Calvin Coolidge: Determination, Not Genius, Drives Innovation

A quote from Calvin Coolidge in the WSJ reminded me that lone geniuses unmotivated by money do not drive innovation (see The Upside of Inequality, pp. 67-70):

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Success bubbles up from a large pool of failure. Armies of implementers—who work hard for money, like everyone else—commercialize good ideas. Risk-takers—including workers who forego pay for equity—fund those armies. The recent explosion of risky microchip startups in the wake of AI provides evidence that disputes the politically motivated “lone genius” argument.