Brooks: How Do You Become A Genius? Practice, Practice, Practice

Contra the racially tinged views championed by Andrew "Fifth Column/Bell Curve" Sullivan, Charles Murray and other racialists, David Brooks trots out the old "How do you get to Carnegie Hall joke? Practice, practice, practice." Brooks writes:

What Mozart had, we now believe, was the same thing Tiger Woods had — the ability to focus for long periods of time and a father intent on improving his skills. Mozart played a lot of piano at a very young age, so he got his 10,000 hours of practice in early and then he built from there. The latest research suggests a more prosaic, democratic, even puritanical view of the world. The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.

[MORE . . .]

. . . If you wanted to picture how a typical genius might develop, you’d take a girl who possessed a slightly above average verbal ability. It wouldn’t have to be a big talent, just enough so that she might gain some sense of distinction. Then you would want her to meet, say, a novelist, who coincidentally shared some similar biographical traits. Maybe the writer was from the same town, had the same ethnic background, or, shared the same birthday — anything to create a sense of affinity. This contact would give the girl a vision of her future self. . . .

. . . Coyle and Colvin describe dozens of experiments fleshing out this process. This research takes some of the magic out of great achievement. But it underlines a fact that is often neglected. Public discussion is smitten by genetics and what we’re “hard-wired” to do. And it’s true that genes place a leash on our capacities. But the brain is also phenomenally plastic. We construct ourselves through behavior. As Coyle observes, it’s not who you are, it’s what you do.

(Emphasis supplied.) There is no doubt that I want to believe this is true. It fits with my own desire for an egalitarian world. But it also fits my common sense. So much of who we are is based on what we are taught to expect we can do, taught what we can do and expect we are capable of.

For years and years I have fought with people, many of them of good faith even, regarding their religious like faith in "intelligence tests" and "scientific studies." I am a beliver in science. Provable observable science. Science with controls and truly rigorous methods.

What many proponents of "intelligence tests" never accept, I think because they don't want to accept it - is that human experience is simply impossible to rigorously and truly reliably test in a precise, scientific method. Look, Coyle and his colleagues may have done good work - and they may not have. I admit my desire to see their work accepted, tested and proven. But I have no illusions. The mysteries of humanity remain beyond us in too many ways. I wish more folks could accept that.

Speaking for me only

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    I just had the opportunity to review (5.00 / 0) (#1)
    by andgarden on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:14:33 AM EST
    some neuropsychological testing that I took when I was younger. If I had never met any academic success, knowing some of the results might have been fairly discouraging.

    I think it's fair to say that we all have certain limitations, but I think it's also common ground that there's a reason why tests like the SAT can be coached.

    When I was in first grade (5.00 / 3) (#72)
    by Spamlet on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:12:37 PM EST
    we were given an IQ test that showed a picture of a girl who was raising her right hand. The question was "Right or left?" And my question to myself (not in so many words) was, "Well, it's HER right hand, obviously, but we're just first graders here, so they're probably not expecting us to be able to make that transposition, so should I say 'left' because her raised right hand is on MY left?"

    I don't remember how I answered that question, and I don't know how I scored on that test. I do know that two years later, I scored so low on another IQ test that I had to go back and take it again. I still don't know my IQ, and I don't want to know it.


    If you look at "feral children" (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:20:28 AM EST
    ...the ones who suffered such severe neglect that they have no language skills and have severe difficulty learning them later on, or you look at the baby who isn't touched as an infant and is severely developmentally delayed...you get an even better perspective on how our very early environment drives whether or not we are "genius" or not.

    Our brains continue developing after birth.  That development is driven by experience.  If, during the post-birth wiring period we are exposed to certain things, we will learn those things very, very well...or conversely.

    Contrary to past beliefs, rewiring continues all of our lives, but the greatest wiring activity occurs prior to about the age of 5.

    Someday someone will have to explain to me (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by andgarden on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:24:04 AM EST
    why our schools often still begin to teach other languages just at the point in a child's life when it because exceptionally more difficult to learn one. I have no doubt that this is what prevented me from actually learning French.

    Short answer - because our schools are (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by scribe on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:41:45 AM EST
    not educational institutions but are, rather, factories designed and intended to produce pliable generations of interchangeable future workers who won't allow creativity to get in the way of regularized profits.

    Besides, if you taught them foreign languages, there is no way to keep them from finding out that the news from other countries contains many uncomfortable truths about 'murca, nor can you control its spread, by editing and delay, so as to arbitrage the news' value.  'Specially in this internet age.

    A relative recently was forced out of a grade-school educational job because, in so many words, this relative was not "mean" enough.  That is to say, this relative did not enforce a rigid conformity and assembly-line mindset on the kids.  Instead, this relative made learning fun and encouraged the kids to be creative, to express themselves, and to learn and grow.  This did not comport with the mission of the educational establishment in that locality, a mission which has found its expression in its product - dead-eyed, meth-afflicted disaffected youth of the region whose career hopes and aspirations wind up being (a) the military, (b) law enforcement, (c) factory labor competing against busloads of illegal immigrants, (d) prisoners, (e) breeding more of themselves.  This relative had wondered, prior to joining the educational system, why all these bright-eyed happy, intelligent kids turned into Beavises/Buttheads in the space of 12 short years.  A couple months in their elementary schools explained why.


    Maybe, (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by bocajeff on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:42:56 AM EST
    Your parental influence as well as your own desire plays a part as well. There is nothing stopping you from learning French now!

    A year of extreme frustration in 9th grade (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by andgarden on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:48:01 AM EST
    and subsequent testing convinces me otherwise. If I wanted to devote my life to it, maybe. But I don't. And for other people, or for me much earlier in my life, it's much less trouble.  

    I learned German (for real) beginning in (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by scribe on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:57:03 AM EST
    high school.  I then had the privilege of serving in the Army and being stationed there.  And now, I listen to German on the internet radio.

    I can say I feel comfortable enough with my German to list it on my resume, but I will never pass for a native speaker, let alone one as educated (J.D.) as I am.  I can get along in it and, if I lived there, could fit in.  

    BTW - listening to French radio can help you pick it up.  Go to radio-locator.com - here's the page of stations in France.  The stations with the little lightning bolt symbol have a live stream of their feed.

    Here's a good one to listen to - they have a proprietary player.


    Thanks for the links (none / 0) (#16)
    by andgarden on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:59:37 AM EST
    but really, I'm no longer at all interested.

    Aww - you should just go and listen (none / 0) (#28)
    by scribe on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:14:36 AM EST
    I have it on now and the music is great.  The ads - I have little to no idea what they're pitching.

    First 100 of 272 German radio stations: (none / 0) (#102)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:17:36 PM EST
    none show format at classical music.  

    Not life (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by CST on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:58:25 AM EST
    but 6 months to a year.

    I had an incredibly difficult time with languages growing up.  And I took Spanish from kindergarden through 6th grade - which is before the brain "shuts off" these things.  I had such a hard time and was so frustrated that I gave up Spanish and started with German in the 8th grade when it was "too late".  Needless to say, I didn't do much better with German.

    Then I spent a year at a German highschool and tada - I learned German.  Now, my Spanish is much better than it ever was before, and I can pick up other languages fairly quickly.  It's like cracking a code.

    But for some people (me - probably you), emersion is the only way to do it the first time.  However, it doesn't take a lifetime, just 6 months to a year.  If you really want.


