It takes more than simply having exceptional intellectual or creative abilities to make an impact.
A Psychology Today article – Why Prodigies Fail – warns that most childhood prodigies “never fulfill their promise.”
“Perseverance is a key part of it,” says Robert Root-Bernstein, co-author with Michele Root-Bernstein of Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People.
He continues, “Many of them say that their expectations were warped by their early experiences.”
The article notes, “When success comes too easily, prodigies are ill prepared for what happens when the adoration goes away, their competitors start to catch up and the going gets rough.”
There can be lessons here for any of us, not just prodigies.
Indiana University psychologist Jonathan Plucker (co-author of the book Essentials of Creativity Assessment) notes, “I don’t see anyone teaching these kids about task commitment, about perseverance in the face of social pressures, about how to handle criticism. We say, ‘Boy, you’re really talented.’ We don’t say, ‘Yeah, but you’re still going to have to put in those 60-hour work weeks before you can make major contributions to your field.”
Giftedness researcher Ellen Winner (author of the book: Gifted Children: Myths and Realities) said in the same article that to make a major contribution in the arts, and even the sciences, “you need a rebellious spirit and the type of mind that can see new things.”
She says it is only those exceptional people who can reinvent themselves and be innovative, who are likely to leave a lasting mark as adults.
One great example is J.K. Rowling.
When she was a newly single mother and struggling to support her baby daughter in Edinburgh, she chose to commit herself to her dream of becoming a novelist by writing “Harry Potter.”
“I was very low, and I had to achieve something,” she said. “Without the challenge, I would have gone stark raving mad.” [From article Profiles in Perseverance, Psychology Today.]
See more comments by Rowling in my High Ability post: Writing from personal experience: J.K. Rowling and celebrating our unique qualities.
[The photo is from my Inner Writer post J.K. Rowling on Writing and Depression.]
To be creative and productive, to really make an impact with our talents, we have to persevere, even in the face of external and internal challenges.
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Last reviewed: 6 Feb 2011