Listening to a radio program tonight as I fixed dinner, the author of the book The Genius in All of Us inspired me. David Shenk talked about things like: there isn't a math gene that makes some people good at it; child prodigies are excellent at their talent compared to other children, but not usually compared to other adults. And all of these skills are things that people learn through practice.
They try; they hit a wall because they don't have the skill; they learn the skill; they go back and succeed.
Truly, isn't that, plus a drive to succeed, all that any of us need.
The ideas this author talked about encouraged me as a mother, teacher and a writer.
I've seen that drive and skill seesaw in Spencer. He loves basketball. The more he plays, the better he gets. He needed a different body type so he spent the summer lifting weights to give him more bulk under the basket. Of course, he's lucky that he's tall. No amount of working out could have added the height to him. Spencer doesn't believe that he can play basketball in college, but if he continues to work at it, who knows? This book says talent is developed, not innate. The example the author used was Michael Jordan, who was not supposed to be as good at basketball as his older brother. What was his name again?
As a teacher, sometimes I feel that students are so disadvantaged they can never catch up. Just last quarter though, I had a student, Paul, in his 40s. He'd been in the military and he was taking my English 101 class. His first paper was bad. He couldn't write in complete sentences. I handed back essays and I gave a speech to him and other struggling students. "The resources are available to help you pass this class if it's what you want." and "It's always easier to move forward now and to pass rather than to take the class again." Paul spent the quarter getting one on one help for each of his essays. By the time we wrote the in-class final, he was writing in complete sentences and his essays were unified. He decided to focus on English and he learned the skills that he never had when he was a teenager in school.
As a writer, well, people have always told me I was a good writer, and that might have been my downfall. Because I already believed that I was good at it, I haven't worked on it the way I should. Now I find myself looking at sections of my novel and I envision slashing through them, rewriting them. I picture the scenes and wonder how I can help the reader see the same thing in my head. I have submitted my manuscripts and had them rejected. That means my choices are to stop writing or to learn more skill sets that will help me succeed.
This book puts to bed the argument of nature versus nurture. Everyone can do anything if they are willing to put in the time and have the opportunity to learn the skills.
Photo from Amazon.com
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