Why being talented is Usually a CURSE not a blessing
Do you know who Charles Darwin was?
Sure, 90% of people reading this article know who Charles Darwin was or at least have heard his name more than once.
Now, do you know who Francis Galton was?
Most people have never heard about him so let me tell you something you might like to know.
Both Charles Darwin and Francis Galton were from the same family, sharing the common grandparent, Erasmus Darwin.
As a child, Francis Galton was a super-genius.
Born on 15 February 1822, Galton started reading when he was only 2 years old.
At age 5, Galton knew some Greek, Latin, and long division.
And by the age of six Galton had moved on to adult books.
Imagine a six-year-old reading Shakespeare and quoting poetry when his mates were still learning the alphabet?
That was Francis Galton.
He was a child prodigy with so many talents.
But there was a problem!
Francis Galton couldn’t focus on a single thing.
He was restless and went on to lay his hands on too many things.
Wikipedia calls him a statistician, sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, psychometrician, and maybe a few other things https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Galton
Because Galton’s talented mind was always filled with ideas, he was restless and tried to do too many things.
He did many things but none exceptionally, which is the reason why you probably never heard his name.
Look around you and you’ll see many people like Galton.
They’re smarter than most people.
They have so many ideas because they have a superior mind.
Unfortunately, their mental strength which ought to be an advantage often ends up being a disadvantage which is the reason why many talented people are broke, unsuccessful, and unhappy.
That brings me to the first problem most talented people have which is;
LACK OF FOCUS
In this 2014 study, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25490806/
George Mason University documents what happens to the quality of our works and productivity if we’re not focused.
54 students outlined and wrote three essays using a within-subjects design.
During Condition 1, interruptions occurred while participants were outlining.
During Condition 2, interruptions occurred while they were writing.
No interruptions occurred in Condition 3.
This research suggests that interruptions negatively impact the quality of our work.
This 2013 study by Michigan State University examined a situation in which 300 people performed a sequence-based procedure on a computer and found that interruptions of about three seconds doubled the error rate.
Have a look at this 2009 study which was published by Stanford university https://news.stanford.edu/2009/08/24/multitask-research-study-082409/
About 100 students were taken through a series of three tests and after this, the researchers realized that people who do many things at a time aren’t making as much progress as they want to believe.
They do not pay attention or even control their memory
According to social scientists, it’s impossible to process more than one string of information at a time.
Your brain just can’t do it.
The opposite of this is also true;
You’ll achieve unbelievable results if you can wake up every day of your life to focus on a single thing or a few things.
Think about Charles Darwin.
Later in his life, he admitted, “I’m a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect…. I have no great quickness of apprehension….”
However, even though he wasn’t as talented as his half-cousin, Francis Galton, Charles Darwin focused all his mind and physical energy on a few things.
His Wikipedia page says he was a naturalist, geologist, and biologist, three things that are very similar https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Darwin while Francis Galton was a hundred things https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Galton
The number one problem of extremely talented people is that they have many ideas, many interests, and enough brainpower to pursue all of these at the same time.
You see them all around you!
They start a business and just after 3 months of starting, there are three more business ideas they are willing to pursue.
They think they can start writing three books all at the same time.
They’re good athletes, but since they play piano so well and like physics, why not pursue all these?
At the end of the day, they do many things and excel in none.
There’s a proverb in my country (Nigeria) that says, “Eni to ba le eku meji, ko ni pa kankan”.
He who runs after two rats won’t kill any of them (please read in Yoruba)
In other words, he who focuses on many things won’t achieve anything.
Think about the greatest predators in the animal Kingdom, the Eagles, Lions, or whales.
The strength of these guys lies in their focus.
They all fix their absolute attention on their prey before making move to catch them.
Think about the most successful human in history.
Whether it’s Albert Einstein, Michael Jackson, or Rockefeller.
These individuals won in the game of life not because they’re the most talented people, but because they zoom in on one or a few things and say NO to everything else.
Talking at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference about how to make Apple succeed in 1997, Steve Job said this; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8eP99neOVs
It doesn’t matter how much talent you have, you won’t be successful if you can’t resist the temptation to do many things at a time.
Sit down today and ask yourself; what’s important to me?
What is the thing I’m most passionate about?
