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s/o innate abilities, growth mindset, hard work, opportunity, and achievement


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This is a spin-off from this thread, I find the topic intrigues me and I would like to expand the discussion about the ways achievement is impacted by innate ability, mindset, and effort.

 

Thinking about the people I know who have achievement levels that would put them in the top 1% in a given field, I'm pretty sure most of them started out with innate ability in the top 10 or at least top 20%. The violinist who is soloing with the symphony at age 9, the irish dancer who is the youngest of four sisters who are all world championship level dancers and gets a top ten placement in the region less than a year after she starts dancing, the kid doing calculus and enjoying it at age 10...yes, these kids all put in lots of work, but not more work than a great many other kids their age; their results however were exceptional.

 

What about someone who starts out in the bottom quartile in terms of ability--can they ever make it to the top? Top half, probably, with a lot of effort, but that tippy top 1%?

 

And then there are so many other factors. Opportunities and resources, ability to focus and persist, outside support, other life circumstances. Even birth month can play a role. I've seen this happen in the Irish Dance world--competitions age is determined by calendar year, so the kid who turns six in January competes against the kids who won't be six until the end of December. At that age, 11+ months makes a big difference. There are a lot more early birthday kids winning and advancing than there are late birthday kids. Those kids then get moved to the more advanced classes and get more teaching hours and attention, so they progress even faster.

 

I've seen the research on how growth mindset versus fixed mindset affect achievement, and it absolutely makes sense that greater improvements happen when we believe they are possible. At the same time I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that the playing field really never is level from person to person and not all people can achieve all things.

 

I'd be interested to hear the experience and perspective of others.

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I read the book "Outliers: The Story of Success awhile ago and it makes the case that you only need a baseline amount of talent plus 10,000 hours, plus unusual oppurtunities to become an "Outlier"

 

It has some interesting stuff about how having an obvious talent quality at a young age usually opens doors to classes & programs that give/require more instruction and practice time widening the gap and making more of an illusion of being supernaturally talented.  

 

It uses the Canadian Jr Hockey Leagues to show what you are talking about with birth dates.  It is a very interesting read if your interested in this topic.

Edited by rebcoola
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What about someone who starts out in the bottom quartile in terms of ability--can they ever make it to the top? Top half, probably, with a lot of effort, but that tippy top 1%?

It is hard to gauge ability. Also it depends on what cause the inability. For example, I was born with strabismus (cross eye). Vision therapy corrected most of it. However until vision therapy, it would be very hard for me to play tennis but okay for me to play basketball or volleyball. I could pitch a softball/baseball but I can't bat. So reducing the underlying disability has helped me jump in skill level despite little innate talent.

 

My extended family is close to a hundred since my dad is youngest of nine. What I have seen is the cousins who are slower academically managing to score As by putting in more revision hours. But these cousins are not going to be the top of their cohort because they have the 99th percentile people in the same magnet/elite schools. My cousins who were tippy top, they stayed tippy top with little effort.

 

I have tutored kids who were failing math just months before their high school exams. They are not bottom quartile but they are roughly in the 40th percentile in terms of skills because some have really lousy teachers who confuse them further. These kids make a low B through effort. Could they have gotten an A with earlier help, I would say the chance is low unless we are talking years earlier.

 

A friend went to medicine school in Ireland. She said that the A list are mainly the studious folks but the top 3 of the cohort are all talented kids who did little studying outside of class time.

 

There is a gap between the 95th percentile and the 99th percentile. I have seen asynchronous classmates being push to be that 1% for languages, maths and sciences by people who did not understand that gifted in an area does not mean being an As student in every subject. Luckily my school art teacher never pressure us and many of us fail PE because we fail one of the items on the annual PE tests.

 

There might be outliers but in general it is like clombing Mt Everest.

 

ETA:

I have a younger cousin with Down syndrome who is very capable in academic and hands-on. Other than facial features, it is hard to tell he has Down syndrome by ability.

Edited by Arcadia
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At the same time I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that the playing field really never is level from person to person and not all people can achieve all things.

 

 

Definitely.

 

Dweck has written (articles--I hope she writes a new book to address it) about how her popularization of the phrase growth-mindset has led some people to disregard the other factors that contribute to, or diminish chances of, success in a given field.

 

Gladwell's (Macklemores? :laugh: ) 10,000 hours has been roundly criticized. Most thoroughly here.

 

But both of them really did include a lot of exceptions and such in their original books. The problem is that people, being people, latched onto the THING THERE'S JUST THIS ONE THING YOU GUYS! that would lead to success.

 

The fact is that anything existing on a spectrum will fill up the spectrum. The best of the best will still come out ahead, the worst will still round out the tail-end, and the spectrum itself will just move.

