I can do this.



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If I write a blog, maybe that will help me get stuff done.

I’ve noticed that I’m having trouble accomplishing things I honestly want to do.  Like meditating or exercising regularly.  Or cooking healthy meals.  Or doing laundry.

I have plenty of excuses.  Solid excuses.  Pain, illness, anxiety…

I know that the best thing I can do to improve myself, is to literally get moving.  Pain, health, mood…all of them benefit from a little bit of regular exercise.  They are each also the excuses I use to avoid exercise.

I escape working on getting stuff done, by finding something else that “I must do first.”  Today I went to the library and checked out a stack of books.  I looked for books about exercise for people like me.  You know, wimps.  Charts, instructions, encouragement, science, psychology, everything I could possibly need to know to start an exercise program.  You know, so I’ll feel better.

Driving home from the library, it hit me.  “Wow, I’m really good at escaping.”

Five months ago, I set up my computer to pop up a screen and read out loud a reminder to do a simple breathing meditation for five minutes each day.  And a second screen, six minutes later, to congratulate myself.  So far, I remember to breathe two or three times at the reminder, and again at the congratulatory message.  (How embarrassing.)  I realized that if I haven’t managed to take the time to breathe for five minutes a day, even when I am reminded and have no good excuses, what makes me think that anything in any of those books is going to result in my doing exercise every day?

Why don’t I do these things that I really, truly want to do?  One reason is that I find them boring and irritating.  Somehow, they feel like a waste of my time.  And my inclination to avoid those negative feelings is stronger than my inclination to do things that are good for me.  I successfully escape those boring and irritating tasks, which results in escaping accomplishment, too.

On an average day, I spend maybe an hour or two watching TV or reading novels or looking at entertaining websites.  I spend a lot of time taking care of family needs.  I do not have a regular job, but I do spend some time with clients.  I spend a reasonable amount of time taking care of the unavoidable activities of daily living like showering, eating, and cleaning the kitchen.  And I spend an unreasonable amount of time reading and writing.

I am certain that I could apply an hour a day toward getting things done that I am presently not getting done, like exercising or meditating or laundry.  But I’d be so bored and irritated during those sixty minutes.  Clearly, I feel like good health and clean laundry are things I should just be entitled to, not have to work for. (See this article about entitlement and boredom.)

If I felt better, all that knowledge running around in my brain could be put to good use.  I’m going to figure out how to get things done.  And I’m going to write about it here.  Success is a good thing.

Escaping success just isn’t working for me.

I can do this.




Personal Traits in the Gifted



Are you gifted?

Many people wonder if they are, some because they took an IQ test that didn’t seem to reflect how intelligent they feel they are, some because they never had access to a professional IQ test.

And, no, those free IQ tests online are not valid.  But that begs the question–how can most people figure out if they are gifted or not?

Below you will find a list of 150 traits that I’ve seen in gifted peoiple.  Several of these traits are mutually exclusive.  None of these is a trait that all gifted people will have.  But the general sense one gets when reading through these traits ought to help a person recognize themselves if they are gifted.

There is no score.  It is not a test.  It is just a list of personality traits often found in gifted people.  There are traits here that are often found in people who are not gifted, as well.  But the combination of having many of these traits, and recognizing that most people do not have a plethora of these traits, suggests giftedness.

Enjoy.  Feel free to leave comments about this or that item, or to offer suggestions for other items to add to the list.


