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Being the Best: Common Traits of Nobel Laureates


Friday, December 09, 2016

Being the Best: Common Traits of Nobel Laureates

Once again, we celebrate the Nobel Laureates and how they expand our knowledge, improve our planet, and enrich our lives. These yearly awards and ensuing discussion remind us that humans, with all of our obvious flaws, can still contribute substantially in advancing our collective progress. Certainly, every Nobel Laureate has a unique story and skill set. However, we can still garner understanding of general traits common among many Nobel Prize Laureates. By identifying these, we can strive to emulate some of these desired attributes. It could potentially lead to success in your own life, perhaps even a Nobel Prize! 


Creativity exists as one of the most important human resources (Zhao, 2012). It permits us to look past what exists and discover new ways of thinking. Oftentimes, the limit of knowledge is nothing more than our collective inability to observe the world and ideas in a new way. Albert Einstein, for example, needed to see beyond the Newtonian understanding of the universe to rewrite the concepts of physics. Nobel Laureates frequently display enormous amounts of creativity and open-mindedness. 


Being resolute allows a person to get past initial barriers to success (Fullan, 2011). In my experience, people somehow obtain the false impression that breakthroughs happen during a sudden moment of understanding. A light shining on their face, a musical score bursts into the background, and the person immediately uncovers some previously hidden answer. Although this scene is wonderful for movies and has transpired before, usually garnering new understandings exists as a much more complicated process. Years of dedication, frustration, and even failure usually predate success. Only those with enormous amounts of persistence can work past these obstacles. From Daniel Kahneman to Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Laureates persist when others give up. 

Willingness to Collaborate

Simply stated, people excel when they work in groups (Fullan, 2011). Working with others motivates us, and allows us to consider alternative perspectives. These activities stimulate an atmosphere of creation and learning. Nobel Laureates often are the product of group efforts among a collection of peers. Additionally, many Nobel Prizes are awarded to multiple people, since the work was accomplished by an assortment of intellectuals cooperating together. 

These traits exist as commonalities among Nobel Laureates. Of course, displaying these attributes does not guarantee a Noble Prize. However, even if you do not attain this admirable goal, you will indeed have a much greater chance of success in whatever you pursue.

About Dr. Matthew Sayers

Dr. Matthew Sayers is an NSHSS Educator of Distinction who dedicates his life to education. He attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education, Social Studies, and International Studies from Michigan State University in 2000. He immediately began teaching numerous history classes at Bendle High School in Burton, Michigan, where he continues to teach to this day. He has since completed his Masters and Specialist Degrees from Oakland University, and finished his Doctoral Degree at Central Michigan University in 2015. Additionally, he is a lecturer at the University of Michigan-Flint and continues his qualitative research in the field of Educational Reform and Leadership.


Fullan, M. (2011). Change leader: Learning to do what matters most. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Zhao, Y. (2012). World class learners: Educating creative and entrepreneurial students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.