 

I think if you can get better at something, and you feel like doing it, you should probably get better at it if you can. If you think you're going to be the champ, raw statistics say otherwise, so gird yourself. And understand that you can't steal from Peter to pay Paul without consequences....iow, if you are spending time (your only currency in life, really) working on one thing, you aren't working on something else. That's FINE, you just need to understand that a bigger gain in one area necessarily means a larger deficit somewhere else.

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Cross posting from the other thread because this one applies more.

 

**************

Here's what I believe:

- talent increases achievement

- effort increases achievement

- interest increases effort, which increases achievement

- access to instruction and opportunities can increase interest and ability to put in effort

 

If you do not have talent ...

Don't expect the high achievement that you see in others who have talent.

You must work harder than others for the same achievement.

It is frustrating to see people with natural talent achieve more when you work harder.

You are more likely to give up, which is okay sometimes but not in others.

If you have interest, you will be more driven to work and can have high achievement.

 

If you have natural talent ...

If you work hard, people will understimate that work, *and* you will underestimate your talent.

If you aren't interested, you can coast by on your talent, and people will think you are wasting your gift.

 

People who say that you can achieve anything if you work hard enough are gravely mistaken.

 

It really sucks when you have no natural talent and no interest in a required subject.

You will not want to put in the effort, and even if you put in the effort, your achievement will be low.

Your teacher/mom will bang her head in frustration and research a thousand programs (unless she gives up).

 

***********

 

 

Additional thoughts ...

 

Effort is controlled by the student. Mom/teacher can only influence it.

 

When students are young, mom/teacher is responsible for providing instruction and opportunities.

(But don't beat yourself up if you can't!)

 

Natural talent is by definition innate -- neither student nor mom/teacher is in control of it.

Moms who expect achievement beyond the limits of the child's talent will be frustrated.

Moms who hope for achievement beyond the limits of the child's talent can push but may be disappointed.

Moms who expect achievement matching the child's talent have the best situation.

Moms who expect achievement less than the child's talent run the risks of shortchanging the kid.

 

The appearance of talent can be created through hard work.

 

Interest can wax and wane.

Interest is affected by achievement, access to opportunities, environment, and peers, which mom can influence.

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Yes, many factors contribute to success in a particular area. A willingness to work hard can go far but it's not everything.

 

The growth mindset is about how certain types of praise can stunt growth and development (because of fear of failure) if the praise attributes success to an innate, nonchangeable character trait instead of something that is changeable.

 

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I find the topic intrigues me and I would like to expand the discussion about the ways achievement is impacted by innate ability, mindset, and effort.

 

 

I'm not sure whether you are interested in keeping the discussion narrowed to personal achievement, or supporting achievement in others? I think this involves some very different skill-sets and parameters.  For example, if I want to set a personal goal and then proceed to achieve this goal, I would know exactly how I'd go about it as I've done it many times and I know what effort and time I'm able to put in to achieve my own goal.

 

On the other hand, if I want to support another person, in setting and achieving a goal for them self, this would require a whole different set of strategies. And to do this when the person is one's child, requires a few different strategies as well.

 

As a general rule, though, goal setting is the first step in achieving anything. Set a concrete, measurable goal. The goal can be as high as one can dream, because even if the specific goal itself isn't actually achieved, the effort and energy put in toward reaching that goal will have value. "Shoot for the moon, and if you miss you will still be in the stars," is a great inspiration for this.  

 

After the goal is defined, then the steps needed to reach this goal need to be detailed. This is where one looks as one's starting situation, and look at what specifically is needed to work toward the goal in terms of training, equipment, environment, coaching/instructing, time and effort. Each person's starting place is unique, so their pathway will be slightly different as well. 

 

Then, the process of working toward the goal is the really exciting part, but also the hardest physically and mentally. One never really knows whether that specific goal is going to actually be achieved as there are so many factors that are out of our control. The wonderful part is that there is always some measurable progress and achievement. As well, there is the lessons learned about how to set goals and work toward achieving things that is invaluable. Setting new goals and working toward them is something that enhances our quality of life and can be done by every single person, no matter what interests, skills or environment they are in.

 

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I think if you can get better at something, and you feel like doing it, you should probably get better at it if you can. If you think you're going to be the champ, raw statistics say otherwise, so gird yourself. And understand that you can't steal from Peter to pay Paul without consequences....iow, if you are spending time (your only currency in life, really) working on one thing, you aren't working on something else. That's FINE, you just need to understand that a bigger gain in one area necessarily means a larger deficit somewhere else.

 

 

This. 

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Setting new goals and working toward them is something that enhances our quality of life and can be done by every single person, no matter what interests, skills or environment they are in.