    I struggled and struggled for the three (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:53:20 AM EST
    months we lived in the village in Korea, my twelve year old daughter spoke for me :) I did well taking French in High School but there was all sorts of cheats available, at least English has adopted words from most of the European countries......and growing up in Colorado you are exposed to a lot of Spanish.  Asian languages though....completely lost and couldn't be found.

    with languages (5.00 / 1) (#126)
    by otherlisa on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:29:20 PM EST
    I think there has to be some hard-wiring involved. I have a weird knack for languages (unfortunately I'm so lazy that I don't really take advantage of it). I  heard Mandarin for the first time at age 20-21 (six months in China) and learned a little of it then. I didn't really seriously study it until I was 40. Though I'm not fluent, I am told my pronunciation is good and even "local." Though it takes me more repetitions to remember words than it did when I was younger, my ability to learn hasn't seriously declined now that I'm, erm, older than 40.  It's something related to musical ear, I think.

    Written Chinese, a whole 'nother thing. I'm not good at it. But I know others whose spoken skills aren't that great who are very good with the characters - completely different skill/talent set.

    For anyone, immersion is the way to go with foreign languages. But I sure wish I'd been taught them in elementary school. My school district at least started us in junior high (7th grade). I had three years of Spanish and two years of German by the time I graduated high school. But that was a very different era of public education. We also had things like...art! And music! And P.E.! I rarely felt like I was in a drone factory. Kids were encouraged to be creative, in a way that I wonder might be far more rare these days...


    3 months (none / 0) (#53)
    by CST on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:20:08 AM EST
    was not enough (for me).  It took me almost that long just to hear what people were saying - nevermind try to understand the words.  It also really depends on what you do while you're there.  It helps to have something like school, where you have a lot of exposure to the language and no choice but to learn.  But yea, I imagine Asian languages are a whole different ball game.

    However - another recommendation - once you know enough to start talking, it can be a bit nereve wracking, since you don't feel comfortable, booze really helps loosen the tongue :)


    I tried booze but nobody (none / 0) (#79)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:48:03 PM EST
    understood bad French :)  It became obvious to me that summer that compared to the rest of my family....Asian languages would probably be a double extra challenge for me because I can't lean on my own language base in any way.  My husband picks up languages quickly when in the area it is spoken and my daughter appears to have the talent too.

    HAH! During our trip to Paris, (5.00 / 2) (#80)
    by Inspector Gadget on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:52:27 PM EST
    my now ex-husband thought speaking english with a french accent was all it took to communicate efficiently. :)

    My year of high school French (5.00 / 1) (#103)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:19:22 PM EST
    from a Spanish teacher who insisted she was educated at the Sorbonne resulted in me ordering my husband veal liver for dinner.  

    Was it good? (none / 0) (#110)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:33:30 PM EST
    He didn't like liver. Next day (5.00 / 1) (#111)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:34:30 PM EST
    he bought a menu translation guide!

    I think that's a fair point (none / 0) (#18)
    by andgarden on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:01:05 AM EST
    learning a language from a book seems like one of the crazier ideas we have.

    I think if I were dropped in some French village, I'd find a way to get by.


    Too burnt out to give Rosetta Stone a run? (none / 0) (#45)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:49:01 AM EST
    Me too........maybe when I get to do that retirement travel I'll give it a shot.

    Yes, there is (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:00:50 AM EST
    You can learn a foreign language later in life, but it is a much, much, much harder slog, and you will never be as fluent in it, nor will the vast majority of people be able to achieve a good accent.  There are exceptions, as with everything, but that is overwhelmingly the case.

    All sorts of research has shown that the language acquisition pathways in the brain start to sort of ossify by 10 or 11.  Prior to that, they're pretty much wide open to development.


    Yup (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by andgarden on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:02:34 AM EST
    And most schools in America don't start serious FL instruction until middle school.

    It's an infuriatingly suboptimal practice.


    Heh (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Steve M on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:13:25 AM EST
    I went to a private school where I took French in like first grade.  Of course, at that age it mostly involves learning French songs and fun stuff like that, it's not like they drill you on vocabulary.  But to this day, I remember the words to La Marseillaise a lot more vividly than I remember my four years of high school Spanish!

    Well, I went to a private school that didn't (none / 0) (#29)
    by andgarden on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:18:28 AM EST
    I think you could probably do FL right at a young age, but it might require private personal instruction. As if tuition for private schools weren't high enough already. . .

    Songs really help (none / 0) (#30)
    by CST on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:19:36 AM EST
    I will never forget the dative pronouns in German because my teacher gave us a tune to sing them to.

    The more annoying the tune, the more likely you are to remember.


    Quite right! (none / 0) (#90)
    by robert72 on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:20:55 PM EST
    La plume de ma tante est sur le bureau de mon oncle,
    La plume de mon oncle est sur le bureau de ma tante (bureau de ma tante).

    (And I am not really sure that is right!) - but songs do help.
    On the other hand, it has to do with your learning modality. If you are an auditory learner - you will pick up languages easier. If you have poor auditory skills as I do - other spoken languages are hugely difficult. I do not hear music well, and to appreciate a piece I must hear it over and over. I can't dance, because I don't hear the rhythm well. I don't remember what people tell me and must write things down. A bit of a handicap!


    I still remember (none / 0) (#128)
    by otherlisa on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:31:17 PM EST
    "In Munchen steht ein Hofbrauhaus"!

    And "Du kanst nicht treu sein."

    though perhaps not hte proper spelling of same!


    Young children hoping for rupees (none / 0) (#59)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:50:39 AM EST
    repeatedly sing "Frere Jacques" in India.    

    It's meant to be, so as to discourage (none / 0) (#27)
    by scribe on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:13:29 AM EST
    kids from being too curious about what's going on over there.

    reminds me of when i was in college (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by Bemused on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:33:08 AM EST
    and had a French instructor from Belgium who had learned her English in school. She spoke English about as well as the better students in our French III class spoke French.

       By the end of the semester she had progressed more with her English than we had with our French, but her 7 year old son who she sometime brought to class was speaking like a townie in the same period of time.


    Immersion is the answer (none / 0) (#64)
    by Coral on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:03:31 PM EST
    I've done immersion programs in Italy and Guatemala, and within a few weeks was able to converse (admittedly not particularly well, but enough to get around in places where there were no English speakers).

    You really can learn a language at an older age if you study in the place where the language is spoken and must conduct your daily life in that language. It helps to have small classes, and lessons for several hours daily. I met people in Guatemala who had been there for several months and had become very good.


    Nobody says you can't (none / 0) (#81)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:04:30 PM EST
    learn another language as an adult, it's just much, much, much harder, and for some folks without sufficient in-born linguistic skills, effectively impossible.

    There is a school of thought ... (5.00 / 1) (#56)
    by Robot Porter on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:46:28 AM EST
    that it is more the style of teaching of young children, than the plasticity of the brain at that time which makes children so adept at language acquisition.

    Think about it.  Children are not only given 24/7 instruction in a language, but massive encouragement for even the poorest performance.


    "He said 'water'!!!"

    Give a 40 year-old the same intense instruction, focus and encouragement and I think you'd be surprised how well they'd do.

    Sure the nature of the child's brain plays a role.  But I think that role is less significant than many think.  


    Encouragement (5.00 / 0) (#68)
    by Coral on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:04:36 PM EST
    is the secret ingredient in education...as is sincere enthusiasm on the part of the teacher.

    Works the same way with puppies too (5.00 / 1) (#50)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:59:15 AM EST
    A well adjusted doggie who has lots of neural connections and who responds well to human beings and is actually more "intelligent" can be helped along by providing stimulation before their eyes and ears are even open.  The military did the prelim studies about it and called it superdog.  I raise my puppies giving them such stimulation.

    "So much of who we are . . (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:28:34 AM EST
    . . is based on what we are taught to expect we can do, taught what we can do and expect we are capable of."

    I completely agree with this.  some of my earliest memories of my mother are of her telling me, over and over, that I could do anything I wanted.  that I could be anyone I wanted.  she said it so much I started believing it.  it has served me so well in life.  it is not very common for someone of my background to have the life I have had and I totally believe I owe it to her and her drilling self confidence into me to a fault.  I say to a fault because "fault" is how some people see what they would call my over confidence.
    and I dont necessarily disagree with them but on the whole it has shaped my life in very positive ways.

    on the other hand I have seen so many people held back because they grew up having the exact opposite experience of being told to fear everything and every new experience.