1. I have a heightened ability or appetite for perception

2. I have a heightened ability or appetite for organization

3. I have a heightened ability or appetite for creation

4. I consider myself an extrovert

5. People tell me I seem to have a lot of energy

6. I feel like I am much more perceptive than most people

7. I am extreme in more ways than one

8. People tell me I make funny faces

9. I find myself frequently explaining things to others

10. People tell me to slow down

11. I can be amused by just about anything

12. I take issue with minutia

13. I enjoy spending time working on solving problems

14. Often I “just get it” when others don’t

15. People tease me about my vocabulary

16. I tend to make things more complex than they are

17. Sometimes I enjoy concentrating on for hours without a break

18. I am a terrible perfectionist

19. I feel like I am significantly more compassionate than the general public

20. I am a passionate person

21. I get overwhelmed by the emotions of others

22. I often smile or wave at people I don’t know when I am out

23. My intensity has caused me problems

24. I speak often about my moral or philosophical convictions

25. Small talk can never be as satisfying as a deep conversation about interesting ideas

26. I feel out-of-sync with others

27. I have an extreme sense of humor

28. I have so many abilities/talents that I just don’t know which ones I should pursue

29. I read more than I should

30. I always wish I could read faster, so I could get more done in the time I have available

31. I can’t let an injustice go by, and not comment on it

32. I see things that others miss

33. I have a tendency to make unusual or off-topic comments

34. I get a kick out of being insightful

35. I often question, or feel unimpressed by, “authority”

36. I love ardent discussions

37. I am perceptive/insightful

38. Sometimes I don’t answer right away, not because I have not thought of an answer, but because my thinking is too extensive

39. If I can do a job easily, it is too boring for me to enjoy

40. Considering how intellectually capable I usually am, it is amazing how bad I am at some things

41. I set high standards for myself

42. I have unusual ways of perceiving things

43. I seem to come to conceptual realizations faster than others

44. I’m known to create complexity where none need exist

45. I come across as “weird,” and I don’t mind that

46. I’m known for my quick, humorous remarks/retorts/observations

47. I tend to give a lot of consideration to ethical or moral issues, even when they may seem to be somewhat off the topic