 

I like your post a lot, you lay out a nice and organized method for setting and following through on goals.

 

I think that will work nicely for people with decent executive function abilities. It looks awfully awfully overwhelming to me.

 

I'm not criticizing the method at all, just once again bumping up against my own limitations.

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I think that will work nicely for people with decent executive function abilities. It looks awfully awfully overwhelming to me.

 

Post-its and a yearly planner helped my dad a lot before the era of electronic organizers. Having a Gantt chart for projects help my engineers in planning when I was in project management. Having all my kids schedule on my phone's calendar help me keep track of when their B&M classes is having term  breaks and when tuition fees are due.

 

I had a Filofax, then a Palm Pilot, Sony Clie and now my iPhone to help me in all those executive function tasks. It would have been exhausting otherwise for me.

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Post-its and a yearly planner helped my dad a lot before the era of electronic organizers. Having a Gantt chart for projects help my engineers in planning when I was in project management. Having all my kids schedule on my phone's calendar help me keep track of when their B&M classes is having term  breaks and when tuition fees are due.

 

I had a Filofax, then a Palm Pilot, Sony Clie and now my iPhone to help me in all those executive function tasks. It would have been exhausting otherwise for me.

And let's not forget secretaries, back in the day!

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Some more random thoughts on the topic of motivation ...

 

My DDs' piano teacher has two sayings:

"Reach for the moon, even if you don't reach it, you'll still land among the stars." and

"Goals are stars to guide us, not sticks to beat us."

 

Unfortunately, no matter how many times she says them, neither has changed DD's mindset.

DD still shuts down if someone sets high goals for her. (Not necessarily at the time because

she wants to please her teacher, but later when it is time to actually put in the effort.)

 

While I liked the idea of praising a growth mindset when I first heard of it, I now believe that it is overrated.

 

What helps DD in areas where she lacks talent? Specific instruction. Do this. This is how it works.

Don't do that. She doesn't always accept the instruction or follow directions, but when she does

she achieves more than she believed that she could.

 

***

 

All effort is not equal. The right sort of effort is important.

 

DD puts in a huge amount of effort into her math lessons.

However, too often it is the wrong sort of effort.

 

When I was into quilting, the number of years of experience of a quilter had no impact

on the quality of her quilts. A lady with 15 years of experience might really have one year

of experience repeated 15 times. A lady with 5 years of experience that built on each other

could do more.

 

***

 

Strangely enough, for me, *low* goals for myself lead to greater happiness overall,

and much higher achievement in select areas.

I am willing to try because I don't get anxious about failure.

I don't feel pressured to achieve more, so I am willing to try more (often keeping it a secret, even from myself).

 

***

 

Sorry for the choppy writing. It takes me a long time to make fluent prose.

Also my keyboard is acting up and has trouble typing the letter "u."

Oh, and I'm also trying to cook supper. ;-)

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I can only talk about this in terms of writing. 

 

Absolutely not. You cannot make it to the tippy top - heck, even to the top quartile - without talent. 

 

Hard graft MUST be added to that talent. But without that spark, that innate ability ? You'll improve with work. You may meet and exceed your own goals. 

You may even have success in your field.

 

But when the talent is missing, it's missing. You can see it. First sentence, first line. You can see who is a worker and who is gifted. 

 

You can hear who has it. It just is. It's inborn. Useless, without work, of course.  But there's something...

 

Interesting thought, but it didn't necessarily help individuals who did have the spark in their own life-time but it wasn't recognized (i.e., Bach, Touring), nor is it that helpful to most people who just what to work toward achieving a modest level of success in their area of interest. Are you trying to put off people trying to write? How will most people learn whether they have "talent" in writing or not unless they try, and learn, and try some more? 

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I feel like deconstructing the appropriate way to praise others doesn't really do anyone any favors. I think we don't have as much influence on others as we usually think we do (yeah--even our kids) but we should default to being kind and helpful whenever there's no good reason to be otherwise (for example, a coach telling a kid to do something is more appropriate than a rando parent in the stands at a little league game).

 

At the same time, I think we, when grown, attribute more of the things in ourselves to others than is actually on them.

 

It's a delicate dance. I know someone who went through a phase of being practically obsessed with growth mindset. "praise the effort not the person praise the effort not the outcome. Praise the effort not the talent"

 

Thanks but no thanks. If I want to say I like your face or your poem or your ability to handle your kid's tantrum or anything else, I'm going to say so. If that brings up some issue you have with praise because of how your mom talked to you (or whatever) I could not have possibly predicted that, and I guarantee you someone else has the exact opposite problem.