    Bingo (none / 0) (#11)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:54:40 AM EST
    I agree entirely.  I think one of the key differences, both in learning/achievement and societal attitudes, is whether you are brought up to fear strange things and differences, or to find them fascinating and something to explore.

    I believe, (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by bocajeff on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:46:35 AM EST
    Desire (as in Mozart and Tiger Woods) plays a large part. I have no idea where that desire comes from. Then there is the  question of why Tiger Woods and not the other kids who want to be like him, practice like him, but will never get there. I live and work near the USTennis Academy and see people move here with their kids from all over the country to become tennis stars. They practice, get the right coaches, etc... but don't really get anywhere.

    As Kramer once said, "Mother nature is a mad scientist". In other words, we don't know.

    My guess is that it's a combination of genetics, upbringing, enviornment, and everything else that leads to this.

    Besides, there is a difference between intelligence and accomplishment.

    "We don't know" (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:50:06 AM EST
    Absolutely right Jeff.

    BTW, I find myself at the other end of the county about 10 days a month.

    If and when we decide to have a duel, we can do ut at City Place.


    I am a big fan of (none / 0) (#95)
    by RickMassimo on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:48:41 PM EST
    Garry Kasparov's framing of the topic: "The ability to work hard IS a talent."

    Woods is a physical freak (none / 0) (#145)
    by of1000Kings on Sat May 02, 2009 at 03:11:38 PM EST
    in kind word...

    haven't really looked for any specific articles but I'd be willing to bet his body is made up with more short muscle fibers than your average pro golfer (and that might be putting it mildly)...

    also, he can get back rotation that not many other athletes can...

    I remember my little league coach telling the team that 'you can't teach speed'...
    not sure I can say that's not true

    not sure that the brain is much different, in procuring some but not all with its talents


    Speaking as someone who has watched, (5.00 / 5) (#9)
    by scribe on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:49:39 AM EST
    from childhood on up, a close relative actually make it to Carnegie Hall, I can say that while "practice, practice, practice" is essential, one cannot teach artistic inspiration or "talent".  It's either there or it isn't.

    You can park a couple siblings from the same household in front of the same musical instrument, give them the same lessons with the same teacher and the one might get it and the other not, and there is no telling which one, nor why.  And then have the grotesque disappointment of watching the one who didn't get it, turn into a trial lawyer.

    Mr. Brooks should stick to whatever it is that he knows, and recognize that there are some things he should refrain from trying to be authoritative about.

    I'm with scribe (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by Claw on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:12:34 AM EST
    While practice can make you very, very, very good, neurobiology/genetics plays a part in true genius.    

    Let's not forget learning style (5.00 / 3) (#60)
    by Spamlet on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:52:05 AM EST
    I taught French and Spanish at the college level for 20 years. One thing that made me a better teacher was the experience of taking, and just about failing, Latin in grade 9 from a lazy teacher who probably glanced at the book while stopped at traffic lights on her way to school in the morning, then imperfectly conveyed to us what was in it. The next year, I had a great French teacher who used a dynamic method that really clicked with me. I was speaking like a native within six months, and over the next summer I learned Spanish, too. So I saw how much my "achievement," as well as my "failure," owed to the (mis)match between the teaching I received and the learning style I brought to it. That made me extra interested in my students who were struggling. I always worked with them outside of class, to try to give back some of what my great French teacher had given me.

    Talent is drive (and vision), skills follow (5.00 / 1) (#71)
    by Coral on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:10:55 PM EST
    I think is a combination of opportunity, encouragement, and desire (or drive).

    If you have a natural facility for something, you still need the desire to bring you to a high level of achievement (plus, opportunity and luck).

    But if you have only ordinary facility, but a great motivating idea and huge desire, it's amazing what you can accomplish. Often with the kind of originality that the merely adept will not display.

    I've seen this at work with students in the arts. People I taught with great facility but no driving interest often dropped behind (or quit). A few -- who I somethings privately considered fairly inept -- pursued their visions with wild desire...and those were the ones who managed to have a real career.


    I agree (5.00 / 0) (#136)
    by BernieO on Fri May 01, 2009 at 07:46:29 PM EST
    I have worked with highly gifted children and also knew a couple growing up. They clearly all had something going on that most of us do not.

    There is strong evidence that there are specific inborn abilities that are common among geniuses in different fields. One of the best books about the evidence of brain based talent is Howard Gardner's "Frames of Mind". For example, musical geniuses often have perfect pitch Gardner also describes educational programs (like Suzuki music) that can significantly raise the level of performance of everyone, but it is clear that there are differences in individual talent. And there are many geniuses who have deficits in addition to their strengths. Einstein clearly had a language weakness as a child and told people that he had no awareness of thinking in words when solving problems, only pictures.

    I practiced, practiced, practiced on the piano and was able to be the accompanist for my high school choir but I could never develop the speed needed to be really great. I was good at reading music, but not playing by ear. Meanwhile, my next door neighbor's three-year-old was picking out both melody and chords of tunes she heard our high school band playing. She is now a professional who plays the French horn in a symphony orchestra. Her mother is also a very gifted musician. Granted she had the advantage of exposure to good music and instruction, but so did I.

    My mother-in-law took singing lessons and worked very hard but was dropped by the teacher because she is tone deaf. She can hear when others sing off key, but not when she is.

    My son read fluently with comprehension at an extremely young age and has an incredible talent for learning languages and picking up accents, among other things. He also has synesthesia, an incredible memory. From a very young age it was obvious that his mind just worked differently from most people. In addition to his strengths he also had clear deficits.  

    High levels of achievement take  both natural ability and practice. One problem that many chid prodigies have is that since they find it so easy to ourperform others, many become discouraged when they finally get to a point where they have to struggle to fully realize their potential. It is not uncommon for them to give up rather than risk failure. Some even have emotional breakdowns. As for practice, genuises are often obsessed with their area(s) of interest so practice is another part of their natural tendency. They can be so focused that other areas suffer, particularly social ones. \

    Americans seem to be wedded to simplistic explanations for complex things. We need to stop looking for black and white explanations.


    I've always loved music, but (none / 0) (#87)
    by Pieter B on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:17:47 PM EST
    I practiced for thousands of hours and never got beyond mediocre on various woodwinds. I always had to actively think about what my fingers had to do next. I am fairly sure it has to do with the way my brain is wired. There are certain types of eye-hand coordination things that I am simply no good at, like race-driver video games, but I am wicked good at similar things that provide physical feedback, like actually driving a race car.

    I'd have preferred the musical talent, frankly; not many people get killed playing the saxophone.


    A guy set up his music stand in the park (none / 0) (#105)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:22:04 PM EST
    recently while I was enjoying reading in the flower garden.  It quickly became apparent why he was practicing the saxaphone in a public place, as opposed to at home.  No amount of practice would teach this fellow tone quality, pitch, and, most of all, musicianship.

    David Brooks (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by SOS on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:58:09 AM EST
    is a perfect example of a non genius that's for sure.

    He is the living embodiment of (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by scribe on Fri May 01, 2009 at 09:59:26 AM EST
    "practice, practice, practice" and he's surely not getting any better.  

    Depends on what you think he's trying to do (5.00 / 4) (#21)
    by andgarden on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:04:04 AM EST
    I wish he had not (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:09:16 AM EST
    used the term "genius" or tried to cram that extreme level of talent/ability into his otherwise very good  piece.  An ordinary person with supportive parenting and superior ability to concentrate is simply not going to turn into Mozart, no matter how hard he/she tries.  Might well turn into a reasonably skilled but essentially mediocre composer like Salieri, but not Mozart-- or Beethoven or Da Vinci or Einstein or Tiger Woods, for that matter.