48. I’ve had experiences that seemed psychic to others around me

49. I have an unusual facility for seeing how disparate things are related (or could be)

50. People have always told me I’m “different”

51. I have a heightened ability and appetite for analysis

52. I have a heightened ability and appetite for innovation

53. I have a heightened ability and appetite for production

54. I do not consider myself particularly more introverted, or extroverted

55. People tell me I do things really fast

56. It seems to me that most people just aren’t that sophisticated

57. Certain situations are overwhelming for me

58. I talk rapidly, about complex things

59. I often wonder how some people can manage life—they seem so clueless

60. People tell me to repeat myself, because they didn’t understand the first time

61. I get angry or frustrated at “unclear” assignments

62. People seem to feel I am easily offended

63. I generally understand new ideas quickly

64. I have an extensive vocabulary

65. I am a complex person

66. People are surprised at the things I remember

67. There’s a kernel of humor in almost any situation

68. My perfectionism gets in the way of me trying things, or completing them

69. I like that I am very compassionate

70. I have intense feelings

71. I get overwhelmed by my own emotions

72. I often smile at children I don’t know

73. I often feel compelled to critique or improve upon the status quo

74. I think a lot about philosophy or morality

75. I don’t need as much sleep as other people

76. I have so many interests

77. People often don’t understand my sense of humor

78. I enjoy a philosophical sense of humor

79. I have reading material in every room of my house, and other places, too

80. I often take a stand against injustice

81. As a child I was considered mature for my age in some ways

82. Others see things that I miss, regularly

83. I have a vivid imagination

84. I am a particularly creative person

85. I have facility with numbers

86. I enjoy debate

87. I enjoy organized collections

88. I thrive on challenge

89. I am fascinated with paradox

90. I am often aware of things that others are not

91. I often pursue goals that some people think of as “too high”

92. I find that I race ahead of folks in ways that they deem surprising

93. I have an endless curiosity

94. I have a broad range of emotion, both positive and negative

95. I value authenticity

96. I sometimes laugh at the oddest things

97. Sometimes I anticipate so acutely, that is seems psychic

98. I am interested in strengthening the part of me that is sometimes called a “sixth sense”

99. I have the ability to see through what others consider paradox

100. I tend to go off on tangents

101. I have a heightened ability and appetite for evaluation

102. I have a heightened ability and appetite for synthesis

103. I consider myself an introvert

104. I feel like I have a lot of curiosity

105. I am very sensitive

106. I have a broad sense of humor

107. I try to avoid overwhelming situations

108. People tell me I talk too much

109. I make up my own words to fit what I’m trying to say

110. I speak slowly when stuff is important, and I’m carefully choosing my words

111. When I was a kid, I got in trouble for acting like a know it all

112. I am an excellent problem solver

113. I’ve been known to come up with unique or elegant solutions to problems that have stumped others

114. I use more of my vocabulary than most people I know

115. I prefer life to be complex rather than boring

116. When I’m involved and interested in a project, I can stay at it for great lengths of time

117. I like being a perfectionist

118. I expect excellence from myself when I take on a project or job

119. My compassion leaves me feeling battered by life

120. I’ve always believed that emotions get in the way of accomplishing things as well as I’d like

121. I get into deep conversations with total strangers

122. I would like it if I could be more exact in what I do

123. I have strong moral or philosophical convictions

124. I ask more questions than most people

125. I need much more sleep than most people

126. I have a narrow range of interests, for which I feel compelled to pursue

127. I have too many interests, and feel overwhelmed by them all

128. I read a lot

129. I get tired of people telling me I’m “so different” or “strange”

130. I am always noticing injustices that other people seem to pass right by

131. I am a keen observer

132. I am more energetic than other adults my age

133. I have a nearly perpetual flow of ideas

134. I am driven by my creativity

135. I spend time doing puzzles or quizzes

136. People are uncomfortable with how far I push conversations

137. I need periods of contemplation

138. I want to “get to the hard stuff”

139. I have extraordinary abilities and deficits

140. Life is just so full of interesting things

141. I get unusual ideas

142. I notice patterns and exceptions to patterns—even subtle ones

143. I get bored with repetition

144. People think I am overly emotional

145. I feel more playful than other adults my age seem to be

146. I have had the experience of blushing or getting teary when I didn’t expect to

147. I’ve had experiences that seem psychic to me

148. I recognize psychic ability in others

149. I notice that people are deeply different in so many ways

150. I go so far off on tangents, that sometimes people can’t follow me


Remember, it is not a test.  If you see yourself in this list, you are probably gifted.  If you don’t, you are probably smart (you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t) and likely fit in more comfortably in society than do the gifted.  Be happy.

How Do We Become Impostors? — The Gifted Interior

I once knew a nine year-old boy, let’s call him William, who would excitedly theorize about the evolutionary advantage of imagination, the expansion and contraction of the universe, and the artistic preferences of nature (apparently nature loves symmetry too). The complexity of his thinking would often leave me speechless; William’s thoughts were more sophisticated, sometimes, […]

via How Do We Become Impostors? — The Gifted Interior

Why has the link between the Zika virus and Microcephaly only appeared in Brazil in 2015?

Answer by Tirumalai Kamala:

