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    #250185 - 02/27/23 03:50 AM How to accept that giftedness doesn't mean much
    giftedamateur Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 12/19/21
    Posts: 33
    Being gifted is being in the top 2% of intelligence, but that doesn't really say much. It might be closer to the average of knowledge professions like engineering and medicine, but doesn't really get into the realm where people can be truly creative and come up with new insights beyond the systems which already exist.

    What I'm realizing is that we raise gifted kids with this expectation that they can do whatever they put their mind to. However, in order to do something really interesting or of note (and being the millionth Amazon engineer isn't that), you need smarts way beyond just the top 2%.

    It is probably something closer to AT LEAST the top 0.01% in the relevant aspect of intelligence plus near ideal conditions growing up which allow you to take advantage of childhood neuroplasticity and get a head start. In addition to that, there is a "special something" which is also having a different, rather singular way of approaching things. The rarity of all these conditions put together makes the probability one in 100,000 or less. Basically, the other 99,999 stand no chance. This includes 1999 out of 2000 "gifted children".

    This often ends up harming those children. They grow up to think they're special and can do anything they put their mind to, and realize that even difficult undergraduate math or philosophy or whatever is beyond their cognitive capacities even with concerted effort, never mind the frontiers of human knowledge which they will never ever be able to touch.

    Based on IQ and levels of giftedness, I hope we can agree that the truth of the above statement follows as a statistical inevitability. That said --

    How should one deal with the realization that they are simply not "good enough" to reach a certain goal? I think this is especially significant for gifted folk because due to their overexcitabilities, they often end up devoting large swathes of time to their areas of interest, only to fail in them if they don't have the required level of talent. What must one do when hard work is not enough? This is incredibly hard for gifted people to wrap their heads around: when everything in life has come easy to them, it's hard enough to accept that one must work hard. But what about the point when they realize that they simply lack the talent (or worse, opportunity) and can never get "there" in their finite existence?

    I haven't seen much discussion of this on the forum -- maybe I couldn't think of the right search parameters. But how do we counsel overexcitable, idealistic gifted kids/teens/adults when they reach that point? I have seen so many gifted children, now in the professions making a comfortable living and thus "successful", disgruntled at how pedestrian their job is.

    I will admit to having a bit of a self-serving agenda here because there are many things which I would like to do which are likely simply impossible for me to do because either a) lack of talent, or b) parents didn't provide avenues to pursue them when young and so the window of opportunity is now closed. I think it was also spurred on when I realized the reality of levels of giftedness. Recently I was talking to this undergraduate who taught himself calculus at 14, and realized that I was considerably more talented at math than him -- and made me realize that professional mathematicians were all at least similarly talented if not more. By ordinary measures, that child would be considered very talented, even an outlier in an ordinary school, but that is not enough to be a professional mathematician. Many mathematicians have achieved International Math Olympiad medals at that age, for a ballpark comparison. It's similar for many other "elite" professions.

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    #250188 - 02/28/23 12:21 AM Re: How to accept that giftedness doesn't mean much [Re: giftedamateur]
    Eagle Mum Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/24/20
    Posts: 188
    Loc: Australia
    I was introduced to this reality quite early, when I was invited to our national mathematics summer school (at a younger age than most of the group), where I met the brilliant Terry Tao as a nine year old. I didn't know he would one day be regarded as the GOAT mathematician, so believing that he represented the bar I had to reach (and underestimating myself as my achievements were solely from my own efforts), I reassessed my ambitions to become a maths academic and allowed my parents to usher me into a different career pathway.

    Whilst I didn't enjoy the early stages of my career, by applying my best efforts to all aspects of my work, over time, I've built a set of skills which enable me to 'make a key difference' almost every day that I am at work and that alone has been a source of more than ample satisfaction. I've also mentored many people in my field which has been, and still is, very rewarding.

    My daughters are very happy to simply enjoy a well rounded life and my eldest, at 24, has certainly ticked a lot of items on her list already (medical degree, career, great social network, husband, first home, puppy).

    My son has yet to reach, but may, one day, bump against, an unseen ceiling/barrier, with no one we know to guide him past or over. I advised (not ushered) him to study R & D Engineering for this reason - to acquire a wide breadth and strong depth of knowledge and skills so he can create his own niche wherever he may find himself.

    Acknowledging that this world is far from the ideal system which would support gifts, talents and potential, some advice that I would give:
    i) Every individual is the best judge of his/her success.
    ii) Productive work, 'making a difference', should be highly valued, perhaps even more than being at the top of a field if you've had to climb on a lot of people to reach the top.
    iii) If you teach and mentor others, you can enjoy their successes as yours too.

