“What about your very unique talents… that rare ability you have to yodel while break-dancing?”
Those are some of the questions explored by cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman in his new book “Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined.”
In her review in Nature magazine, Barbara Kiser notes that “Hearing difficulties and a low IQ score” caused the young Kaufman to be “labelled learning disabled…he presents a convincing ‘theory of personal intelligence’.
“But what emerges most clearly is how all children — gifted, disabled or simply humming with untapped abilities — need a fine-tuned, holistic education to shine in their own extraordinary ways.”
But the acclaimed book isn’t only about releasing talent for children; he addresses what it means to be creative and exceptional throughout life. In one chapter Kaufman writes:
“Does achievement always involve being original? What separates the good from the truly great? Where’s the dividing line?
“By the way, don’t unique life experiences matter? You see the world through a very unique lens. Doesn’t that count at all?
“Or what about your very unique talents? You know— that rare ability you have to yodel while break-dancing. Let’s say you score really low on the SATs, but you can do a mean head spin while yodeling to the tune of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. Does that count at all?
“Must you do well on standardized tests to achieve in life? Where do roadblocks fit in? How do harsh life experiences— such as growing up with a disability— contribute to achievement?”
He adds, “Being labeled ‘learning disabled’ in a school setting can be an incredibly painful experience, but can’t that experience be just the fuel that is necessary to drive someone to make a change in the world? I wish I could say I solved all of these mysteries. But the truth is, I ended up with even more questions.”
From the book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD.
Here is a short by him from his video Creativity (click “See More” to view the full version)
Labels like “disabled” or “slow” – or even “gifted and talented” – can have potent and long-lasting effects on self-concept, motivation and achievement, perhaps especially for creative people who are often highly sensitive to their inner experiences, and to reactions from other people.
Deirdre V. Lovecky writes in her article Can You Hear the Flowers Sing? Issues for Gifted Adults :
“Valuing their uniqueness is necessary for gifted adults in accepting themselves. Valuing and accepting negative traits can be a means of freeing energy to deal creatively with life. If the gifted adult is able to accept faults and vulnerabilities, then the positive sides of these traits can come to light. Energy will not be focused on feeling unhappy about self or on denying faults and failings.”
She also declares, “Most creativity develops from the energy found in discontent; using discomfort as a sign that creative energy is available allows for the taking charge of self rather than for feeling fated to misfortune.”
Misfortune and discomfort takes many forms, including abuse and trauma, and many people develop their creativity to deal with those experiences.
See one of my posts on the topic: Creative People and Trauma.
Recognition doesn’t always accompany giftedness
So much categorizing children or adults as “gifted” emphasizes significant achievement: high IQ or SAT scores, being a sport superstar etc – or producing some notable and valued product like a bestseller book, or movie or smart phone app.
And with perfectionism and high levels of self criticism, many gifted and talented people may feel they don’t “make it.”
It can, of course, help us develop a more accurate self concept as a high ability person to garner awards and acclaim, but most creative people do not get much public recognition.
Concluded in Part 2.