  • Zika was historically rarely associated with human disease outbreaks, with only one reported cluster of 7 human cases in Indonesia in 1981 (1).
  • Human Zika virus was sporadically isolated in East and West Africa in the absence of epidemics (2, 3, 4).
  • Association between Zika and congenital microcephaly was first observed only in Brazil in October 2015, shortly after the country first confirmed Zika virus cases in May 2015.
  • Subsequently, French Polynesia also reported a similar link (5).
  • Right now, there's a spatio-temporal, not causation, link between Zika and microcephaly cases in Brazil (see figures below from 5) and in French Polynesia.
According to a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Epidemiological Alert issued on 1 Dec, 2015 (6), 'As of 30 November 2015, 1,248 cases (99.7/100,000 live births) of microcephaly, including 7 deaths, have been reported in 14 states of Brazil, which are under investigation (3). In 2000, the prevalence of microcephaly in newborns in Brazil was 5.5 cases/ 100,000 live births and in 2010 it was 5.7 cases / 100,000 live births. This data demonstrates a twentyfold increase in comparison to the rate observed in previous years. The data was obtained from the Live Births Information System (Sinac, per its acronym in Portuguese) which captures epidemiological data related to pregnancy, births and congenital malformation, in addition to the socio-demography of the mothers.' (According to PAHO, Sinac is a universal system, which captures information on births in the entire national territory of Brazil. Available at: DATASUS).
Zika virus outbreaks first began to be reported in Polynesia in 2007.
  • After that original 1981 report (1), Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia (estimated population ~11000) experienced a Zika virus outbreak in 2007 (7, 8), where for the first time using an originally designed PCR to detect it, Zika virus RNA was found in acute phase disease serum samples. A much smaller population, this outbreak reported no spike with congenital microcephaly, an easily identifiable condition. Why? Was it missed or was it absent? Or is it linked to frequency, i.e., more infected people, higher the chances of congenital microcephaly? Not yet known.
  • Compared to the 2007 Micronesian outbreak, a much higher number of people were infected with Zika virus during a 2013 outbreak in French Polynesia, where by week 51, there were a total of 5895 suspected Zika virus cases (9).
  • Recently, French Polynesia also reported a spatio-temporal link between Zika and congenital microcephaly, 'On 24 November 2015, the health authorities of French Polynesia reported an unusual increase of at least 17 cases of central nervous system malformations in foetuses and infants during 2014–2015, coinciding with the Zika outbreaks on the French Polynesian islands. These malformations consisted of 12 foetal cerebral malformations or polymalformative syndromes, including brain lesions, and five infants reported with brainstem dysfunction and absence of swallowing. None of the pregnant women described clinical signs of ZIKV infection, but the four tested were found positive by IgG serology assays for flavivirus, suggesting a possible asymptomatic ZIKV infection. Further serological investigations are ongoing. Based on the temporal correlation of these cases with the Zika epidemic, the health authorities of French Polynesia hypothesise that ZIKV infection may be associated with these abnormalities if mothers are infected during the first or second trimester of pregnancy' (5). Why in 2015 but not in 2013? What's different? Are 2015 Brazilian and French Polynesian Zika virus isolates different from the 2007 Yap State outbreak, different as in greater trans-placental transfer? Not yet known.
Prior to the Brazilian Ministry of Health announcement (10), there's no report in the scientific literature suggesting such a link, only serologic evidence and sporadic virus isolation from humans and mosquitoes in Africa and Asia (see figure below from 11) while the 2007 Micronesian Yap State Zika virus outbreak was the first time it was detected outside Africa and Asia.
In order to conclude that Zika and only Zika caused these cases of congenital microcephaly, investigations need to carefully rule out
  • Other infections, particularly Vertically transmitted infection
  • Genetic risk factors
  • Maternal exposure to toxins/chemicals
  • Maternal consumption of potentially teratogenic drugs
though the last three are unlikely to explain the sudden spike in 2015.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health reported the presence of Zika virus RNA in amniotic fluid samples of two pregnant women with fetal microcephaly in Paraiba state in 2015 (12). This suggests trans-placental Zika virus transfer, bringing us closer to a causal link.
Meantime, as of Dec 2015, Colombia reported averaging >1000 Zika virus cases per week for over a month (13). This may unfortunately mean that 2016 births in Colombia will show if Zika and congenital microcephaly link is generalizable (14). A causal link would be scary since this is a mosquito-borne disease, unlike most vertically transmitted infections, i.e., chances of getting infected are not in the pregnant mother's full control.
1. Olson, J. G., and T. G. Ksiazek. "Zika virus, a cause of fever in Central Java, Indonesia." Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 75.3 (1981): 389-393.
2. Simpson, D. I. H. "Zika virus infection in man." Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 58.4 (1964): 339-348.
3. Moore, D. áL, et al. "Arthropod-borne viral infections of man in Nigeria, 1964-1970." Annals of tropical medicine and parasitology 69.1 (1975): 49-64.
4. Fagbami, A. H. "Zika virus infections in Nigeria: virological and seroepidemiological investigations in Oyo State." Journal of Hygiene 83.02 (1979): 213-219. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/…
5. Microcephaly in Brazil potentially linked to the Zika virus epidemic. European Centre For Disease Prevention And Control, 24 Nov, 2015. http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publica…
6. PAHO Epidemiological Alert, 1 Dec, 2015. http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php…
7. Lanciotti, Robert S., et al. "Genetic and serologic properties of Zika virus associated with an epidemic, Yap State, Micronesia, 2007." Emerging infectious diseases 14.8 (2008): 1232. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/…
8. Duffy, Mark R., et al. "Zika virus outbreak on Yap Island, federated states of Micronesia." New England Journal of Medicine 360.24 (2009): 2536-2543. http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1…
9. Cao-Lormeau, Van-Mai, et al. "Zika virus, French polynesia, South pacific, 2013." Emerging infectious diseases 20.6 (2014): 1085. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/…
10. PAHO Epidemiological Alert, 17 Nov, 2015. http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php…
11. Hayes, Edward B. "Zika virus outside Africa." Emerging infectious diseases 15.9 (2009): 1347. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/…
12. Ministério da Saúde (Brazil). Microcefalia – Ministério da Saúde divulga boletim epidemiológico [Internet]. Brasília: Ministério da Saúde; 2015 [updated 2015 Nov 17; cited 2015 Nov 17]. Available from: Ministério da Saúde divulga boletim epidemiológico
13. Oubreak News Today, Robert Herriman, Dec 19, 2015. Colombia averaging more than 1000 Zika cases weekly for the past month
14. Oubreak News Today, Robert Herriman, Dec 20, 2015. Colombia to look at Zika-microcephaly link
Thanks for the A2A,  Christian Dechery.