    There's high achievement, which probably the vast majority of people would be capable of under the right upbringing and environment and temperament, and then there's genius, which requires all those things and something extra.


    No doubt the term "genius" (none / 0) (#67)
    by Spamlet on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:04:21 PM EST
    points to something real.

    There's high achievement, which probably the vast majority of people would be capable of under the right upbringing and environment and temperament, and then there's genius, which requires all those things and something extra.

    But that "something extra," whatever else it may be, is a social and linguistic construct and cannot exist apart from the relational dimension that labels it "genius."

    One of my relatives once scored 180 on an IQ test and is a nationally recognized chess master, but his mind in all other respects is completely conventional, even mediocre. A genius? I think not, though he and the family would strenuously disagree.


    I think that's not infrequently (none / 0) (#85)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:16:00 PM EST
    the case with people who are "geniuses" in one particular field.  I never met Mozart :-), but I've known a number of spectacularly skilled/talented people just short of that level, and I've always been fascinated by the fact that it had no correlation whatsoever to the rest of the way they thought or what their overall personalities were like.  None.

    If your relative with the big IQ had gotten interested in and applied himself to, say, physics instead of chess, I think you might not dismiss his mind quite so quickly, even if he was, as you describe, otherwise entirely conventional and even mediocre.

    In some ways, actually, that extreme concentration on one area I think may make it more likely that everything else is going to be pretty unremarkable, sometimes even nonfunctional.

    The striking counter-example I think of is Michael Tilson Thomas, a brilliant conductor (and pianist) who will never be in the ranks of the greatest conductors of the world, though he absolutely could be, because he's always been much too interested in too many other things besides conducting to focus on it to the exclusion of everything else.


    MTT is too young and too "American" (none / 0) (#89)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:20:36 PM EST
    bo be considered as being in the ranks of the "greatest."  Yet.  I think he will be considered one the greatest though.

    MTT is pushing 70 (none / 0) (#125)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:28:43 PM EST
    He is a superb conductor and musician, but he will never be among the ranks of the legendary, nor is he interested in making the sacrifices necessary to getting there.  He's interested in leading an interesting and varied and satisfying life a big part of which, but most definitely not the whole of which, includes music of all kinds (btw, did you know he toured for months as keyboardist with James Brown the year before BSO appointed him asst. conductor?)

    I actually know him slightly and have performed with him a fair number of times, and I remain one of his biggest fans.  But I've also seen the not so good result of his inability/unwillingness to focus sufficient time and attention on the business at hand.  There's much less of that from him now than there used to be, but that's largely because he's figured out how to create a balance in his life and not take on commitments beyond what he's prepared to really devote himself to.


    IMO his work with San Francisco (5.00 / 0) (#129)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 04:28:15 PM EST
    Symphony is quite fine.  But I don't get to hear the orchestra regularly.  Will this month though.

    PS 70!!!!


    Diff between "high achievers" (none / 0) (#141)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:52:36 PM EST
    and legendary geniuses mebbe.  Michael has genius ability, but he can do "high achiever" without breaking a sweat, so he's deliberately decided his life works better as a "high achiever."

    As I say, I'm a huge, huge fan of his and have been since 1971.  Some of my very most memorable and moving music experiences have been at his concerts.  Some of my worst and most frustrating, though, have been as a performer with him when he simply wasn't prepared.


    One can acknowledge (none / 0) (#104)
    by The Addams Family on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:20:17 PM EST
    someone's talent and accomplishment in a given field while also challenging that person's self-description as an individual "genius" or "gifted individual" when such self-designations are determined by performance on so-called objective instruments that reproduce collective social constructs and values and test for the ability to do the same.

    Some people simply do well on such tests, and others, equally or even more intelligent, just don't think inside the same box that contains the testers. This may be one reason why so many "gifted and talented" programs in the schools are filled with well-behaved little unimaginative citizens.


    the others become 'artists'... (5.00 / 0) (#146)
    by of1000Kings on Sat May 02, 2009 at 03:20:46 PM EST

    My chess-playing relative (none / 0) (#131)
    by Spamlet on Fri May 01, 2009 at 05:38:29 PM EST
    did get a master's degree in electrical engineering and has done some good work in that field. If I knew anything about electrical engineering, I might have some sense of the great gifts he claims for himself. But he believes that the 180 he scored on an IQ test thirty years ago gives him uniquely superior insight into the arts, politics, law, finance, fashion, philosophy, and any number of other topics he has not bothered to study except by reading Time and watching CNN. Sorry, but I remain unawed by his mind, as represented by his wholly conventional opinions on those topics.

    If your relative with the big IQ had gotten interested in and applied himself to, say, physics instead of chess, I think you might not dismiss his mind quite so quickly, even if he was, as you describe, otherwise entirely conventional and even mediocre.


    well, if he puts that much value in the score (none / 0) (#142)
    by Bemused on Sat May 02, 2009 at 07:10:17 AM EST
     You might tell him no commonly accepted IQ test is  intended to or claims to provide meaningful distinction above score of 140 or so. Also scores are not comparable across different tests and even tests with same name given in different eras.

      In a population of 300 million, there should be about 1.5 million people with an IQ over 140, so it's hardly a unique condition.

      Also most subjects are easily understood by people of average intelligence even if it might take them more effort than someone more intelligent. Once  the effort has been made and both undertand the subject there is no reason to think that merely being more intelligent means one has better judgment, greater insight, etc.


    Apparently (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by CST on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:02:53 AM EST
    I was really terrible at English as a kid.  But my parents never told me and didn't let me see my test results.  They just kept encouraging me to read (which I loved) and write, and by the time I was through highschool, I had "solved" that problem.  The one I never knew I had.

    Although I still can't spell.

    And (5.00 / 5) (#22)
    by jbindc on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:07:39 AM EST
    Mozart didn't just "practice, practice, practice" - he had the talent.  He composed at age 5 and performed for royalty.

    my brother (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Bemused on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:11:23 AM EST
     two years younger raised in the exact same environment is an extremely talented musician and gifted in visual arts. He was a lackluster student and a below average athlete. I suck at music and have no gift fo any "art." I breezed through school with no strain and am a much better (although still mediocre compared to truly gifted ones) athlete.

      Are the difference magnified because, not surprisingly, once we got old enough to have some choice with our parents I spent more time on sports and to a lesser extent school while he spent more time on music and painting? I'd guess so, but it would seem unwise to ignore how our innate abilities influences our choices about what to practice.

      Do we understand how all the variables influence development. Of course not, but suggesting that because we don't understand how and why nature differentiates doesn't mean we aren't all born different with different capacities for developing different thngs.

      There's no need to bring race or sex into the discussion,  but to suggest that environment and effort are  determinative is obviously wrong.  

    in my comment above (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:28:21 AM EST
    it may have seemed I was disagreeing with that but I dont.  my mother was encouraging what she saw which was my aptitude for visual arts.  I was drawing and painting as long as I remember and she encouraged that. constantly.
    unlike many parents, particularly from that generation and that place and social strata, who would have tried to make me focus on something "I could make a living doing" she encouraged me to do what I loved and did well.
    that is, I believe, the key.

    I'll throw in another variable (none / 0) (#33)
    by ruffian on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:31:04 AM EST
    Birth order.  Siblings are never raised in the exact same environment. I don't know the exact odds of a sibling two years younger than you excelling in the same areas, but based on what I have read about birth order influences, they are not high!

    The book 'Born To Rebel' is one very intersting look at the statistics of birth order and types of achievement.


    agree again (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:34:30 AM EST
    I was the "baby" and I have no doubt I benefited from that in many ways.

