Often times a barrier to starting a blog, or any public undertaking, is thinking that you have nothing to say. Or rather, ‘what I have to say isn’t deep enough.’ The truth of the matter is that we all have strengths, we tend to trivialize and take them for granted.

Sam Newsome, a soprano saxophonist [0], describes these strengths as our natural genius zone. As he puts it:

“This is an ability to do or understand something that you seem to be able to do better than most–that thing which feels very natural. Simply put, this is an ability that seems too easy.” [1]

We all have a natural genius zone.

Though Newsome describes this from the context of musical exploration, I feel it has wide applicability.

Robert C. Martin
I think of Robert C. Martin’s deep sense of computer science knowledge and history. In a recent post, he explores the question “Is the training of a neural net a kind of programming?”[2] His self reflection was prompted by a question Grady Booch posed about “how the presence of neural networks impact the dev lifecycle” (in light of an article illustrating how difficult they seem to formalize and get a handle on). Martin first approaches the problem with the implied premise that development cycles (planning, estimating, developing, etc) are implemented around programming software. If the training of a neural network is a type of programming, then that could provide some insight into if it is even applicable to the dev cycle. Martin goes on to cite Alan Turing’s 1936 paper to establish the definition of computer programming. He also nods to Edsger Dijkstra’s conception of structured programming [3].

I was struck at how Martin naturally cited materials and concepts from the 1930s and 1960s. His knack for reaching to the past to put things in their proper context is something I’ve observed in his writing and is not so common in my opinion … genius zone.

Hakim El Hattab
I think of Hakim El Hattab and his fantastic collection of front-end projects and demos. His demos have been served to hundreds of millions of visitors (especially his famous sketch-toy app)[4a]. His output is the result of hard work [4b]; this is something we can loose sight of when we are only viewing the end result and not the process it took to get there. One of his projects, reveal.js turned into the foundation of his now full-time venture slides.  Pushing the envelope of what can be accomplished in front end development and presenting great demos and projects … genius zone.

Makinde Adeagbo
I think of Makinde Adeagbo, founder of /dev/color, formerly of facebook, pinterest and dropbox. /dev/color is a non profit organization whose mission is to support black engineers in the software industry. It was accepted into Y Combinator, a competitive, influential startup incubator in Silicon Valley, which is a big deal [5]. When you are a respected engineer in silicon valley (showing up in a code.org video with Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and will.i.am [5a]) but you expend your energy working on a problem of social importance and urgency in the tech industry … genius zone.

Ge Wang
I think of Ge Wang, professor at Stanford University. While studying at Duke University, he considered studying music but his father encouraged him to do something more practical [6]. He studied computer science and took as many music courses as he could [6]. Once he figured out how to merge his two interests, the rest was history. He moved on to study at Princeton; and, for his dissertation created a programming language, ChucK, designed for the creation of sound. He co-founded a successful start up Smule and amongst many, many things, cleverly turned the the iPhone into a flute of sorts through an app called Ocarina (Yes, like that Ocarina), that utilized its microphone and accelerometer [6][7]. He started an innovative experimental performance group called The Stanford Laptop Orchestra. Successfully combining his interests of music and computer science into a very successful career … genius zone.

The Irony of the Genius Zone

Newsome goes on to explain the irony of operating in one’s genius zone; in that, since we operate from this state with such ease, we can be deceived into thinking that what we produce from this space has no merit.

That’s why comparing ourselves to others can be detrimental. When we observe others operating from their genius zone, we should choose to react positively with admiration, motivation and curiosity; rather than, intimidation and self-doubt. We are all created uniquely and that is something we should embrace.

This brings me precisely to the purpose of this site … to realize and explore my own genius zone.


[0] Sam Newsome is an exclusive soprano saxophonist. This is notable because it is more common for woodwind players have a “main instrument”; such as, the alto or tenor saxophone and relegate the soprano saxophone as a “side instrument”. Newsome has been concentrating solely on the soprano since 1995.

[1] Newsome, Sam. “Channeling Your Natural Genius Zone.” Blog post. Soprano Sax Talk. 29 Sept. 2016. Accessed. 3 Apr. 2017.

[2] Martin, Robert, C. “Is Dr. Calvin in the Room?” Blog post. The Clean Code Blog. 16 March 2017. Accessed. 29 Mar. 2017.

[3] Martin references “the language of Dijkstra: Sequence, Selection, and Iteration.” [2]. The following links helped me with understanding this reference: goto considered dangerous; wikipedia-Structured program theorem; Professor Steve D. Jost’s IT 236 course page on structured programming

[4] Creative Bloq Staff. “Hakim El Hattab discusses the interactive and unexpected”. Web Interview. Creative Bloq. 21 April 2014. Accessed. 12 April 2017.

[4a] Quote from interview [4]: “To appreciate his influence, in all, his experiments have been served to over 140m people around the globe.”  

[4b] When responding to the question “Are you self taught?” [4], Hattab talked about his schooling and experimentation through tiral and error. He mentions that he painstakingly went through the Action Script 2.0 dictionary “page-by-page, line-byline, property-by-property. Every so often, I stopped to try out the exciting new discoveries. Over the course of that year I rebuilt my portfolio site six times to make use of what I had learned during the prior iteration. Evidently, I’m a believer in hard work over talent.” … hardwork over talent … a post in itself.  

[5] Guynn, Jessica. “Y Combinator accepts first tech diversity non-profit”. Web Article. USA Today. 25 Feb. 2016. Accessed 11 April 2017.

[5a] Makinde can be seen in the video at 1 minute 30 seconds

[6] Perry, Tekla S. “Ge Wang: The iPhone’s Music Man”. Web Article. IEEE Spectrum. 1 Sep 2009. Accessed 10 April 2017.

[7] Walker, Rob. “The Machine That Makes You Musical”. Web Article. The New York Times. 23 Nov. 2011. Accessed 10 April 2017.