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    #250191 - 02/28/23 02:05 PM Re: How to accept that giftedness doesn't mean much [Re: Eagle Mum]
    giftedamateur Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 12/19/21
    Posts: 33
    Originally Posted By: Eagle Mum
    I was introduced to this reality quite early, when I was invited to our national mathematics summer school (at a younger age than most of the group), where I met the brilliant Terry Tao as a nine year old. I didn't know he would one day be regarded as the GOAT mathematician, so believing that he represented the bar I had to reach (and underestimating myself as my achievements were solely from my own efforts), I reassessed my ambitions to become a maths academic and allowed my parents to usher me into a different career pathway.

    That is quite the story! I think something similar did happen to me, although at a much lower level. I thought a gifted math student should be able to clear the national mathematics Olympiad with zero coaching. I barely studied for it specifically, and hoped my intuition would carry me through. I was 14 and could only do 1.5 problems out of 6.

    Originally Posted By: Eagle Mum

    i) Every individual is the best judge of his/her success.

    What about when your very own judgment of success tells you you haven't succeeded? I feel like being told all my life I had potential -- the Olympiad coach said I could make it to the IMO although I didn't quite believe him, etc. -- makes it hard for me to appreciate small wins which "anyone can do" when I do them in a fraction of the time or effort. But there is this gulf between being say a data analyst and a mathematician which is as wide as the ocean, and I may know that the latter is out of reach, for example. I say this having seen mathematicians up close -- the good ones could grok the entire data science syllabus in a week. They were studying graduate level math in their second year of college.

    Originally Posted By: Eagle Mum

    ii) Productive work, 'making a difference', should be highly valued, perhaps even more than being at the top of a field if you've had to climb on a lot of people to reach the top.

    Also, I don't feel like I'm making a difference, or ever will. Being in the corporate world is generally like being a small replaceable cog in a giant contraption which will move forward with or without you.

    Originally Posted By: Eagle Mum

    iii) If you teach and mentor others, you can enjoy their successes as yours too.

    I feel like everyone's talent is their own, and teaching only seems to make a difference of about 20% at most. The rest is on the student. I see this quite clearly, over and over again. So, it feels like a stretch to take credit for a student's achievement because I know it's mostly on them. This again derives from personal experience -- people think I must have had a great educational background, but for the most part I had zero enrichment outside of class, and still somehow managed to stumble into a top rated math program. 99% of people could not do that even with years of instruction given what I now know about IQ.

    Edit: I did study for it. It's just that the questions were direct applications of principles I knew such as Euler's equation or Vieta's relations etc. where a smart student could come up with a solution without specific training, and I lucked out that day.


    Edited by giftedamateur (02/28/23 02:11 PM)

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    #250193 - 02/28/23 04:25 PM Re: How to accept that giftedness doesn't mean much [Re: giftedamateur]
    Eagle Mum Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/24/20
    Posts: 188
    Loc: Australia
    Originally Posted By: giftedamateur


    Also, I don't feel like I'm making a difference, or ever will. Being in the corporate world is generally like being a small replaceable cog in a giant contraption which will move forward with or without you.


    This is a specific issue which I often wonder about, as I know one brilliant mathematician of my vintage who held a junior position in maths academia for a number of years, but wound up working for a top corporate finance firm, as well as a recent Cambridge Uni Honours maths graduate who has just started at a similar organisation. The money and lifestyle would be very agreeable to many, but I know my son would not find these particularly rewarding.

    I have often wondered whether there may be opportunities for brilliant data analysts with strong mathematical and programming skills to get involved in projects such as climate change modelling which may, at this time, offer poor or no remuneration but would provide the opportunity to potentially make a significant difference. International conferences might be a way to make connections with research groups in this field, or any other that you might be interested to explore.

    The online community offers an unprecedented opportunity to explore one's gifts and talents. My son, a self taught musician, has a steadily growing following for his Youtube channel with performances of his own music arrangements. Until now, this outlet has given him the greatest joy, although he has just started his first year at Uni, so with advanced maths, adv physics, adv programming and the opportunity to join his uni's team for the annual solar car race, he has many more opportunities to stretch his wings.

    I've posted in other threads about my husband, who employs his knowledge and skills to full use in his delivery of health care and enjoys great satisfaction at making the difference on patient outcomes in life or death situations. He plays online chess under an alias and has a single digit ranking for correspondence chess on chess.com. Since it is the slowest/deepest form of chess, he has achieved the highest, statistically valid, accuracy rate of all the players on the server. In real life, he doesn't have the time or inclination to play over the board chess, so his title has only been candidate master for many years, but online, his rating is so high, many grandmasters aren't even able to challenge him because of the ratings difference limit he has set for potential challengers. He has received many private requests through the forum and mentors younger players, which as I've also found, is a very rewarding experience.