    There are benefits to all positions (none / 0) (#48)
    by ruffian on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:54:18 AM EST
    Just different benefits. I read the book many years ago and don't remember the fine details, but the study it reports looked at acknowledged achievers in many fields, and assigned scores based on many factors in their achievements, one of which being their tendencies to embrace unorthodox views or strike out on their own in their field. Lower birth order people (younger sibs) were much more likely to do that. When they would find an outlyer, like an oldest child who was very innovative, they would dig a little deeper into the data and find out that perhaps although he or she was the oldest as an adult, they were raised with an older sibling that died young, or they were raised in a merged family with dominant older sibling figures.

    I have no idea how the data holds up scientifically, but I just thought it was interesting. As the oldest in a large family I'm always interested in such things! Of course I look to authorities since I don't have an original thought in my head. ;-)


    I agree (none / 0) (#40)
    by Bemused on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:40:06 AM EST
      but suspect that bears much more on personality traits than aptitudes.

      I seriously doubt there is or ever will be any evidence to suggest first born chldren are more "book smart" while second born are more musically gifted, etc.


    It wasn't the exact same environment since his (none / 0) (#47)
    by popsnorkle on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:53:29 AM EST
    place in the birth order was different.

    This blurs two different things. (5.00 / 4) (#32)
    by TheRealFrank on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:29:11 AM EST
    You can't "become" a genius. You are, or you aren't.

    However, there are different issues here: being a genius doesn't necessarily mean that you'll go far, and not being a genius doesn't mean that you can't go far.

    Going far means having the essential combination of two characteristics: talent and discipline.

    You can be a genius, but if you have no discipline, you most likely won't go far (I know people like that). You also may just be moderately talented, but be very disciplined, in which case you may go far.

    I agree (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:33:40 AM EST
    most of the people I have know who I would consider genius level had terrible problems of one kind or another which often lead to things like drugs or alcohol.  
    I think it is truly rare for someone with genius level abilities has the discipline and focus to do great things.

    Chuck Connelly is so damned brilliant (none / 0) (#113)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:37:47 PM EST
    And so damned nuts :)

    "Home Education and Two Dogs": (none / 0) (#114)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:46:29 PM EST
    Did you see the documentary (none / 0) (#118)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:55:54 PM EST
    where he was painting the self portrait during his marriage breakup?  And he kept painting over it, it was still him but all these different representations and the paint almost seemed to become a form of sculpture medium as well as color?  That dude freaks me out.  And he often presents himself as a chain smoking tortured alcoholic soul.  He's fascinating and frightening and sometimes a view into the divine.

    Actually I never heard of him (none / 0) (#123)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:00:43 PM EST
    until I read your comment and googled.

    You can have lots of talents (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:36:46 AM EST
    and lots of discipline yet be very antisocial and never be "recognized" as a genius.  If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it does it make a sound?

    Sure (none / 0) (#39)
    by TheRealFrank on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:39:43 AM EST
    The ability to sell yourself (or find someone who can do that for you) is also important if you want to "make it". And having the luck to get a break at the right time.

    luck is something (5.00 / 2) (#42)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:43:48 AM EST
    I have spent a lot of time thinking about.  the older I get the less I believe it even exists.  what many people call luck is often being open to trying something new or making yourself available when others dont.
    the older I get the more I think we make our own luck.  good or bad.

    this is not to say that terrible things dont happen to good people and vice versa.  


    Totally agree (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:46:20 AM EST
    And when an opportunity exposes itself that I believe in......that I feel has many pluses for myself and my community......I am wicked charismatic.

    the "best new artist" award (none / 0) (#84)
    by Fabian on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:15:01 PM EST
    I think I was in my thirties before I realized that was grossly misnamed.  That "new artist" had been working for years, performing for years and possibly even recording for years.

    Why were they noticed just then and not earlier or later?  That is where plain old luck comes in.  Serendipity.  Karma.  Whatever.  Some of your success will rely on things you can't control.


    when you get to the level of (none / 0) (#88)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:20:26 PM EST
    "best new artist" certainly success often depends on capricious public opinion which could be called luck.
    I was talking more about the kind of success more "ordinary people" find or do not find.  

    You can always do better. (none / 0) (#92)
    by Fabian on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:36:04 PM EST
    If you are willing to do literally whatever it takes, you can climb up the ladder of success.  One of my relatives worked for a financial firm (they used to be Big before Enron).  Got hired right out of college and they worked those kids insane hours.  A few years later, she realized it was a kind of test, to see how committed people were to their careers.  People who wanted to work 60 hours a week were kept on and promoted.  Slackers who only wanted a 40 hour work week were quietly pushed out.  She decided to get a law degree instead.  (some irony there)

    If you keep on looking and never stop, you will find opportunities.  Even if you have to change jobs and move to another state or country - if you really want it, you'll do it.

    Had a friend who bought a house because The Partners wanted someone who fit the conventional profile: homeowner, drives nice car, is married.  He did eventually get married, but I don't think that decision was job related.  He didn't want to buy a house and was happy enough renting, but...


    "do literally whatever it takes" (5.00 / 2) (#96)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:51:03 PM EST
    which I would call making your own luck.  I have had similar experience.  in the film industry I could have been much more "successful" than I have been if I had been willing to be (what I would call) obsessive/compulsive and work 80 to 100 hour weeks.  I simply am not and never was.  that is not how I define success, that is, always being promoted to the next level.
    I define success as doing what I love - for money - to the extent I have to to sustain the life style to which I have become accustom.
    for example I have never particularly wanted to be a "supervisor".  which is where the money really is.
    I am perfectly happy to do the work, which I love, and leave and go home at a reasonable hour.
    insisting on having a live is frowned on in the effects industry (and I suspect many others).  if you do that you are not considered serious.  fine.  so I am not serious.
    but I have a life.  and I intend to keep it.

    That kind of work-centered life (5.00 / 1) (#112)
    by Fabian on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:37:21 PM EST
    is beyond me.  I've had jobs I've actually enjoyed and many good co-workers, and I've even put in the extra hours when they needed me to but I've never been reluctant to go home when the bell sounded.  

    I'm very manipulative when it suits me (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:43:49 AM EST
    I believe in making my/our own luck :)

    Tests are lottery tickets. (5.00 / 0) (#34)
    by Jake Left on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:32:28 AM EST
    The faith in "intelligence" tests are a sort of hope of something for nothing. The huge movement of Gifted and Talented education is one aspect of this, the belief that some are touched by God to be superior. Like the lottery, you get something for nothing. It's why people like to believe in concepts like "The Promise" and other books that purport to have an insider's lead to success, happiness, heaven.

    While I agree (none / 0) (#137)
    by Socraticsilence on Fri May 01, 2009 at 08:05:18 PM EST
    That IQ is in part a social contract, I also feel taht there's a definite need for Gifted and Talented programs- I can honestly say that academically Gifted programs are one of things that kept me focused in elementary and middle school- frankly they make sense- if you have remedial classes for students who have trouble, you almost have to have something on the other end or those kids will develop horrendous study habits.

    What other end? (5.00 / 0) (#140)
    by Jake Left on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:51:14 PM EST
    I worked with universities in the early stages of GT programs. Originally, they were a part of the special education continuum. The term GT was meant for students who could not function in regular classrooms. Failing a regular class was requirement for admission.

    In most districts now, the GT curriculum has supplanted the honors program, not at all what was intended.

    I am also graduate school certified in ESL, GT, and Special Education. The techniques and skills used in each of these are identical. They are the same teaching methods and practices that should be used for all students. Your positive experience with a GT program may have just been the only place in your district where a good basic teaching program was being implemented.

    In addition, students have shown a tendency to do better when they are told they are particularly good at something. Research underway shows that students who do not meet the current GT classification standards, will achieve at the same levels of those who do when they are told they belong to that group.

