The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ is Wrong

David Shenk

Created on Friday, September 2, 2011.

People often say that they don’t have the genes to do this or that, but it seems more and more that talent is closer to what Bob Ross had been saying all along: If you’re willing to practice at it, you can do it.

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“Why? Why would millions of years of evolution produce a machine so otherwise sophisticated but with an apparent built-in fuzziness, a tendency to regularly forget, repress and distort information and experience?

The answer, it turns out, is that fuzziness is not a severe limitation but a highly advanced feature. As a matter of engineering, the brain does not have any physical limitations in the amount of information it can hold. It is designed specifically to forget most of the details it comes across, so that it may allow us to form general impressions, and from there useful judgments. Forgetting is not a failure at all, but an active metabolic process, a flushing out of data in the pursuit of knowledge and meaning.”


“Other Dweck experiments pointed in the same direction, demonstrating irrefutably that people who believe in inborn intelligence and talents are less intellectually adventurous and less successful in school. By contrast, people with an "incremental” theory of intelligence — believing that intelligence is malleable and can be increased through effort — are much more intellectually ambitious and successful.

The lesson is that parents, teachers, and students must take the long and incremental view. Regardless of whether a child seems to be exceptional, mediocre, or even awful at any particular skill at a particular point in time, the potential exists for that person to develop into a high-achieving adult. Because talent is a function of acquired skills rather than innate ability, adult achievement depends completely on long-term attitude and resources and process rather than any particular age-based talent quotient. While childhood achievement is, of course, not irrelevant (it’s often a sign of early interest and determination), it doesn’t rule any particular future success in or out.“

That's all there is, there isn't any more.
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