    By democratic principles, this society has been largely built by people of average intelligence for people of average intelligence and aspiration and self interest have also been dominant driving forces, so the people with power tend to create opportunities for gifted individuals to serve their interests, rather than opportunities to truly develop these gifts in the best interest of the gifted individual and/or society. As gifted individuals, understanding that there are external constraints to developing our gifts to their fullest potential, may help us to appreciate that because there are often hidden challenges to overcome, each accomplished task can be considered an even greater personal achievement.

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    #250194 - 03/01/23 02:44 AM Re: How to accept that giftedness doesn't mean much [Re: Eagle Mum]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 5040
    This caught my eye...
    Originally Posted By: Eagle Mum
    ... so the people with power tend to create opportunities for gifted individuals to serve their interests, rather than opportunities to truly develop these gifts in the best interest of the gifted individual and/or society.
    This statement resonated with me. Well said. I've seen this happening.

    While there is often a strong analogy drawn between the intellectually gifted and those gifted athletically... unlike gifted athletes who receive accolades for their accomplishments as part of a team, the privileged element within our society seems intent on controlling who receives the credit, benefits, and rewards of intellectually gifted persons' work and accomplishments.

    I find it unfortunate that in this manner, gifted people may all too often be treated as a resource to be mined, rather than as human beings.

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    #250201 - 03/02/23 11:05 AM Re: How to accept that giftedness doesn't mean much [Re: giftedamateur]
    millersb02 Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 04/16/19
    Posts: 25
    I see your point and it's worth discussing and considering. A field like pure mathematics is pretty academic and there's only so much room at the top. You are judging intelligence and ability in an academic and measurable way. That's not the only way intelligence is used. Can you use your strengths and skills for something that is meaningful to you specifically but wouldn't necessarily be considered an achievement – Can you study, research, understand and talk to doctors enough to help you or a loved one navigate a tough diagnosis or medical issue? Or can you find ways to use your skills to benefit the greater good - like advocacy, writing grants, or tinkering with a solution to an environmental issue?

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    #250202 - 03/02/23 03:56 PM Re: How to accept that giftedness doesn't mean much [Re: giftedamateur]
    giftedamateur Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 12/19/21
    Posts: 33
    removed since it was irrelevant


    Edited by giftedamateur (03/03/23 09:10 AM)

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    #250223 - 03/25/23 07:00 AM Re: How to accept that giftedness doesn't mean much [Re: giftedamateur]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 5040
    giftedamateaur, I've heard it said:
    "It's not what you have, but what you do with what you have."

    When I attempted to look up this wise quote online, I did not find it attributed to a source, however the AI summarizer shared the following at the top of the results list of responses to my search:
    Originally Posted By: AI summarizer
    Epictetus famously said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react”.

    Mae West said, “It’s not what I say, but the way I say it”.

    Caio Terra said “It’s not what you do, but HOW you do it” and

    Rick Warren said "It's not what you do, but how much love you put into it that matters."

    David S. Goyer further emphasized the importance of making the most of what we have.

    Interestingly, these quotes all seem to apply to the concept of accepting that giftedness may not mean much, itself. Giftedness is but a high potential, and it is what is done with it (opportunity + effort) which may ultimately add the meaning.

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    #250224 - 03/26/23 03:20 AM Re: How to accept that giftedness doesn't mean much [Re: indigo]
    Eagle Mum Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/24/20
    Posts: 188
    Loc: Australia
    Originally Posted By: indigo

    Interestingly, these quotes all seem to apply to the concept of accepting that giftedness may not mean much, itself. Giftedness is but a high potential, and it is what is done with it (opportunity + effort) which may ultimately add the meaning.


    IMO, this is a very important truth.

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    #250225 - 03/27/23 01:10 PM Re: How to accept that giftedness doesn't mean much [Re: indigo]
    giftedamateur Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 12/19/21
    Posts: 33
    Originally Posted By: indigo

    Interestingly, these quotes all seem to apply to the concept of accepting that giftedness may not mean much, itself. Giftedness is but a high potential, and it is what is done with it (opportunity + effort) which may ultimately add the meaning.


    While this is not wrong in itself, it isn't what I asked. I find that a lot of what you write has the tone: "You're gifted and have talent; stop being lazy and make use of them!" IMO this is totally the wrong response here. It almost sounds like you're asking gifted people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

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