    IQ isn't just a social contract. Testing for IQ is rigged. You write a test to measure certain skills and abilities and then you get some who have them. Those skills and abilities are no more special or predictive of success than another set of skills. The original tests were devised by people who had those skills and decided that they were important. They tested to find others like themselves. The skills and abilities identified are not relevant to success, happiness, achievement, or accomplishment. They are just a subset of the skills and abilities randomly distributed among mankind. I do not denigrate those who do well on the tests. I just don't find them to be any more capable or decent or accomplished than those who don't. (I score in the upper 3% or takers and ace most of the tests devised. It's a gift...and a curse. College placement tests put me in second semester honors Calculus at the beginning of my Freshman year. I had never even had trig in high school. I flunked the calculus course.)

    Wisest words ever regarding testing. Not everything tested is valuable. Not everything valuable can be tested.


    er (none / 0) (#138)
    by Socraticsilence on Fri May 01, 2009 at 08:05:45 PM EST

    Sheesh (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:42:18 AM EST
    Down the rabbit hole.  I have a high I.Q. based on a test I was once given during a psych eval when my father and my stepfather were having a custody fight.  It is true though that practice leads to forms of perfection that can only be described as a form of genius.  I work and work and often achieve dumbass....and as time ticks on, I do seem to be getting better and better at it.

    This is a revisit of Malcolm Gladwell's book... (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by gtesta on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:55:32 AM EST
    I read it a few months ago.  I highly recommend it.

    My husband listened to the book 'On Intelligence' (none / 0) (#51)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:04:23 AM EST
    last year and used a lot of what he learned in writing his new class.  I just googled it and notice that there is now an On Intelligence.org.  I didn't listen to the book because I'm not very auditory and it sounded too dull to buy the book.  My husband loves it though, says it is about how the brain learns and makes decisions among other things.

    I downloaded (none / 0) (#58)
    by Natal on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:50:20 AM EST
    the book from Audible.com. He presents his thesis quite persuasively. Particularly, liked the section on what kids succeed in hockey. Recommend it as a read.

    Genius is genius (5.00 / 2) (#52)
    by Faust on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:18:42 AM EST
    In a nature/nurture debate it will always be easy to emphasize one over the other. The notion, however, that by supplanting "raw intelligence" with "hard work," that we will escape an overemphasis on genetic factors or produce an inherently more egalitarian picture seems off the mark to me. It would be easy to move from a meritocracy of talent, to a meritocracy of "hard workers." Indeed the latter is already the implicit view of AynRandians who argue that to each must go the full fruits of their individual labor.

    The question of a "hard work quotient" would be fairly easy to manufacture, a "HWQ." Some people we would find are simply more hard working than others, they would have a higher "HWQ." And then we could formulate a new bell curve on that basis (it is the seductive magic of the bell curve that it will work on virtually any attribute). The notion of "hard work" is tied into our notion of free will in the sense that we think we could always just "work harder" if we just wanted to. But the question of wanting to is precisely what would be at issue. It would come down to a question analogous to Plato's Meno: How do we teach virtue? In this case the virtue of working hard. In the end it would be all to easy to wind up with the inherently hard working vs the inherently lazy instead of the inherently intelligent vs the inherently stupid.

    None of this is necessary of course, I'm merely pointing out that genetic meritocracy is flexible and does not require one kind of talent be highlighted over another.

    Finally I would note that even accepting the schema presented in the OP (which I think def has a ring of truth to it) there are certain kinds of genius that seem to me unreducible to practice. Many brilliant mathemetician do their greatest work very eary in life. Is an Einstein reducible to mere practice of Relativity theory? Can the literary fecundity and historical uniqueness of Kierkegaard be reduced to many hours of "practicing existentialist philosophy?"

    In the end any single attempt to account for the astounding potential that humanity exhibits in singular circumstances seems a bit foolish, humility is always in order when confronting these difficulties (as BTD notes in his closing sentences).

    According to sports scientists, (none / 0) (#55)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:37:03 AM EST
    According to sports scientists, the most significant predictor of an athlete's skill is the time spent in practice.

    "It's not just genetics," says Jean Côté, the director of the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, who has extensively studied the development of athletic talent in children.

    "There's no magic to it. To become an expert in music or sport, it takes about 10,000 hours."

    So Michael Jordan (5.00 / 1) (#57)
    by Faust on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:48:20 AM EST
    Just practiced more than anyone else?

    Nature and nurture, genetics and practise. (none / 0) (#61)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:55:06 AM EST
    Plenty of MJ-level genetically gifted people in this world. How many become MJ?

    Having taught piano and having (5.00 / 2) (#63)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:01:54 PM EST
    listened to my mother attempt to play the piano, starting as an adult, I don't think practice always makes perfect.  BTW, my mother was an excellent singer and majored in music ed. in college.  On the other hand, she came from a dirt poor family and had no opportunity to learn many of the skills others learn in childhood, such as swimming, bike riding, and playing the piano. Had to admire her determination though. Her children are all musicians.

    Makes sense, I think the scientist quoted (none / 0) (#69)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:04:56 PM EST
    is talking mostly about youths.

    And that 10,000 hour "expertise," imo, (5.00 / 1) (#75)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:22:47 PM EST
    does not mean the result is guaranteed to be Mozart or Michael Jordan.

    Adam from American Idol is "expert," imo, Michael Jackson, Wayne Gretzky, Lance Armstrong are "genius."

    Genius is that extra gift - be it genetics, upbringing, whatever - that, after they've put the requisite number of hours of work in, separates the merely world-conquering from the other-worldly.


    I was a good violinist (none / 0) (#116)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:49:20 PM EST
    Started when I was about nine.  When I was in Junior High, my instructor used to tell everyone that I was going to get my Masters in music.  It was a cool idea then, and I really loved her......she was a splendid instructor and so much fun to work for......and I of course loved always being first chair because I couldn't stand to be second anything then.  I had zero interest in a Masters degree in music though if I had to be passionately involved :)

    I went ahead and got the MM. (none / 0) (#119)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:56:22 PM EST
    Fat chance of making a living though.

    If it is your passion though......... (none / 0) (#122)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:59:40 PM EST
    She also set me up for a handmade violin.  A friend that she had met decided in midlife he was going to make violins and he just started doing it.  I got an amazing violin at about a fourth of what it should have cost.  He made gorgeous instruments, just because he wanted to and he was passionate about it.

    Or the obsessed? (none / 0) (#91)
    by Fabian on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:25:19 PM EST
    It's interesting how we find one person's achievement to be admirable, but another person who might pursue a less popular goal to be strange, weird or worse.

    If I was going to create a strategy for success, I would tell people to find a career that was popular, but not too popular.  And respected.  That helps.

    It seems to me that "genius" is a highly subjective term.


    I coach youth track. (5.00 / 1) (#54)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:29:16 AM EST
    One of the girls on my team is ranked 2nd in the nation at the high jump for her age group. She's just a normal kid, but her dad was a full-scholarship track star in middle-distances and HJ and he's been coaching his daughter in the HJ for years.

    She expects to be able to do it and has spent the required number of hours practicing, so she does do it.

    Local HS, Christian Oaks, wins state championships in almost every sport they compete in almost every year, in large part because they expect to.

    Last year's quarterback roster? Joe Montana's kid, Wayne Gretzky's kid and Will Smith's kid.

    They expect to succeed.

    Interesting viewpoint, but a stacked (none / 0) (#121)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:58:20 PM EST
    deck perhaps?  Gretzky?  Montana?  Not sure if Will Smith is a good athlete.

    A pony league coach once told me he doesn't pay much attention to walk-ons, even if they have had expensive private coaching.  His theory:  either you've got it or you don't.  He played pro-ball in Japan.


