We're using the broader definition of the word "genius" here, meaning anyone with an extraordinary talent or skill. So for instance Dennis Rodman was a genius when it came to rebounding basketballs, but was probably not a genius in the way that Einstein was.
Or was he?
But as Dennis demonstrates, genius--whether it involves writing ground-breaking computer code, picking stocks or writing the dopest rhymes--means one thing above all else: You are forever granted an exception to society's rules.
The fictional archetype for this these days is TV's Dr. House, whose being a genius means he gets a free pass to do drugs on the job, break hospital policy, insult his superiors and treat patients like shit. But don't blame the writers, the real world examples are just as extreme, from Hemingway to Kanye West. Being a genius means you get to do great things, sure, but it's also a blank check for douchebaggery.
Who could turn that down?
So What's the Problem?
Want to know what it's like to live life as a genius? All you have to do is go hang around with the stupidest, most incompetent people you know. Cringe at their stupid jokes, feel the frustration as they fumble even the easiest tasks and fail to grasp the simplest concepts. Being a genius must be like that, only everyday. Everyone is an idiot compared to them. They're living Idiocracy.
We can't imagine what it's like to make friends in that world. Genuine connections will be rare indeed when every honest expressions of thought or feelings on your end is met with a look of dull Keanu Reeves-esque befuddlement.
If you're not the Einstein kind of genius, it doesn't matter, any situation where you're 10 levels above your coworkers is going to be daily frustration. If you're a genius at spreading concrete, that feeling only occurs to you in the form of everyone else being sloppy and helpless. No wonder they wind up treating people like dirt.
Not that you'd have time for friends anyway. Genius takes practice. Lots of it. Shows like House don't tell you that to become as good at your job as Dr. House, you've got to devote an enormous amount of time to working, studying and practicing your craft (at least 10 thousand hours, according to that Malcolm Gladwell book everyone is quoting these days). Behind the genius is hundreds of weekends spent pouring over texts while everyone else was at the party, playing bikini Twister.
This is what they do at parties, right?
All of this is a great recipe for the stereotypical depressed, moody genius who dies alone and bitter.
Wait, it Gets Worse...
If your genius lies in some kind of creative field, then there's a good chance you have actual mental illness to deal with. While only one percent of the population suffers from bipolar disorder, it is claimed that 50 percent of poets, 38 percent of musicians and 20 percent of painters have it. It's just part of the package.
Eminem, prior to launching music career.
Compare the number of great musical innovators who have died of suicide or drug overdose versus, say, the number of plumbers who have died the same way. It might be better to just stand in the poop all day.
You never hear little kids say they want to be "powerful" when they grow up. Parents don't encourage that sort of thing, since it's kind of terrifying coming from a toddler.
Yet, power is what everything else on this list is about. Fame is about having power in the relationship with the fans. Beauty is about gaining power through others' sexual desire and jealousy. Genius means society needs your skills more than you need its approval. Money . . . well, money and power are conjoined twins.
So it's pretty safe to say that while not many of you reading this specifically aspire to go into any kind of political office, a great many of you do aspire to some kind of power. Maybe you're eying the kind of job where you'll be the boss, or maybe you want to go into law enforcement. Or maybe you're just driven by that bitter, unspoken urge almost all of us feel at least once in our youth: "I'll show them! I'll show them all."
So What's the Problem?
Saying "power corrupts" is stating something so obvious we feel stupid even typing it. It's like saying elevators elevate. If you found out tomorrow your congressman was caught firing orphans out of a cannon, you'd barely raise an eyebrow.
It has nothing to do with the "culture of corruption in Washington DC" the Libertarians are always talking about. You find it everywhere, from the asshole supervisor to the bitter gym coach. Small people driven to mindless, unethical behavior, drunk on just a few drops of bullshit power. They often can't make friends, their marriages end badly, they self destruct. The world is full of these miniature, sad Tony Montanas, destined for a proverbial bloody downfall.
Usually instead of a mansion it's a cubicle, and instead of bullets it's a series of pissy emails
Wait, it gets worse...
The thing is, it's the desire itself that's poisonous. You find that need for power most in the type of person who hates having to obey all of society's social contracts, particularly the ones that require them to not act like cocks all day. These are the people who are only nice guys because of fear of retribution if they do otherwise, so their main goal is to become strong enough that no retribution is possible (this is why sociopaths tend to seek positions of power, by the way).
So it's not just that power will destroy you. It's that the urge itself is bad news. That desire for power is a vicious, ravenous animal and feeding it only makes it strong enough to tear its way out of your belly and go on a bloody rampage.
"So what will make me happy, Cracked.com writers? What's left?"
For the next 10 seconds, stare at this picture of a guy hugging a tiger.
Notice how you weren't worrying about your job during those 10 seconds?
Experts have figured out that the brain has no ability to actually predict your emotional reaction to life changes that haven't happened yet. In other words, you physically do not know what you want. The act of sitting around pondering it is apparently what fucks you up.
This might be because for most of human history, we didn't have time to do that. We were too busy gathering berries and running from wild animals. Now that we've got things so under control that the animals hug us. . . well, we're like the guy up there who didn't know what to do with his lotto winnings.
This may be why studies show friendships, altruism and religious practices bring happiness. It may be that taking the focus off your own happiness is what makes happiness possible.
If that sounds like a mind-boggling, ridiculous paradox, clearly arranged by the gods to torment us. . . well, we agree. Here's a video of a baby porcupine eating a banana.
In addition to helping write this article, David Wong is the author of the critically acclaimed horror novel John Dies at the End, which is now like ten bucks on Amazon. In case you thought we were finished shedding the light on what won't make you happy, then check out 5 Reasons Being Single Sucks Even More Than You Thought and 9 Awesome Places to Have Sex (And the Horrific Consequences).
Or do something that will actually make you feel a little better about yourself, help save the world through micro loans in the Cracked forums.