What Kinds of Intelligence and Genius Do You Have?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Limitless" by Jim Kwik. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How many kinds of intelligence and genius are there? What kinds do you have?

It’s important to know what types of intelligence and genius you have because they influence the choices you make and impact the way you solve problems and deal with challenges. When you know your strengths, you’re better able to leverage them for success.

Keep reading to learn about the various kinds of intelligence and genius.

Different Kinds of Intelligence and Genius

Experts agree that there’s not just one kind of intelligence. There’s also more than one kind of genius, which is about how you use your intelligence.

The Kinds of Intelligence

Experts commonly recognize eight different kinds of intelligence:

  1. Spatial. Spatial intelligence is about understanding and using the space around you. 
  2. Bodily-Kinesthetic. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is about physicality—how well you can use your body. 
  3. Musical. Musical intelligence is about sensitivity to pitch, tone, meter, rhythm, and so on. 
  4. Linguistic. Linguistic intelligence is about understanding implications and subtext, not just the literal definitions of words. 
  5. Logical-Mathematical. Logical-mathematical intelligence is about seeing the connections between different concepts or actions, and extrapolating based on those connections.  
  6. Interpersonal. Interpersonal intelligence is about empathy and connection with other people. 
  7. Intrapersonal. Intrapersonal intelligence is about understanding and managing yourself; your thoughts and emotions. People with strong intrapersonal intelligence tend to stay calm even under intense pressure, because they recognize and deal with their own reactions internally. 
  8. Naturalistic. Naturalistic intelligence is about recognizing the detail and variety in nature. 

Limitless author Jim Kwik suggests taking a moment now to consider which of these kinds of intelligence you lean toward.

(Shortform note: Identifying your strengths, and making choices that complement those strengths, will give you a significant advantage in life. For example, if you have exceptional Naturalistic intelligence, you might find your calling as a biologist or a botanist. Or, if you’re highly Interpersonal, consider ways that you could leverage your people skills to reach your personal and professional goals—getting help and support from the right people, for instance.)  

Different Models of Intelligence

The “kinds of intelligence” model in Limitless is known as Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences; however, while Gardner’s Theory is very popular, some experts believe that it’s inaccurate or too restrictive to reduce a person’s intelligence to a collection of skills. 

For example, in Make It Stick, the authors describe the Triarchic Theory of Intelligence, which is more about what types of problems you’re good at solving, rather than what specific skills you’re good at. 

According to the Triarchic Theory, there are only three kinds of intelligence:

Analytical: You’re good at solving academic problems and puzzles.
Creative: You’re good at coming up with unique ideas and innovative solutions to problems.
Practical: You can apply your skills and knowledge to the rapidly changing circumstances of real life (AKA “street smarts”). 

Robert J. Sternberg, who developed the Triarchic Theory, based it on research he performed in Kenya. He also concluded that the kinds of intelligence people displayed were based more on how they were raised, rather than natural abilities—whether they were raised to value academic learning or practical skills, for example. 

The Kinds of Genius

The four kinds of genius are about how you use your intelligence.

A self-limiting belief you probably have is that you’re not a genius. Kwik says this is a common belief because people tend to associate genius with one specific measurement: IQ. Therefore, unless you’ve scored especially high on an IQ test, you probably believe that you’re not a genius. 

However, Kwik tells us that experts recognize four different kinds of genius.

(Shortform note: In fact, the idea of four kinds of genius has existed for at least 5,000 years; researchers have found the concept in ancient Chinese and Indian writing.)

  • Someone who’s good with concepts is a “dynamo genius.” 
  • Someone who’s good with people is a “blaze genius” (so-called because that person’s ideas will spread like wildfire). 
  • Someone who’s good with long-term planning is a “tempo genius.” 
  • Someone who’s good with details is a “steel genius.” 
In his blog, Kwikbrain, Kwik notes that it’s important to figure out which kind of genius you are, because that will inform how you approach challenges. For instance, it wouldn’t make sense for a dynamo genius to try to learn about computers by studying the intricate details of how they work—he or she would be much better off studying broader concepts like what computers can already do well, and what about them still needs improvement.

Once you identify the kinds of intelligence and genius you have, you’ll make more informed choices in life—choices that take advantage of your strengths.

What Kinds of Intelligence and Genius Do You Have?

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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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