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I know a musician who didn't have a lot of that natural spark. She worked hard and developed a lot of technical ability, but was never the one chosen for major solos. Music was what she loved though, and she stuck with it--through college, through grad school, and into a career. She is a very, very good musician, one of the few who become professionals. She is an excellent teacher. What she is not is a great soloist. Probably that was never in her reach, but does that matter? Recognizing that some people have more of something--a way with words, a feel for musicality, an eye for color, a natural grasp of abstract mathematical concepts--doesn't mean no one else should pursue writing, or music, or art, or math. 

Edited by maize
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 Are you trying to put off people trying to write? How will most people learn whether they have "talent" in writing or not unless they try, and learn, and try some more? 

 

What does it matter if someone has "talent" as a writer or not? Most people can learn to be competent writers and it would be more convenient if they were than if they weren't.

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I think that in addition to talent, hard work and attitude, there is a good deal of blind luck involved. I have often wondered how many potentially great individuals never got to shine their light on the world just because they were born in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and to the wrong parents. I'm not trying to be overly gloomy with the 'what ifs', but it's interesting to think about. Conversely, how many people enjoyed outstanding success because they happened to be in the right place at the right time, with the right resources, family /contacts. 

 

As far as the OP goes, it's probably impossible to calculate anything with precision, and it may depend on the field of achievement you're talking about as well. I would hazard a guess that in most if not all areas, you cannot reach the elite level without some natural ability, as well as a high level of drive and the willingness to forgo some other things in life in pursuit of one's goals. But for most of us mere mortals, the take home point is appropriate management of expectations. It's good news that (A) most people can become reasonably competent at piano, chess, tennis or whatever if we commit some serious effort to gaining that competence; and (B) most of us can get plenty of satisfaction out of becoming competent, and not lose sleep over that fact that we didn't reach elite standard.

But I'm not sold on the idea of telling kids that they can be anything. The fact is that my kids aren't going to be pope or a president, a princess or a rock star, an astronaut or an olympic gymnast, so I fail to see how telling them they can be these things is going to be helpful for them.

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At the same time, I think we, when grown, attribute more of the things in ourselves to others than is actually on them.

 

.

I think there is a natural human tendency to pass the buck. That is true.

 

I also agree that with the luck of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right resources as mentioned also makes a difference.

 

Life is not fair by any means but we do what we can with what we have. There isn't really any other option other than moaning about things which is time and energy that could be used doing the former.

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I think that in addition to talent, hard work and attitude, there is a good deal of blind luck involved. I have often wondered how many potentially great individuals never got to shine their light on the world just because they were born in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and to the wrong parents. I'm not trying to be overly gloomy with the 'what ifs', but it's interesting to think about. Conversely, how many people enjoyed outstanding success because they happened to be in the right place at the right time, with the right resources, family /contacts. 

 

:iagree:

 

Having taught literally thousands of teens over the past 16 years, it's not difficult to see who has academic or reasoning talent and who doesn't. There's a difference in how their brain grasps things and what they can do with what they've learned.  However, whether they reach levels they ought to reach depends so much on both family and work ethic.

 

Not too long ago someone was posting that adoption is generally bad.  I can say there are oodles of cases where I wish students had been adopted by a better family in order to have a chance to reach their potential.  How much kids are exposed to in their younger years (words spoken, books available, good/bad experiences) means so much later on.  I often wonder what some kids could have done.  They're in low level classes, but the ability is noticeably there.  Then I'll also wonder about those without ability - could they have done better with more learning opportunities earlier?  We'll never know.

 

Work ethic means a ton too.  Kids with talent don't need to put in much work, but if they put in some, they can truly shine vs staying with the masses or slightly above the masses.  Many times they don't due to peer pressure or not having the desire.

 

When it comes down to it, it's usually far more enjoyable for me to work with someone who has decent work ethic over someone who just has talent.

 

One other thing that came up in our (family) discussion yesterday is how much language can misclassify students.  We have several immigrant children placed in our lower level classes merely because they are learning English.  It annoys me when this happens.  Some of them are very intelligent and they're not only bored being taught at a 8th (or 4th) grade level (in high school), they aren't learning as much as they could know heading out into the world.  Their life gets hindered needlessly.  I also know some adults who were higher caliber workers/jobs in their home countries, but coming here and not knowing the language (enough) tends to have them starting in low level basic jobs.  Then people assume they aren't capable of more.  What a waste.  Our discussion had us brainstorming if there was a better way (at school) and a personal reminder to all of us not to follow in that trap.