If doing two things will kill me, what single thing would I do?
Now invest all your mental and physical energy on that single thing and see how much success you’ll have.
Now let’s look at another strength working as a weakness for many talented people;
Lack of diligence
This study was published in 2014 by Fast Company https://www.fastcompany.com/3039181/why-determination-matters-more-than-smarts-in-getting-ahead
Carol S. Dweck, a leading expert in motivation and professor at Stanford University, and her team experimented on 400 fifth graders from different parts of the United States.
The children were from varied ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
First, participants were given a series of puzzles to test their IQ.
After they finished their test, they were told their score, and the children were praised in different ways.
One group was praised for its intelligence while another group was praised for their effort
The students were then given a choice as to what kind of test they would take next. They could either take one that’s harder than the first, or one that’s just as easy.
A majority of the children who were praised for their intelligence chose to take the easier test, whereas 90% of those praised for their effort chose to tackle the harder puzzles.
Afterward, the researchers gave the students even harder tasks and this is what they found;
The children who believed that they were intelligent weren’t interested in practicing while those who think they’re successful because of hard work keep on enjoying working harder.
This is another curse for the talented people;
Things seem extremely easy for them.
They don’t have to read long hours to pass their exams.
They don’t have to struggle hard to speak a foreign language, none do they have to be persistent in trying to solve common problems in their childhood
Because everything comes easily to them, they never learn how to fight hard, be strong or be persistent so they never have an important ingredient for success; diligence.
Think about Temple Grandin.
She was born on 29 August 1947, but at age 3 In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism.
Having a problem with learning a language, her mother took her to a speech therapist, who miraculously, slowly managed to teach her language.
Despite learning a language, Temple’s future appeared limited especially because her mind works differently from the way school teachers taught.
With her learning disabilities, Temple could only hope for some menial job in the future.
But two activities got her engaged:
One, interacting with animals, and two, building things with her hands.
Temple Grandin loves animals and even became an expert horseback rider.
At the age of 11, while visiting her aunt who had a ranch in Arizona, Temple realized she had an even deeper affection for cattle than other animals.
Through her deep obsession with animals, Temple Grandin spent years and years, persistently studying animals, till she became one of the most popular authorities when it comes to animal behavior.
Temple became a successful animal behaviorist and author of more than 60 scientific papers on animal behavior.
In 2010, Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, named Temple Grandin in the “Heroes” category.
Now, here is the point of this story.
Temple’s childhood disability forced her to stay focused on one thing; her love for animals.
She also had to work hard and be persistent because she didn’t have the mental capacity to do many things
Because she didn’t have many talents, she was forced to learn the value of diligence.
The world is filled with successful people who were just like Temple Grandin, people who have a major disadvantage, people who have little or no talent, and people who were forced by life to focus on a few things because they have no capacity for any other thing.
In his book, “Talent Is never Enough,” John C. Maxwell pointed these out:
More than 50 percent of all CEOs of Fortune 500 companies had C or C averages in college.
Sixty-five percent of all U.S. senators came from the bottom half of their
Seventy-five percent of U.S. presidents were in the Lower-Half Club in school.
More than 50 percent of millionaire entrepreneurs never finished college!
Whether you talk about Leonardo da Vinci who was denied his inheritance because he was born out of wedlock or you talk about Isaac Newton who was abandoned by his mother when he was only 3 years old, or you talk about Andrew Carnegie who had to start working at age 13 because of poverty, history is filled with people who learn focus and diligence because they were put in a tight corner.
Now let me round off this video by saying this;
Talent and giftedness isn’t a bad thing.
It’s a good thing if you’re more intelligent than most people.
But you have to understand these two things;
First, pursuing many rats at a time means you might not kill any of them.
Starting or doing many things because you have many ideas would lead you to excel in nothing
Second, hoping that life should be easy because Mathematics or Physics was easy for you is a trap.
Life is difficult and you can only become successful if you’re willing to fight hard.
An American lawyer and politician who served as the 30th president of the United States from 1923 to 1929, Calvin Coolidge said,
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; There is nothing more common than talented but unsuccessful men. Wisdom will not; wisdom without reward is almost as conventional as a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated bums. Persistence and determination are omnipotent.”
Thanks for reading.