Why has the link between the Zika virus and Microcephaly only appeared in Brazil in 2015?

I feel smarter than other people, what should I do?

Answer by Shulamit Widawsky:

I feel taller than other people.  People around me mention how tall I am.
I do not feel uncomfortable about this.  It is simply a fact.
Now, if I was under the impression that somehow, being taller made me more valuable, I'd probably be one of those people who stooped, because I wouldn't want to lord it over others.
But I don't feel that way.
And I don't feel that way about my intellect, either.  It is just part of me, like my curly hair, and tall stature.  It does NOT make me better than others.  It only makes me different.  And we're all different in some way.
Does it mean I have an easier time at certain tasks? Absolutely. But a monkey can climb a tree much better than humans.  Is the monkey more valuable?
Every human being is of equal worth and value.  And we are all different.
Enjoy your intellect, and if you are the type to pay attention to gratitude, be grateful for your gift.
And start looking for the value in people you consider stupid.
But don't "stoop."

I feel smarter than other people, what should I do?

What are some amazing Brain Hacks?

Answer by Shulamit Widawsky:

Turns out, your brain cannot really tell the difference between completely imagining something, and actually experiencing it.
That means, that if you don't have time to practice throwing baskets into the hoop one day, but you usually practice, you can imagine throwing basket after basket, and your brain will actually improve your skills when you get back to the court.
It means, that if you can picture yourself doing something that you are afraid of, you will become less afraid, as if you actually did it for real.
It means, that if you keep thinking that you hate doing a certain thing, or that you don't want to do a certain thing, say, washing the windows, you will convince your brain that this is a task to be avoided.  But if you imagine wanting to wash the windows, over and over in your mind, by the time you get to those windows, you will actually want to wash them…which actually, you really do, because you are so tired of them being dirty.
What you tell your brain, your brain believes.
Tell it you are great.
Don't tell it you are bad.
Imagine the person you want to become, over and over, and you will become it.
Imagine the person you don't want to become, over and over, and you will become that.
This does not work if what you imagine is a final outcome, without imagining what it takes to get there.  For example, imagining yourself wealthy, but not imagining yourself investing or working, will not magically create wealth.  You have to have a plan, and imagine carrying out the plan.  Same for fame. Same for sex. Same for career.