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One other thing that came up in our (family) discussion yesterday is how much language can misclassify students. We have several immigrant children placed in our lower level classes merely because they are learning English. It annoys me when this happens. Some of them are very intelligent and they're not only bored being taught at a 8th (or 4th) grade level (in high school), they aren't learning as much as they could know heading out into the world. Their life gets hindered needlessly. I also know some adults who were higher caliber workers/jobs in their home countries, but coming here and not knowing the language (enough) tends to have them starting in low level basic jobs. Then people assume they aren't capable of more. What a waste. Our discussion had us brainstorming if there was a better way (at school) and a personal reminder to all of us not to follow in that trap.

My home country has a memorandum of understanding with another country. The other country's scholars spend 6 months (8hrs daily) on intensive English lessons from the ground up. After 6 months, they were comfortable enough to have little problem with their undergrad studies.

 

I was waiting at a community college last summer while kids were at camp nearby. There were foreign students here on ESL programs for the summer. Three months of summer intensive can bump someone from zero ability to decent reading, writing, speech.

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I was mulling over why I I care how talent, mindset, hard work, and other factors affect achievement.

 

I care because I want to know what I should do to both help my kids achieve and promote overall household happiness.

 

********

 

If my child works hard ...

I should praise that hard work, regardless of the actual achievement.

 

If my child is talented and works hard ...

We are both blessed.

It doesn't matter if she has a fixed or growth mindset as long as she keeps working.

I should support my child (within reason) with opportunities, instruction (if desired), and time.

I should let my child attempt hard things, even if she fails spectacularly; she will probably learn from it anyway.

I should recognize the talent as well as praise hard work.

 

If my child is talented, but lacks effort ...

The child might have a fixed mindset, or she might simply be uninterested.

If she has a fixed mindset, I can insist on a minimum amount of work or

achievement to promote a growth mindset.

If she is uninterested, I can provide opportunities or seek out peers

for my child in order to spark interest.

 

If my child is not talented, but works hard ...

She already has a growth mindset.

She will have an uphill battle, but can still achieve great things if she maintains that growth mindset.

I should support my child (within reason) with opportunities, instruction (if desired), and time.

 

If my child is not talented and lacks effort ...

The child probably has a fixed mindset, lacks interest, or both.

That mindset probably won't change until after the child puts in the

hard work and see the achievement several times.

Both my child and I will have to put in lots of hard work.

I should aim for consistent effort and hope for incremental improvement.

I should set my child up for success--don't require her to do something too hard.

I should watch out for and guard against mistakes that will lead to wasted effort.

I should put in *extra* praise for any correct hard work.

If the subject isn't required, I should drop it.

 

***

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And then there are so many other factors. Opportunities and resources, ability to focus and persist, outside support, other life circumstances. Even birth month can play a role. ... There are a lot more early birthday kids winning and advancing than there are late birthday kids. Those kids then get moved to the more advanced classes and get more teaching hours and attention, so they progress even faster.

Yes, there are so many factors, and each factor has its own continuum.

 

At my daughters' ballet studio there is a huge range of ability at each level.

Advancement is based on ability, not age.

 

At the lower and middle levels, the youngest tend to be very good. Talent matters.

 

At the lower levels, the oldest tend to be very good. Maturity matters.

 

Girls who recently transferred from a particular studio tend to be placed at a

level lower than girls the same age who have trained exclusively at our

studio, even though they started at the same age. Quality of instruction matters.

 

At the lower and middle levels, the girls who take the recommended number of

hours with good attendance usually advance, even if they have only moderate talent.

Hard work matters.

 

Girls who take only the minimum number of hours and have spotty attendance

are less likely to advance. Lack of hard work matters.

 

Kids who remain in the middle levels for several years usually quit, even

if they were very committed before.

Lack of talent matters. Actual achievement affects interest and motivation.

 

At the upper levels, the best dancers tend to be the same ones

year after year. Talent matters.

 

At the upper levels, *all* the dancers put in a lot of work. Hard work matters.

 

Some girls who dance well enough to be at the top level remain at middle levels

anyway. They might not be interested in the commitment the higher level requires.

They might not be able to put in the extra hours of dance because school is hard.

They might not be able to afford the extra cost.

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What happens in youth matters, early ages on.  If anyone is looking for a good read about brain development (esp teens) and good changes that can be made, this book is easy to read and quite good:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Change-Your-Brain-Life-Before/dp/0373892926

 

FWIW, I have no financial ties to the book in any way.  The book has been great at getting my teens/young twenties to make significant changes in their lives on their own.  I wish I'd found it earlier.  It'd have made my job a bit easier!

 

I wish I could make it required reading at school...

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 No, I'm not trying to put anyone off anything.

 

What an odd thing to suggest!

 

I'm just musing on the OP's question. 

