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Personal Growth

The Genius You Never Knew You Had

Just as your mom always suspected, brilliance lies within you. And not only you, but nearly every seemingly normal human being. That’s the provocative thesis of David Shenk’s forthcoming book, “The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong.” This week Shenk sits down with Big Think to explain why the relationship between nature, nurture, and genius is far more subtle than previous science has led us to expect.

In a fascinating discussion, Shenk describes how the phenomenon of child prodigies has long been misunderstood and offers suggestions as to how parents can nurture their own little geniuses—or at least avoiding squelching their potential. He also illuminates the apparent mystery of autistic savants, arguing that they are evidence not of the rarity of genius but of the extraordinary learning potential of brains in general.

Though persistence is a necessary part of the equation, it’s not sufficient; brilliant achievement is rare even among people who strive for it constantly. Shenk acknowledges this but offers an explanation: paradoxically, the people who develop their natural talent most successfully are those who, in a sense, most love to fail.


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