Five things the life of Albert Einstein taught us – whether he wanted to or not.

A cartoon drawing of Albert Einstein. for the article about the life of Albert Einstein

Today, Conrad looks at the life of Albert Einstein and asks what lessons we can learn from his life.

So, it was an interesting one this. You see, you might just think the aim of a lifestyle and motivational blogger like myself is to make a living out of writing rose-scented prose. The sort that’s ripe to slap on a car’s bumper-sticker.

But life, the cheeky rascal, is never like that. You see life is not black-and-white. It’s multi-layered, it’s shades of grey, it’s a hall of mirrors. Its a mix of metaphors. You never get a straight answer to a question, and you can never write a straight-forward article – no matter what you set out to explore.

The life of Albert Einstein – not the life of a saint, unfortunately

The lack of clarity extends to the life of Albert Einstein and exploring at what lifestyle lessons this genius can teach us. I know, I know. They guy looks like Yoda, and for good reason – he was partly based on him. But he’s no Jedi Master. He’s not a guru. In fact at times he seems to have acted like a horrible git towards people.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not one of the greatest minds in the world. And it doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things that can teach us about life in general.

So here’s a less-than-hacked-together listicle: Five things the life of Albert Einstein taught us – whether he wanted to or not.


1. You don’t have to be a perfect student to be a great mind

You’d think that teaching a young Albert Einstein would be the stuff dreams are made of. He was, after all, the grandfather of modern physics. Surely the worst thing that could happen is he might do the lesson for you, right?

Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, the worst thing you risked was having a chair lobbed at you – something he once did to a tutor when he was a small child. Now, you might think that this was some hard-line hairy-knuckle tower of a teacher that young Albert was facing of with. Actually, no. It was a woman who was trying to teach him fiddle as a home tutor. Fiddle. Needless to say, the sound of the flung chair clattering in her ears, she never came back.

And you’d be wrong again if you thought that got all his rage against the teaching machine out of his system. Because he proved himself to be a difficult student as he grew up. He didn’t get on with rote learning, seemed to refuse to do things he didn’t care for, and looked a bit of a fool to his teachers.

However, despite what your pot-smoking mate at college might have told himself, Einstein didn’t crash out of school. He got great grades in science (obviously). And he got okay grades in everything else.

The lesson

Well, I’ll tell you now it’s not okay to throw chairs at fiddle teachers. Nor is it okay to simply ignore stuff you don’t want to learn. But it’s clearly okay, in the long run, to accept there are things in life you can gravitate towards, and things in life you simply can’t do as well.

Case in point – you or I might have been able to trounce Einstein at, say, English Lit. Coming up with the theory of relativity? Probably his wheel-house, that one.

You can’t be great at everything, even if you are not a angry little sod like child-Einstein clearly was. Here endeth your first lesson from the life of Albert Einstein.



2. You don’t have to be perfect in life to be perfect in your work

Like I said, nobody’s a great all-rounder. And that doesn’t just mean in work or at school. It can also mean that you struggle with all the other life stuff as well. It still doesn’t mean that you are a complete car crash.

The life of Albert Einstein was not the life of a perfect husband. You see, whereas we might have problems in our marriages like snoring, or leaving the seat on the toilet up, Einstein’s problems were fancying his cousin and also writing to a past girlfriend – he did that one the same year his wife had given birth to their son.

And when Einstein finally got divorced from his first wife, to marry his cousin Elsa, there were a series of affairs behind her back as well. In fact, there’s the suggestion Einstein wasn’t even sure whether to marry Elsa or her daughter … ewwww. Rather than talking about one of the world’s greatest scientists, you’d think it was time to pass around the Deliverance banjos.

The lesson

The lesson from the life of Albert Einstein is simple, and has nothing to do with marrying your cousin or having affairs. It’s about knowing that people are not perfect. We hold up our best and greatest these days as perfect examples of the human race. But they are not perfect. Einstein is a bit of an extreme example, and we shouldn’t be flipping a coin to decide whether to marry our cousin or her daughter for crying out loud.

Put it like this: don’t beat yourself up if you are a top-class lawyer/marketer/salesperson, or whatever, and you end up with things in your personal life not working out. One does not have bearing on the other, despite what pop culture suggests.



3. Answer your fan mail

Albert Einstein was not consistently the worst human being on the planet – he was actually quite nice to some people, as well. Particularly, he is known for scrawling some nice correspondence. As well as answering letters to good and the great, he also answered questions children sent his as well.

There’s actually a full book now published on them, but highlights include one where he told kids that, yes, even he believes in some sort of higher power.

The lesson

The lesson is that people will remember you for more than one type of good reason if you at least make an effort. This is true of the life of Albert Einstein. It creates something more than great work; it creates a sense of legacy. Remember when we found out singer George Michael had secretly helped loads of charities? It’s quite powerful. It sets a good example above and beyond the main gig you’re seemingly put on this earth for.



4. Einstein’s Four-Hour Work Week

You know that book that appals people desperate to put in 14-hour days to their corporate overlords? Well, it looks like Einstein had a copy of The 4-Hour Work Week in his back pocket. Well, maybe not quite. If only because Tim Ferris’s book didn’t come out until the life of Albert Einstein was long over. Fifty-two years, to be exact.

But Einstein could have lent Ferris a hand. You see, Einstein had an approach that sound’s like it came straight from this manual for entrepreneurs/wanton skivers (delete as appropriate). He took a gig at a patenting office in his early years, answering basic questions about whether items worked, and if they infringed any previous inventions.

Tough gig for someone like me. Piece of cake for Einstein. He powered through his tasks like a scientific freight train – freeing up loads of time to write three of the most influential papers in physics. Not only that, he got a pay rise.

The lesson

The lesson is if you can’t escape the rat race, maybe it’s time to get smart about what you do to help you perfect your escape. If you have genuine drive to move into other frontiers and are not going to toss it off watching Soprano torrents on your laptop, then get a paid gig doing something easy so you can switch your attention to bigger and greater things on work time.



5. Vary it up for some moments of creative greatness

As we saw in my post yesterday, Einstein was not against using play to help his intellect thrive.

Such was the case, apparently, when he came up with that little thing known as the theory of relativity. A theory so important in the life of Albert Einstein we should be using caps.

But how did he come up with it? Did he spend ages, like we do, racking our brains and telling ourselves we’re stupid?


He played the piano.

Charlie Chaplin recalled a tale Einstein’s second wife once told him (note: it was the films that were silent, and not Chaplin). Einstein was off his food – and not because he was thinking of some mistress somewhere, this time. Elsa asked him why he was quiet. He got up, went and played the piano. He played and wrote for half an hour before going upstairs … for two weeks. Elsa brought him up food during this time.

When the two weeks were up, he marched downstairs with two sheets of paper: the theory of relativity.


The lesson

The lesson here is that sometimes you need to vary it up. Einstein played the piano before he jetted off to create one of science’s most important formulas.

Use play to vary things up. Make sure you are not getting bogged down by the task in hand. When it is time to knuckle own, you’ll know it in your gut. Don’t do that when you should be using other methods to stimulate the little grey cells.