    Yes, stacked with kids who (none / 0) (#127)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:31:07 PM EST
    are confident they can compete at the elite levels, and have the training to get them there.

    By the end of his freshman year of high school in 2007, Trevor [Gretzky] was such an aggressive player that he was asked to move up to the varsity squad. As it was, he already was an elite catcher for the varsity baseball team, so it wasn't a stretch. But he turned down the offer, so he could learn how to play ... quarterback?

    [Coach] Redell entrusted him to the L.A.-based quarterback guru, Steve Clarkson, who handed Trevor a football and told him to let 'er rip.

    "His first throws were end over end," Clarkson says. "It looked like he was punting 'em."

    The kid had never quarterbacked before. Not in touch football, not in flag football, not in Nerf football. He didn't even know where to grip the ball. But from this past December through August, Clarkson turned him into a "flamethrower." Trevor still needed work on his touch and on the intermediate throws, but a proud Clarkson invited Wayne and his lovely wife, Janet, out to practice one day to show them the work in progress.

    Wayne was in awe and said: Do what makes you happy, kid.

    "I mean, we figured Joe Montana's sons would be quarterbacks, but not mine," Wayne says. "Trevor actually told me he could be a Canadian import and play in the CFL, so he's already thinking about everything."

    So Joe [Montana], through his former 49ers owner, Eddie DeBartolo, reached out to Clausen's old quarterbacks coach, Clarkson. They spoke about Oaks Christian and about Nick, and Joe -- thanks also to some business considerations -- decided to move the entire family down to L.A. in July.

    If it sounds heavy-handed, it wasn't. Joe just wanted to get Nick to the right place, then step away. His son, at 6-foot-2, was bigger than he and, according to Joe, had a stronger arm. He simply didn't want him to rot on the De La Salle bench.

    Joe told Nick he'd be attending Oaks Christian and training with Clarkson ... then gave Nick his car keys.

    Trey Smith is a good player, but not nearly as motivated as the other two. But his mother is married to former San Diego Chargers running back Terrell Fletcher, so if he should decide to get serious...

    If you are referring to Oaks Christian H.S., (none / 0) (#132)
    by MKS on Fri May 01, 2009 at 05:42:33 PM EST
    they can't hold a candle to Mater Dei.  Yes, they have Joe Montana's son but they are new and really can't compete with Mater Dei--and few really can.  Mater Dei is basically the feeder  school for U.S.C's football team.

    2008-9 season: (none / 0) (#133)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 01, 2009 at 05:49:37 PM EST
    [Oaks Chrstian] Lions Football Team Information:
    Rankings: National State Section
                      61        10       6
    [Mater Dei] Monarchs Football Team Information:
    Rankings: National State Section
                      133        16       11
    They're both really good.

    Link (none / 0) (#134)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 01, 2009 at 05:51:05 PM EST
    True (none / 0) (#135)
    by MKS on Fri May 01, 2009 at 07:45:23 PM EST
    Looking at Basketball, Mater Dei's team was ranked No.1 in the nation for most of last season.  Their baseball program is really tough too.

    I'm not a big fan of Mater Dei but it's hard not to recognize how well they do.  


    I have been painting (5.00 / 3) (#62)
    by DXP on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:00:52 PM EST
    pretty much every day for 42 years, before that drawing. Even tho I have my degree I consider myself self taught. Now, when I teach young artists I see that a crucial component is curiosity. A certain visual talent, desire, opportunity, practice, these are all necessary too. But it is curiosity that is a driving force. A teacher can encourage and even flame curiosity, sometimes, in some students. Life can do that too, so formal education is not essential, but it can be helpful. Still, when the student is not in class the driving curiosity has to be there.

    Curiosity is a rather unrecognized emotion, one which humans share with all of life, animals, plants, maybe all matter.

    Plants have curiousity? (none / 0) (#65)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:03:37 PM EST
    Mine are curious as to why (5.00 / 3) (#77)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:30:25 PM EST
    I keep killing most of them in the South :)  It's a survival thing.......actually I wish my plants were curious about learning to express themselves like the dogs, the cat, and the parrot.  It would improve their chances around here.

    obviously hard to prove (none / 0) (#73)
    by DXP on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:15:19 PM EST
    But they do evolve. They reach, mutate, curl around. Evolution driven by curiosity? Perhaps.

    Kudzu will one day rule the world. (5.00 / 1) (#78)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:31:13 PM EST
    I never heard of kudzu until I (none / 0) (#106)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:27:10 PM EST
    had a case where a homeowner's assoc. was suing for damage to their "park," (which defendants sd. was a flood control basin).  Anyhow, turns out the park was planted with kudzu before the damage.  The city's attorney got a lot of laughs from that.

    I have learned that bamboo (none / 0) (#144)
    by Militarytracy on Sat May 02, 2009 at 08:21:30 AM EST
    works well here for erosion control, but runs a similar risk of taking an area over and being something that has to be fought back.

    I recently spent a couple of years (none / 0) (#109)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:32:30 PM EST
    in Atlanta.  it is scary how much of Atlanta it has "taken over"

    from my office we had what should have been a pretty nice view of a wooded area.  what it ended up being was a panoramic illustration of the dangers of Kudzu.  I wish I had a picture.


    I fight it in our yard more than a bit (none / 0) (#143)
    by Militarytracy on Sat May 02, 2009 at 08:19:20 AM EST
    I have read that it was originally grown here as an ornamental, but it really really likes it here.  I had never seen it in bloom until I started walking a very large park a few miles from my house.  Because I'm always fighting it and I guess the neighbors too, I had never seen it in bloom.  It can be lovely,  I understand how people were initially attracted to it.

    Quite possibly (none / 0) (#74)
    by Spamlet on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:21:35 PM EST
    in their own plantlike way. Read The Secret Life of Plants.

    Languages (5.00 / 1) (#66)
    by tokin librul on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:03:49 PM EST
    Kids in bi- and tri-lingual families seem to have absolutely no trouble learning them ALL.


    Because they USE them for non-trivial tasks, like play and other personal interaction.

    That's the key to ALL learning, actually: small, diverse groups engaged in meaningful tasks in which ALL are regarded as having certain, but unspecified, competence, interactively re-inforcinig and instructing one another....

    The children of the elite are the only students who now have those educational experiences. Everybody else gets 'schooled' in the ways "scribe" sescribed above...

    The children of the elite (none / 0) (#93)
    by CST on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:40:38 PM EST
    are not the only ones.

    I went to a public elementary school in the one of the roughest neighborhoods in my city that was bi-lingual.  I had to take science in Spanish and half the other kids didn't speak English well.

    Now, I have previously stated that I didn't learn much Spanish, but my sisters sure did.

    There are good public schools out there... you just have to find them and be pro-active about it as a parent.  And it helps to live in the "right" city.


    I'm not so sure about the public schools. (none / 0) (#94)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:45:44 PM EST
    I recently accompanied the bright fifth grade public school student I tutor to an appointment with the admissions director of a private school.  She sd. the fifth graders at this school were dissecting frogs.  My tutoree's eyes widened, as he really enjoys science.  No frogs being dissected at his school, and not much science being taught as far as I can tell.  Too bad. But, next year he starts at a charter school emphasizing getting kids from low income homes (and neither parent may have a degree from a four year college) ready for and into college.  

    not all public schools (none / 0) (#97)
    by CST on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:58:20 PM EST
    are equal - and of course the same level of financing will not be there.

    That doesn't mean it is impossible to get a good education in the public school system.  Often it takes a pro-active parent to find the right school.  And luck in the admissions process.

    I was very lucky in that I had both, and I lived in a city with options.  But I am pretty convinced after 4 years of college that my public school education was significantly better than a lot of the kids who went to "elite" private schools.  It helps that I went to an "elite" public school - that was still free, and had plenty of students from low income families.