What are some amazing Brain Hacks?

Why does Scalia feel that the same sex marriage ruling is a “threat to democracy”?

Answer by Shulamit Widawsky:

Rather than recognizing the decision as an issue of freedom and equal rights for a set of Americans who have been grievously discriminated against, by not being allowed the right to marriage, Scalia has focused on the fact that until now, this question was handled by legislators at the state level.  Therefore, he is claiming that taking this decision away from legislators proves that such decisions are a threat to democracy.

One is left wondering if he would have said the same, when the court ruled unanimously in 1964 that they did have a right to  enact prohibitions on discrimination (see:  Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964))

Scalia is trying to maintain that prohibiting same sex marriage is a legislative, not discrimination issue.  He is wrong.

Here is an excerpt of a key passage from Scalia’s decion:

I write sepa­rately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy.

The  substance of today’s decree is not of immense per­sonal importance to  me. The law can recognize as mar­riage whatever sexual attachments and  living arrange­ments it wishes, and can accord them favorable civil  consequences, from tax treatment to rights of inheritance.

Those  civil consequences—and the public approval that conferring the name of  marriage evidences—can perhaps have adverse social effects, but no more  adverse than the effects of many other controversial laws. So it is not  of special importance to me what the law says about mar­riage. It is of  overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s  decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans  coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.  The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact—and the  furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to  create “liberties” that the Consti­tution and its Amendments neglect to  mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected  commit­tee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extrav­agant  praise of liberty, robs the People of the most im­portant liberty they  asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of  1776: the freedom to govern themselves.

Why does Scalia feel that the same sex marriage ruling is a “threat to democracy”?

Question posted on Quora.com 6/26/2015

What’s the best way to learn something?

Love this.  Goes for writing, too.  Turn out work, turn out lots of it.  Most of it will be crap.  But the more you complete, the more you find what you like and what you don't, and you will eventually turn out good stuff.

Answer by Eric Scott:

An old teacher of mine told me a story that stuck with me the rest of my life:

A pottery teacher split her class into two halves. 

To the first half she said, "You will spend the semester studying pottery, planning, designing, and creating your perfect pot.  At the end of the semester, there will be a competition to see whose pot is the best".

To the other half she said, "You will spend your semester making lots of pots.  Your grade will be based on the number of completed pots you finish.  At the end of the semester, you'll also have the opportunity to enter your best pot into a competition."

The first half of the class threw themselves into their research, planning, and design.  Then they set about creating their one, perfect pot for the competition.

The second half of the class immediately grabbed fistfulls of clay and started churning out pots.  They made big ones, small ones, simple ones, and intricate ones.  Their muscles ached for weeks as they gained the strength needed to throw so many pots.

At the end of class, both halves were invited to enter their most perfect pot into the competition.  Once the votes were counted, all of the best pots came from the students that were tasked with quantity.  The practice they gained made them significantly better potters than the planners on a quest for a single, perfect pot.

In life, the best way to learn a skill, is to make a lot of pots.

Update:  It seems we've found the origin of the story…maybe.  A very similar story was found in Art & Fear as well as a mention in The Millionaire Real Estate Agent.  Thanks Kelly Drill!

What's the best way to learn something?

What is the point of living an unexceptional life?

Answer by Eivind Kjørstad:

I live an entirely unexceptional life. Listen.

I'm a pretty average-looking 39 year old guy. I've got a decent education, but nothing out of the ordinary. I've got a decent job that I enjoy doing, but it's nothing earth-shaking. I'm married to a woman who means the world to me, but who has not this far won either the Nobel Prize or Miss Universe, nor is she, I reckon, likely to ever do either.

I've got 3 kids. They're healthy and happy child who do fairly decently in school and have several hobbies they love. They mean the world to me too, but this far none of them have won the Nobel Prize either, nor do I have any particular reason to believe that they will.

I've got perhaps a dozen friends that I love, and a larger count of acquaintances of varying closeness. I live in a perfectly ordinary Norwegian house, and drive a 12 year old toyota that hasn't been washed this month.

