You're a Genius

The loves the idea discussed in the review of David Shenk’s book The Genius in All of Us. Shenk shows us how genius is not totally related to our DNA but is also influenced by environment, which means we can increase and shape our “latent talent abundance” at any time. This is especially relevant for parents.

 The Genius in All of Us by David Shenk

This book uses science to dispel the myth that genius is related to genes.

“Contrary to what we’ve been taught, genius does not determine physical and character traits on their own,” writes Shenk. Each chapter unfolds the science and new understanding that you and your genes are also affected by environment. It means that genes are the potentiality, and the environment is a prominent co-factor.

In this book Shenk uses several examples to demonstrate his case. Ted Williams, the famous baseball player, and Beethoven are examples of how practice makes perfect and environment can influence outcomes. In Ted Williams’ case he began as a youngster to practice hitting every chance he got.  He would practice in the park near his home from sun-up to long after the lights on the diamond were turned off. During school he would practice at lunch and breaks. He would walk down the road and cover one eye to develop his eyesight. Even after he became a minor league player he would practice hitting after batting practice.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, makes the same case, again, that “practice makes perfect.”  Itzhak Perlman’s day consisted mostly of practice. When Gladwell was asked why he wrote his book, he said, “You know how you hear someone say of Bill Gates or some rock star or some other outlier—’they’re really smart,’ or ‘they’re really ambitious?’ Well, I know lots of people who are really smart and really ambitious, and they aren’t worth 60 billion dollars.”

Shenk also discusses the science of why genetics is not the determining factor of extraordinary success. He quotes a study done in 1958 where rats were tested for the ability to be successful.  There were the Einstein rats, apparently very smart, and the Dope rats. These rats were genetically partitioned for intelligence. Over several generations the rats were raised for two different types of intelligence. Rats would run through a maze and their success was determined by the fewest mistakes. Obviously the Einstein rats proved more intelligent.

In the 1958 study, the scientists wanted to test the impact environment had on these two groups.  So they raised two more generations of rats and put them in opposite environments. The Dope rats were put into a cage where they could exercise their minds or brains; the cage had good lighting and was kept clean. Conversely, the Einstein rats were raised in the rat slums. Poor lighting, little chance to exercise their brains. … They were raised in opposite environments from their previous generations. What was discovered was the apparent genetic differences disappeared.

What does all this mean?

Everything we know, Shenk says, “suggests a completely new paradigm: not talent scarcity, but latent talent abundance.” It means we are not at the mercy of our DNA but the development of our talents through practice and passion.

This book rates a “strong read,” for every parent!!



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