    I also think I was (none / 0) (#98)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:04:26 PM EST
    lucky (that word again) in the school I attended.  it was neither elite nor private but it was, for the location which was rural arkansas, quite well funded and equipped.  it was a consolidated school district.  that is where one or more districts pool their resources to make a better school.
    the non-luck part is that for most of my school years we did not actually live in that school district but my parents cared enough to jump thru enough hoops to allow me to go there.
    but we did not dissect frogs until about the 8th or 9th grade.

    to be fair (none / 0) (#99)
    by CST on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:09:55 PM EST
    I never dissected any frogs.

    I think we took apart some bats (don't remember what grade) though.  Those things are impressive.  They can eat anything.


    This I very much agree with. (none / 0) (#100)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:15:52 PM EST
    I went to catholic grammar and HS, took all the "advanced" classes. Went to college, majored in engineering, and struggled mightily in that first semester while at the same time, for many of my classmates from public schools, 1st semester was merely review.

    In my experience most everyone in private school gets a "good" education but the opportunity for a truly advanced education is more limited than in the much larger public schools.

    Not that my personal case is automatically applicable nationwide...


    If we were going to stay in C Springs (none / 0) (#107)
    by Militarytracy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:29:51 PM EST
    I had my daughter on the list for a charter school called Globe.  It was a very unorthodox school and they did fundraising all year in order to spend a period of each year as a school in a foreign country.  The kids had purple hair.....some green.....a couple of very creative mohawks...they were all so damned happy though and full of energy.  The school had taken over some old military office buildings.  I think my daughter would have been very happy there but we had to PCS.  She was NOT happy in Southern schools.

    This is idiotic, as expected from Brooks. (5.00 / 3) (#86)
    by magnetics on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:17:07 PM EST
    Mozart, in a letter to his father, explains why he could seemingly compose amidst distractions, say in a billiards parlour.  He describes his method of composition along the following lines:  in a moment of solitude, a theme occurs to him.  Continuing in solitude, he explores (in his mind) possible variations, instrumental colors, developments, etc., and tries them out in his mind's ear.

    When he as finished these deliberations, he hears, in his mind's ear, in the flash of a second, the piece played in its entirety.  From then on the orchestral score is inscribed in his brain, and can be written down at will, even among distractions.

    That is genius, and all the practice in the world won't get you to that point, although admittedly all the genius in the world will accomplish nothing without dililgent practice.

    And then he sat down and played (5.00 / 1) (#108)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:30:21 PM EST
    his composition.  Without practice.

    The Mozart story reminds me (5.00 / 1) (#117)
    by brodie on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:54:33 PM EST
    of a more colorful one about physicist Richard Feynman who was a regular customer of a Pasadena strip club near Cal Tech.  Said he got some of his best scientific thinking -- true insights -- done amidst the bumping and grinding.

    Greatest genius of all, Nikola Tesla, came up with his brilliant breakthrough in alternating current while walking with a friend in a park while reciting a poem from Goethe -- suddenly he saw in his "mind's eye" (more or less ...) the whole apparatus, in 3 dimensions, the various parts operating for his close inspection.  He also had what we term a "photographic" memory except to a very unusual and profound degree -- the mind acting almost as a computer which could store precise technical info or pages from a book he'd read of any kind, to be called up from a "folder" at his will.

    And in the musical realm, perhaps someone can explain to me how some composers can get a song, complete, in their dream state when musically it doesn't follow from what they've been working on while awake.  (I believe Lennon and McCartney both experienced this with a few of their hit songs.)

    I think there's some great mystery here re genius, which can't be explained by the usual explanations of genetics and environment or hard work.


    IMO (5.00 / 1) (#120)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:57:49 PM EST
    there is a fine line between genius and savant.

    Tesla had some personal quirks (5.00 / 1) (#124)
    by brodie on Fri May 01, 2009 at 03:17:09 PM EST
    (e.g., preference for things divisible by 3) but he was not otherwise mentally or socially disabled.  In fact, he was accepted among the social elite of his time and was constantly having to turn down their invitations to dinner.  Mark Twain counted among his friends.  

    Sure he avoided shaking hands, and he was extremely careful about how his meals were prepared at the hotel restaurant where he took his meals, but considering the unsanitary times he lived in and given his early upbringing in a village with the disease outbreak that sickened/killed many, it turns out some of these unusual habits were scientifically smart.

    Morally he was something of a giant, too.  E.g., very generous and understanding with Geo Westinghouse -- tearing up a contract on the Niagara Falls deal which could have netted for Tesla tens of millions and have asssured him financial security for life.  

    Very misunderstood genius.  


    What a remarkable post, BTD. (5.00 / 1) (#101)
    by oldpro on Fri May 01, 2009 at 02:17:17 PM EST
    Thank you for this.

    As a lifelong educator and political activist I have always thought that experience and choices and a bit of luck along the way were the determinents of intelligence and success.

    Poor black kid is doomed (2.00 / 0) (#76)
    by diogenes on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:24:50 PM EST
    So will a poor black kid with talent be more likely to get lots of practice in a ghetto public school, a voucher school, or a catholic parochial school?
    All this genius stuff really applies to the top 2-3 percentile people anyway, as it has been framed.  No amount of practice would make me an NBA player or make an 85 IQ person a Nobel winner.  

    True, but... (5.00 / 1) (#82)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:08:01 PM EST
    take this girl I've coached for two years now. She is not an athlete. Sweet kid but heavy, very thick glasses, slow, not particularly agile, always the last in everything we do.

    Except she's taken a shine to the shotput.

    She works at it, hard, at every practise, even bought her own shot that she tosses around in the backyard.

    She just came in 2nd at a regional meet last weekend. 2nd out of, say, 100 girls her age. Many/most of the girls she beat are highly talented multiple sport "jocks."


    actually I dont think its true (none / 0) (#83)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 01, 2009 at 01:13:51 PM EST
    I think, in this country at least at this time, race has almost nothing to do with it.  nurture certainly does IMO, not race and neither does economic status.  assuming the child has access to reasonable learning facilities I think it is entirely up to the caregivers and the child.

    Recent NYT science article (none / 0) (#70)
    by oculus on Fri May 01, 2009 at 12:08:47 PM EST
    on link between intelligence and certain diseases:

    Researchers Say Intelligence and Diseases May Be Linked in Ashkenazic Genes

    Ever know a person (none / 0) (#130)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Fri May 01, 2009 at 05:13:46 PM EST
    who was totally "brilliant" but had not a lick of common sense.

    Some "talents" are completely unmeasurable.

    This post (Geniuses) (none / 0) (#139)
    by NYShooter on Fri May 01, 2009 at 10:01:14 PM EST
    is a good example what I find wrong with blogs. Maybe "wrong" is the wrong word; frustrating would probably be more accurate.

    The subject is fascinating, and so many of the comments are profoundly interesting; some even epiphanous. And therein lays my complaint.

    So many personal stories, observations, reflections, and opinions; so little time to properly absorb, digest, and appreciate their meaning(s). Each one, at least to me, deserves its own blog, or volume, or something.

    It's like a Picasso exhibit at the MOMA. Having studied him just a tiny bit (just enough to be smitten) I took a date there a few years ago. Upon arriving, I looked at the first drawing that caught my eye; and I looked, and looked, and looked.......... Finally, Sarah poked me in the ribs, and with an impish smile said, "there's a few more pictures here you might want to see, Shooter." I could have looked at that drawing for hours, and seen something new, or different, each minute of those hours.

    You've got so many really, really smart & gifted people here, BTD. Getting only a fleeting glimpse of what they have to offer is just too dam* little!

    Yes, this is a (none / 0) (#147)
    by Spamlet on Sat May 02, 2009 at 03:54:03 PM EST
    Gifted and Talented blog.