 

People are free to write to their heart's content without my say so. I'm just a random mom on the internet :)

 

Well I found if extremely off-putting, considering that this forum is filled with parents wanting to teach their children to become the best they can be. To read that some believe a writer will only reach the top quartile if they have some magical seed of talent, is pretty unmotivating to the general population. Supposedly you are able to recognize this talent, do you then guide your children away from writing because they don't have "talent?" 

 

The fact is that people are "breaking the rules" and succeeding in ways and means all over the world and in every single discipline. 

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this forum is filled with parents wanting to teach their children to become the best they can be. To read that some believe a writer will only reach the top quartile if they have some magical seed of talent, is pretty unmotivating to the general population.

 

The best most ppl can be is NOT the top quartile. To BE the best, one necessarily leaves everyone else in the dust.

 

To the bolded, is it really though? Are you only motivated to cook by being the BEST EVER? Are you only motivated to balance your checkbook (copyright vintage reference lol) because you're a mathlete camp? Do you only brush your hair because your hair is going to be in a Vidal Sason commercial? Do you only try to be a good Ma because you're going to live up to that World's Best Mom mug?

 

Most of us are not going to be amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing at anything. That fact does not render everything pointless, and ppl still manage to work up an interest and dedication to things every now and then, ykwim?

 

 

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Actually, I am good at recognizing which young writers have 'the spark'.

 

When I work with young people who don't have 'the spark' we work on becoming competent writers and communicators, which is a goal most of us can meet and will find useful in our lives.

 

It is a fact of life that most of us will not become award winning poets, or prima ballerinas, or Nobel prize winning scientists. Should that stop us writing poems, dancing or learning about science ? Obviously not.

 

But it's patently ridiculous to suggest that hard work and education can make a brilliant writer, without talent also being present. 

 

I don't know what rules have to do with it. Great writers know all the rules. They know the rules inside out and back to front. Then they break them if the work requires it.

 

Whatever 'breaking rules' means it doesn't lead to genius in and of itself. 

 

I think your animus is entirely misplaced here. I have one child with the 'spark', i have one who is 'merely' a very good communicator and I have one who struggles with the written word.

 

it hasn't stopped me teaching all three of them to write! But it also doesn't stop me from recognizing that it's the one with the spark who has the capacity to take it to the next level.

 

I would be 100% lying to you if I said that any child, no matter their innate ability, can - with a superior education and hard work - be an elite writer. Why would you want to hear a lie ?

 

:iagree: Writing is not my forte compared to other subjects, but what you state works for other subjects (and non-academic things) too.  Merely liking your post was not enough...

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My older son is at the tippy top in mathematics. Top 10 in NZ, top 50 in Australia, and top 100 in UK, and this is for all high school aged kids and my kid is 15.  We have had many a long talk about how he has gotten to where he is and how he will move further along.  I agree with Sadie, that without innate talent, he could not be where he is now; but he also works on average 4 hours a day for 46 weeks a year. And last year there was a 3 week period where he had to do 50 hours of maths per week.  Yes, 50! So in those three weeks, he did as much maths as many kids do in a year. So hard work is definitely a HUGE part of his success. How good at math would any kid be with 4 hours a day 46 weeks a year?  That is just a LOT of math! 

 

Because of all this hard work, he does not like to acknowledge that innate talent is a part of the equation.  But he has finally decided that he is probably 1 in 100 for innate math talent and 1 in 100 for the ability to focus (any 14 year old who can do 50 hours of theoretical maths in a week has got to have a pretty unusual ability to focus).  So by his calculations that makes him a 1 in 10,000 as a starting point.  I found it kind of interesting that he matches focus as equally important to innate math talent.  

 

But what else besides innate math talent and hard work  has allowed him to achieve in this way?

 

1) The love of math.  He has always loved it.  And this is not because he is good at it.  Until he was 11, he was *convinced* that he was bad at math.  Every. single. day was a struggle.  Math was hard hard hard.  And he failed all the time.  Now, this was because he was doing AoPS intro algebra at age 9, refusing any and all help, but he did not see it that way.  He loved math even though in his eyes he was bad at it, and I'm guessing that this would be surprising for many people.  I think that a lot of people think that kids do more of their passion because they find success which is motivating, but this was NOT true for my ds until he was 11. He did math for the pure joy not because of any success, because in his eyes he had none. 

 

2) Good teachers/resources.  AoPS and me.  I was never allowed to help him until about the age of 12 (this was a rule in his eyes.  Teaching was cheating.  He HAD to do it himself), but I was able to do a year of olympiad math prep with him that got him into the camp the first year.  Now, I will admit that it completely destroyed me for a full year -- I was completely burned out, but in contrast to many parents, I *could* at least get him that far.  Starting at age 13, he has been on his own.

