How his life can change the way you look at productivity.
Albert Einstein is one of the most genius contributors to science. At age 26, he discovered light exists as photons and laid the basis of nuclear energy. At 34, he published the general theory of relativity.
He was considered so brilliant that the pathologist who inspected Einstein’s dead body even stole his brain. Nowadays, when you google genius definition, you find Einstein’s name in the explanation.
But what made him a genius in the first place? When asked, Einstein replied,
“Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work.”
And while that’s the story we continue to preach, it’s only one part of the equation. Einstein’s insane productivity came at high emotional costs for the people close to him.
Einstein treated his wife as an employee he can’t fire
And while their first years of marriage are told to be romantic, things changed soon. According to biographer Isaacson Einstein said, “I treat my wife as an employee whom I cannot fire.”
Specifically, Einstein handed her a list of martial demands and only remained together if she agreed to the following conditions.
A) You will make sure:
— that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
— that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
— that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.
B) You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, You will forego:
— my sitting at home with you;
— my going out or travelling with you.
C) You will obey the following points in your relations with me:
— you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;
— you will stop talking to me if I request it;
— you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.
D) You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.
The irony of Einstein’s popular life lessons
For preparing this article, I read through primary sources, like his letters and more recent articles on his life. And while his work is undoubtedly a great scientific contribution, we should be wary when it comes to his life lessons.
“Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” — Albert Einstein
Really, brother? Do you say your marriage contract is based on understanding and has not much to do with emotional force? Dude, it’s 1913. For the sake of your two young children and her own social standing, your wife can’t just leave you.
“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” — Albert Einstein
Bro, I absolutely agree with your powerful quote. But here’s the catch: Are you aware that because of your marriage demands, your wife couldn’t take her exams and finish her physics studies? You treated her like a personal servant. You limited her intellectual growth.
Historians argue Einstein also erased Mileva Marić’s contributions to the Theory of Relativity. Plus, Einstein cheated on Marić with his cousin Elsa Löwenthal whom he would eventually marry (and also cheat on).
When you remember the third point from the martial demands, you can put this into perspective: Einstein would sleep with whomever he wanted, and Marić shouldn’t expect any intimacy from him.
If there’s one life lesson he preached and practiced, it’s the following:
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” — Albert Einstein
Isaacson wrote about Einstein that “he worked as long as he could, and when the pain got too great, he went to sleep.” He even died while working.
In his biography, it says, “One of his strengths as a thinker, if not as a parent, was that he had the ability, and the inclination, to tune out all distractions, a category that to him sometimes included his children and family.”
Einstein was able to become an insanely productive monomaniac because he sacrificed his relationships.
The point is: For every successful genius, there are broken relationships we rarely hear about. So before reading the next article on Einstein’s, Musk’s, or Darwin’s productivity routines, ask yourself:
Do I see the full picture or only the productivity’s shiny side?