None of this is exceptional to anyone except for me.

To me; this is my life; and I happen to enjoy it very much. Actually that is an understatement; if you'd told me a couple decades ago that I'd be as happy as I am, I'd have refused point-blank to believe you.

From MY perspective, I've got everything anyone could possible want. Health. Hobbies. Friends. and Love.

I'm not exceptional in any of these things; but why would I need to be ?

The rewards I desire don't seem unreachable to me. On the contrary, I feel like being alive right now, just like this, it is reward enough. What more could I need ?

I'm going to turn off the computer now, then I'm going to find a bottle of wine for when my wife returns later; and spend the 45 minutes until then playing the guitar. I do this because it's fun, because it's challenging, because I love learning and I love music, and because I can.

That's my life. It's not an exceptional one.

But my biggest regret is that I'm unlikely to get much more than 50 additional years of it. I intend to do my very best to enjoy every single day of it though.

What is the point of living an unexceptional life?

“Quoran of the Day” Dec. 10, 2014


Post by Mohan S Nayaka:

Shulamit Widawsky

Shulamit Widawsky is a consulted for the gifted. She writes with grace and expertise in life advice, psychology, religion, medicine, health, among others.
She is also deeply interested in the law, mental health, writing, philosophy, art, and helping run organizations, and associations.*

Selected answers:

* Shulamit Widawsky’s answer to Who is Shulamit  Widawsky?

Shulamit Widawsky was nominated by Tracey Bryan. Thanks, Tracey!

And now for something completely different…


, ,

Yes, every child is a gift. But no, not every child is gifted.

Maybe it is the word, “gifted” that gets people tied up in knots. But decades of trying to find a better word, has not revealed that perfect term to explain what it means to be a gifted person. Oh, and no, it isn’t only children who are gifted.

In my article, “The Funnel Analogy of Giftedness” I talk about the sensitivities and processing issues that gifted children contend with internally.  It is hard to be a gifted person, and the more gifted a child is, the harder some aspects of childhood are.  Worrying about death when you are three, or being concerned about the government when you are five, is troubling for both child and parent.

It is true that gifted people have abilities that other people don’t. And people who are not gifted often have some pretty impressive abilities, that certainly not all gifted people possess. But there are characteristics of being gifted that simply do not show up in the rest of the population.

This is not to say that being gifted is “better” than not being gifted. It means that just as people who are exceptionally tall, have to work to fit into a world built for average height folks, gifted people have to work to fit into a world built for the majority.

Gifted people are a minority. A sub-culture, if you will. With special needs.

It seems to me, that when most people think of “a gifted child” they imagine a kid who is easy to raise, does well in school, and gets along well with peers. Unfortunately that is often not at all the case. Children with intelligence above average, may fall into that category. But my definition of gifted is not above average but rather, exceptional.

In any society, it is hard to be exceptional. By definition, it means different. The more gifted a person is, the more exceptional they are, the less likely they will find true peers, or fit into regular classrooms.

In my research on assessing early signs of giftedness, parents have written to me some descriptions of their children. Rather than me explaining to you what is so different about these kids, I will share some descriptions with you.

Judge for yourself, if you think these descriptions are remotely “normal” or that “all” children are something like these kids.

She recognized most letters in her puzzle at 14 months, and at 16 months knows all of her letters and most of their sounds (all hard sounds, not really vowel sounds). Yesterday she matched lower case and upper case puzzle letters without help. I showed her this once over a week ago. She’s trying to figure out numbers…spends 20-30 min looking at a number book we have. She makes counting intonations and points at each thing, but doesn’t double tap items like most kids I’ve seen. Her dad is very smart too. (But she also calls all colors besides blue, yellow…so she’s not a complete smarty pants!)

The child described was 16 months old at the time.