 

3) Luck.  Hearing about AoPS through these boards when I am in NZ, learning about the IMO (international math olympiad) through Kathy in Richmond at just the right time, having the money to be able to afford these things, having the desire to homeschool which allowed him time to focus on math.  I could go on and on.  

 

4) Personality.  This boy is stubborn.  Any kid who is willing to spend 21 HOURS on a single problem and still get in wrong, has got to be bullheaded.  Willing to fail.  My son has failed more math exams than he has passed.  I will say it again, failed MORE than he has passed.  In fact, he has failed some quite spectacularly, getting a 1 out of 60 on the BMO the first time he took it.  But somehow, all this failure does not put him down.  I don't understand it.  Clearly, personality is very important.

 

So what would help him to be even better?

 

1) mentors/teachers. AoPS is great, but someone in person would be even better.  I can understand why parents move to support their olympic athelete children.  If my ds went to Exeter, he would be much further along.  But we are not willing.

 

2) More innate math talent.  My ds might be 1 in 100, or more likely 1 in 500; but he is not a 1 in a million kid.  The kids who earn gold medals at the IMO have everything my ds has PLUS more talent.  And that's ok.  I've told him to never expect to be the best at anything -- there will ALWAYS be someone better, even when you are at the top.

 

+++++

 

On the other side, I'm a tutor and have remediated a student this year from 6th grade math to Algebra 2 in a single school year.  When I started with him last November he did not know that 1/10=0.1 or that 2/4=1/2.  And now he will be starting in on Algebra 2 which includes some basic preCalc.  Could he work hard enough to be like my son, no.  No, he could never do what my ds can do in theoretical math.  As a math tutor, I can tell how their brain works and no, it is not possible.  But 5 years of work in a single year?!?!  Wow.  He is now on the path to use math as a tool in his work, and I do think he could work up to being an engineer if he desires it.  Part of what I do with these kids is change their attitudes about themselves.  And I'm very good at what I do. (-:

 

Ruth in NZ

Edited by lewelma
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The best most ppl can be is NOT the top quartile. To BE the best, one necessarily leaves everyone else in the dust.

 

To the bolded, is it really though? Are you only motivated to cook by being the BEST EVER? Are you only motivated to balance your checkbook (copyright vintage reference lol) because you're a mathlete camp? Do you only brush your hair because your hair is going to be in a Vidal Sason commercial? Do you only try to be a good Ma because you're going to live up to that World's Best Mom mug?

 

Most of us are not going to be amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing at anything. That fact does not render everything pointless, and ppl still manage to work up an interest and dedication to things every now and then, ykwim?

 

Thank you for posting this.  Even though I know you're right, I fall into this kind of thinking sometimes - that if I can't be the best, why bother.  I don't know why I'm prone to that.  Thank you.

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Well I found if extremely off-putting, considering that this forum is filled with parents wanting to teach their children to become the best they can be.

The best THEY can be is a very good way of putting it. There can only be a few olympic gold medalists but that won't stop most people from encouraging their child to do their best at a specific sport.

 

I want my daughter to be the best she can be on her harp so that she can bless those around her not so she will win a competition. If she isn't in the top quarter of players but is making others lives better than I think we will both be happy. Maybe she will play at hospitals or weddings but it will enrich people's lives of that I'm sure.

 

My son will never be an author bar a miracle but I hope he can explain what he is thinking clear enough to be a team member and active citizen. I hope that he can be the best he can be. I could care less if he is in the top quartile just that he can get his point across.

 

100% of people will never make it to above average by definition.

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Actually, I am good at recognizing which young writers have 'the spark'.

 

When I work with young people who don't have 'the spark' we work on becoming competent writers and communicators, which is a goal most of us can meet and will find useful in our lives.

 

It is a fact of life that most of us will not become award winning poets, or prima ballerinas, or Nobel prize winning scientists. Should that stop us writing poems, dancing or learning about science ? Obviously not.

 

But it's patently ridiculous to suggest that hard work and education can make a brilliant writer, without talent also being present. 

 

I don't know what rules have to do with it. Great writers know all the rules. They know the rules inside out and back to front. Then they break them if the work requires it.

 

Whatever 'breaking rules' means it doesn't lead to genius in and of itself. 

 

I think your animus is entirely misplaced here. I have one child with the 'spark', i have one who is 'merely' a very good communicator and I have one who struggles with the written word.

 

it hasn't stopped me teaching all three of them to write! But it also doesn't stop me from recognizing that it's the one with the spark who has the capacity to take it to the next level.

 

I would be 100% lying to you if I said that any child, no matter their innate ability, can - with a superior education and hard work - be an elite writer. Why would you want to hear a lie ?

