“What does that even mean, I don’t know, but it’s fun to yell” - Michelangelo

Personal genius involves relentless personal development resulting in a level of instinctual awareness that enables a person to live a life of their own design.

Nassim Taleb’s definition of intelligence “knowing if a choice left you better off”.

The Ninja Turtle Michelangelo utilizes a harmony of self that enables him in various timelines to become the savior of all humanity.

Observation of both these characters has offered me a glimpse into understanding where I live on the spectrum of idiocy and brilliance.

Keep It Weird

I’ve spent a decent part of my life feeling like an idiot.

Missed connections, poorly negotiated contracts, lack of academic accolade, all of it. I run my own business, I love it, I help people conduct software entrepreneurship but I have by no means “made it”. I claw my way through existence, I fight daily to maintain sanity, personal independence and the ability to pay rent.

Once at a startup’s christmas party, the CEO recognized people in the room for their contributions to the team. He opened up by thanking me, “Dude, you keep it weird!”.

For quite some time, I thought it was me.

I thought I was weird, a bit of an idiot.

But then,

  1. I watched a bunch of the modern Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Animes on Netflix

  2. I read the books Antifragile and Skin In The Game, both written by Nassim Taleb.

Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie

I was introduced to the TMNT as a child. When the original movie was released in 1990 as a 13 year old, I didn’t have much perspective on the various personalities of the turtles. I differentiated them only by their ninja colors and weapons.

In 2023, I’m no longer 13 but I love the various good quality animation/anime on Netflix. This spring I watched a bunch of the modern TMNT franchises and was surprised how much of each turtle’s personality came through.

The part about Michaelangelo that really struck me, how on one hand he is portrayed as a bit of a goofball with no apparent focus or point. In Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, his role for me feels elevated. By not allowing himself to get caught up with others’ expectations, he is fully complete in the expression of himself. Furthermore, his nonsensical approach to being himself leads him to creativity and unpredictability.

In the potential future where the turtles are stuck in Krang armageddon, Michaelangelo behaves as an almost multidimensional being, channeling Wuji (creative emptiness) while attempting to be all things in every place, the fate of the Turtles rests with his ability to transcend.

Taleb, Books and the Redefinition of Intelligence

What is intelligence?

Oxford Dictionary defines Intelligence as;

the ability to learn, understand and think in a logical way about things; the ability to do this well

ChatGPT defines Intelligence as;

Intelligence is the capacity to acquire, apply, and adapt knowledge and skills to solve problems and make effective decisions. It encompasses cognitive abilities, creativity, adaptability, and emotional intelligence, among other factors

I think both of these definitions aren’t very useful, they are un-specific and lack actionability. The Oxford dictionary’s definition of intelligence is basically circular “intelligence is doing things in a logical way” (then what is logical? “seeming natural, reasonable or sensible”)

Taleb defines Intelligence as;

Knowing if a choice left you better off.

I love Taleb’s definition, it empowers people to trust themselves, it deemphasizes lengthy pseudo-scientific rationalization, it is simple to think about, it is immediately actionable for all human beings.

The Post Michelangelo Idiot

As an adult around age 45, watching cartoons and reading the extreme writing of Nassim Taleb, I finally realized that not only was I not an idiot, but that much of my life I have been expressing my own personal genius.

Yes, I just said that teenage mutant ninja turtles and a fiery literary anti-hero helped me turn the corner on seeing my…

Let’s consider the two most important parts of this

  1. Michaelangelo completes the TMNT by never engaging in over thinking, over seriousness and is always in complete flow with himself.

  2. Taleb empowers us to be the masters of our future by knowing that intelligence is simply knowing if our choices leave us better or worse off.

In numerous situations throughout my life, people have looked at my decision making priorities and given me that ‘dude you are weird’ look.

In many situations, personal and professional, I have approached decision making on my own terms, using my internal compass (even if it points in funny ways) and these decisions have enabled me to live a life of my own design. Never again will I succumb to comparing myself to normal, a word synonymous with average. I will take comfort in knowing that I do know how to judge if a choice left me better off, I will take comfort in knowing that important creative decisions entail a reasonable amount of uncertainty and that is ok with me.

Cheers And Thanks for the Fish!
John Davison