Giftedness is not a guarantee of eminence or success in life
“The natural trajectory of giftedness in childhood is not a six-figure salary, perfect happiness, and a guaranteed place in Who’s Who.”
That is a comment by Dr. Linda Silverman, director of the Gifted Development Center, who goes on to describe an ideal of adult development, beyond the awards won as children:
“It is the deepening of the personality, the strengthening of one’s value system, the creation of greater and greater challenges for oneself, and the development of broader avenues for expressing compassion… becoming a better person and helping make this a better world.”
[From my article Reaching for Excellence: Gifted Students.]
[Photo: valedictorian Bianca Phillips from my article Smarter Than Others.]
Luciano Pavarotti; Leonardo da Vinci; Harold Pinter; Toni Morrison; Marie Curie; Julia Morgan; William Gibson; Garrison Keillor; Georgia O’Keeffe [photo: “Hitching a Ride to Abiquiu”] – these people (and many others of course) with exceptional ability have gained recognition for helping make a better, richer world.
There is a long list of gifted adults who do not win awards and headlines.
In her article Discovering the Gifted Ex-Child, Stephanie S. Tolan writes about the importance to society of tangible “evidence” of talent:
“We may know that some gifted adults are unlucky enough not to achieve the rewards their ideas or their products deserve (there are many examples, like Van Gogh, of people whose achievements went unrecognized during their lifetimes) but it is nevertheless the achievements or products that are the basis for our recognition of giftedness in adults.”
But, she goes on to note, “This focus is essentially external.
“Though we acknowledge that there must be some unusual mental capacity (an internal reality) that allows a Stephen Hawking to work out ideas that affect the field of physics, if we did not have those ideas (the external evidence), we would not recognize Hawking as a gifted adult.
The lives of underachieving gifted adults
“There is no readily accepted concept of ‘underachieving gifted adult’ because the number of adults who have test scores or other standardized means of showing unusual mental processing other than through products, is relatively small.”
She points out that gifted children “do not disappear when they graduate from high school or finish college or graduate degrees. They become gifted adults.
“If they enter adulthood blind to their unusual mental capabilities, they may go through their lives fragmented, frustrated, unfulfilled and alienated from their innermost beings.
Misunderstanding our own minds
“What is different about the gifted individual is his or her mind. Not understanding that mind makes it virtually impossible to honor the self.”
But it may be deeply challenging for many of us to understand our own minds, and be critical of what we find.
For more, see my articles:
Talented and insecure (quotes by and about Taylor Swift; Will Smith; John Lennon, and others)
Even with less than optimal self-esteem and confidence, though, we may endlessly keep exploring vocational interests and other facets of our complex, sometimes difficult selves.
Sofia Coppola, according to Vanity Fair writer Evgenia Peretz, “In her later teenage years, indulged in a variety of pursuits that struck some – including herself – as disturbingly close to those of an aimless rich girl.
“She worked for a time in Karl Lagerfeld’s studio.
“She took pictures for magazines such as Paris Vogue and Interview.
“She went to art school, where she studied painting…”
One of my related videos:
Are You Multitalented? A Multipotentialite?
See related page: Resources For Multipotentialite Entrepreneurs.
In her article Encountering the Gifted Self Again, For the First Time, Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PhD ( notes, “Contrary to stereotyped beliefs, large numbers of gifted adults are charismatic, popular, socially adept people who are known as extraordinary leaders and valued friends.
“However, many also share a history of chronic feelings of loneliness… many gifted adults are not popular, have few friends, and struggle to gain a sense of belonging. Loneliness can be a recurring problem that diminish the well-being of gifted individuals.”
She is author of the book The Gifted Adult.
Limited social support and relationships are another factor in achievement – or not – for gifted and talented adults.
Extraordinarily high standards for ourselves
In her interview “On Giftedness,” Mary Rocamora, founder of an adult school in Los Angeles that attracts many gifted and talented people says:
“I think most gifted people that are not recognized, and certainly not self-recognized, typically find themselves in an acting class and suddenly discovering a particular talent, or finding themselves in a writing class and realizing, ‘Wow, I can do this.’
“But one of the stumbling blocks is most gifted people have such extraordinarily high standards for themselves that they feel a lot of inadequacy, and a feeling of inadequacy isn’t what you would think would go with giftedness; you’d think arrogance, or a high level of confidence would go with giftedness, and it typically doesn’t.
“There are certainly some arrogant gifted people, but that is less the norm than the exception.”
Persistence is key
But regardless of our abilities, one of the elements in success is keeping at it.
The article “The Winning Edge” by Peter Doskoch, points out, “Persistence is vital even for an indisputable genius.
“Mozart’s diaries, for example, contain an oft-cited passage in which the composer reports that an entire symphony appeared, supposedly intact, in his head.
“‘But no one ever quotes the next paragraph, where he talks about how he refined the work for months,’ notes Jonathan Plucker, an educational psychologist at Indiana University.”
[Photo: Tom Hulce as Mozart in Amadeus (1984)]
Also see related article Adult Genius, Unexceptional Kid.
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Developing Multiple Talents:
The personal side of creative expression
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