regard as play, and they approach their work with a playful mindset, and think of it as fun.

And because average people might tend to see work simply as work, they also see it as something to be done 9 to 5 and not taken home with them; they tend to switch off and stop thinking about it outside of "normal" working hours. But geniuses simply cannot stop thinking about their work all the time, because they love the intellectual stimulation and mental buzz it gives them. So the artificial separation between work and leisure time does not exist for them; they happily take their work home and continue to think about and work on problems 24/7.

I believe these are the major reasons why geniuses achieve so much more than average people; they enjoy their work, regarding it as fun, and because of this they also put in far more hours of brain time.

So if you want three tips about "how to work like a genius," I guess they would be:

  • Do work you enjoy, and find genuinely interesting. Think of your work as play.
  • Don't switch off from work if you don't need to; your creativity and insight do not work on a 9-to-5 schedule, nor should you; that eureka moment can come at any time of the day or night.
  • Believe in yourself, and don't be afraid of failure, because that fear will hold you back from tackling difficult problems -- and difficult problems are usually the most important ones. Instead, regard difficult problems as exciting opportunities to stretch yourself and test your abilities.

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Published on: Jun 2, 2016