Growing up exceptional: “There are large numbers of frustrated gifted adults.”

Bill GatesIn her book Gifted Grownups, Marylou Kelly Streznewski illuminates many of the myths and challenges of being exceptional. Here are some excerpts.

Are only the successful truly gifted?

For too long society has believed that if you aren’t president of General Motors, you aren’t gifted. If the estimates of the researchers are correct, and between 3% and 5% of the population is gifted, then we are talking about several million people.

What the interviews [in the book] revealed was that a gifted person of multiple talents may not be as fortunate as a multitalented Bill Bradley (Rhodes scholar, basketball star, senator, author). He or she may be struggling through a series of false starts into careers and college majors, trying desperately to find the one that clicks.


Many of those I interviewed never made it as far as college: They gave up on school because the lower grades were never challenging, they couldn’t afford college, or they didn’t consider college an option.

Some of the smartest kids had learned to hate school so much that they could not tolerate its confinement in any form. The lucky ones found something that suited them better and constructed a life with their own talents. Some of the unlucky ones were interviewed in jail.

Needing skills in being gifted

Based on what the gifted grownups told me, some of my students would be very successful in using their gifts. They would go off to major universities and emerge four years later to make outstanding contributions to American corporate, artistic, or academic society.

However, the interviews also documented that there are large numbers of frustrated gifted adults… We don’t pay enough attention to trying to teach people who are highly intelligent how to cope with their lives in the adult world.

book: Gifted Grownups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential, by Marylou Kelly Streznewski

Also see her article Unrecognized Giftedness: The Frustrating Case of the Gifted Adult.

[Photo: Bill Gates.]


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  01.09.15   By Douglas Eby
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  1. […] Growing up exceptional: “There are large numbers of frustrated gifted adults.” […]

  2. Excellent says:

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