She is physically extremely well coordinated. She held her head up at birth, and could stand by holding onto my fingers, at 6 weeks old. She can hold detailed, multi phrase conversations. Having had a conversation about gravity, she will now tell me that gravity makes her balloon fall down. Having been to a museum with some science experiments, she told me that when the balloon burst it didn’t make any noise because it was in a vacuum. If I forget to brush her teeth, she reminds me that we need to because otherwise the bacteria will make her teeth fall out.

This child was 2 years, 8 months old when the mother wrote this description.

He appears to be stuck in a kindergarten class where they are teaching letters, colors and shapes. They think studying the calendar is math. He is probably reading on a 2nd grade level, and already doing double-digit addition.

This mother clearly did not realize what is standard for kindergarten. Her child was 5 and a half years old.

She learned to name pictures on flashcards at almost 7 months, she learned her colors, shapes, and alphabet at 18 months, can memorize bible verses at 20 months, and phonics at 2 years old. She reasons well, corrects adult basic grammar like, likes to ask about things in her human body book, like heart, kidneys, liver, etc. Extremely sharp memory, can construct sentences with correct grammar, can rephrase a sentence and not lose the main thought or idea, can repeat instructions back to me, and can follow a series of instructions.

This child was not quite 3 years old when her mother wrote this. Note that the mother mentions naming the pictures on the flashcards. That means the girl was speaking all those words at 7 months old.

She read more than 800 words by 12 months old, count one to one up to 20 at 17 months old, up to 100 by 18 months old, read any words including names at 17 months old. At 2 years and 11 months old – her reading level was tested at the 5th grade, and 6 months later, nursery teachers told us that she reads beyond O level [equivalent to U.S. high school sophomore]. Wrote her first story at 3 1/2 years and can cut any materials and shapes with scissors before 4. Fully self-dressed by 2 1/2 years old, including buckling shoes, zip, and buttoning (self-taught). Put on her own socks at 19 months old. She reads by herself an average of 5 hours a day. And reads 250-400 words per minute (Enid Blyton book). Huge knowledge and has read 1000+ elementary school books before 20 months old, and many children’s encyclopedias since then.

This child was 3 years and 11 months old when this mother wrote to me.

He started speaking words at 9 months, read at least 8 words at 18 months, reads and sounds out words currently. Knows countries in the atlas and always wants to know more. His memory is impeccable and remembers things from when he was just over 12 months and could tell you details! Speaks clearly and fluently like 5-7 year old. I am stuck on what else to do with him as don’t want him to know too much above his peers to be bored when he reaches school age– but don’t want to hold him back either. We try to keep him occupied by doing as many extra curricular activities, like dancing and soccer and music.

This child was 36 months (3 years) old when his mother wrote the description.

Do all children have gifts? ARE all children gifts? Certainly.

Are all children gifted? No.  When we assume that all children are gifted, we do the exceptionally gifted children a tremendous disservice when we ignore their needs.

All children have a right to be educated. A gifted child who is sitting in a classroom, being forced to “stay with his or her peers” for some misguided “social reasons” is neither getting educated—because they already know most, if not all, of what the teacher is offering—nor is getting a chance to have a social life, because their age-mates are not their true peers, unless they are in a class filled with children gifted at a similar level to themselves.

Which means that, yes, gifted children really need to be in classes that are for gifted kids. And if those classes do not exist where they live, then they need to be allowed to advance in their grades as their intellectual needs dictate.  Even if they don’t get straight A’s.  Because being gifted does not always mean naturally excelling at school.  There is no benefit to taking a gifted C student out of “the gifted program” to put the kid back in the standard classroom, to continue pulling C’s.  (This happens regularly.)

Will a 5 year old have trouble finding friends in a third grade classroom? Maybe, maybe not. But a 5 year old who is reading at the high school level is not going to find friends in a kindergarten room, either. At least we can allow that child to enjoy learning, if we can’t offer true peers.

Gifted programs are not elitist. They are best-practices education.

Next time I blog about giftedness, I’ll talk about adults who are gifted.


Hoagiesgifted blog hopThis blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”).  To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_the_g_word.htm