:iagree:   I teach writing as well. Most people can become competent writers, and some people can become stellar writers. For this reason, I coach each student as much as the student can bear. (In other words, I teach to the level the student can rise to without allowing stress or an inappropriate workload to stifle what they can do.)

 

The fact is that some students have a special spark and some do not. My daughter has a spark for languages. They come easily to her. My son, on the other hand, has a clear spark for math. He speaks math like most of us speak English. Both have to learn math, and both must learn Spanish. The way they approach these disciplines is different. They both needed different kinds of support. For example, both needed a math tutor. For dd, the tutor was to help her understand concepts that she could not intuitively understand. For ds, the math tutor is to support the heights to which he can soar, heights I cannot facilitate because math is not easy for me.

 

As a teacher with years of experience teaching writing, I agree with Sadie. We teach all to rise to a level of competence, and many can rise much further with work and effort. But there are some who have a spark that is special. It is fair to them to recognize the spark, to fan the flame. Saying they are no different than other writers who work hard would be dishonest.

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In terms of music, without that innate sense of musicality, no...you cannot be in that top 1%.

 

It takes raw talent, the desire to achieve, and the drive to put the work in, the ability to ignore some of the things in life that others value...and yeah, a stroke of good luck or providence.

 

 

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But I'm not sold on the idea of telling kids that they can be anything. The fact is that my kids aren't going to be pope or a president, a princess or a rock star, an astronaut or an olympic gymnast, so I fail to see how telling them they can be these things is going to be helpful for them.

 

Yes, this is the majority thought, to hold others back as not everything is possible for all people. However, there is another school of thought, that has had wonderful success in motivating people to strive to reach goals many believed were impossible, which is to dream big dreams. And if we look into history, and see where this has actually worked, it's a wonder more people don't provide more rather than less encouragement. 

 

Someone is going to be an Olympic gymnast, and an astronaut, and a president, and even a princess. Why not your child? Have you looked into the actual pathways of every astronaut and noticed that there is only one way to become one? That someone from Australia, or Canada, or Norway never could be one? And just because it may not have happened yet, what's to say it can't happen? 

 

My fil was an Olympic coach and motivator for decades (he has passed away now). He motivated others by encouraging them to dream big dreams, and many, many people went on to do just that and achieve amazing results in athletics, as well as numerous other areas. I'm one of them, as well. I was one of the very few Canadians to work in Norway as a sports school teacher. There was no blazed trail to follow on a route to my dream, just a desire. Luckily I didn't listen to the many people who said I wouldn't get a job in my field. 

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I think there is a balance. DD14 is extremely talented in ballet. We are encouraging her to work toward her dream of being a professional dancer. Even though many would say the odds are slim. She has the talent, and she is a hard worker. And she is amazing!

 

My younger daughter took ballet as well and has some ability, due to being flexible. But she also had limitations in her skills and lacked the same natural talent as her older sister. It would have been a disservice for me to encourage her toward a professional dance career, though we encouraged her to take class, work hard, and have fun. We never told her she shouldn't pursue a dance career. She actually quit on her own this last year, which was fine. She now has the time to find something else that she can be passionate about that suits her abilities better.

 

I would not have been as good at ballet at either of them, but I was a talented writer, which is not an area of strength for either of my daughters. I would not encourage them to aim for careers as writers. I could have used some more support of my own dreams as a child, and if I had had some better guidance and support, perhaps I would have reached some of my own goals and dreams.

 

Some people have an extraordinary natural talent that, combined with hard work and needed support from others, helps them reach the pinnacle. There is benefit to everyone in hard work, whether they reach the top or not. There are people who reach the top without hard work or without some kind of support, due to having a huge talent, but I think they are susceptible to fizzling out over the long haul. Some may reach the top who were not the MOST talented, due to working hard and having support. But I don't think people read the top without at least some talent.

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Yes, this is the majority thought, to hold others back as not everything is possible for all people. However, there is another school of thought, that has had wonderful success in motivating people to strive to reach goals many believed were impossible, which is to dream big dreams. And if we look into history, and see where this has actually worked, it's a wonder more people don't provide more rather than less encouragement. 

 

 

 

Literally no one is advocating holding anyone back. Absolutely zero people have suggested people should not dream big dreams, or not work toward big dreams.

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Someone is going to be an Olympic gymnast, and an astronaut, and a president, and even a princess. Why not your child? 

 

 

Why not?  

 

My gymnast doesn't want to practice 6 hrs/day. She loves to practice about an hour daily though.  It's great for her confidence and physical fitness.  She has no desire to go to the Olympics, but she might someday work in a circus through college. Who knows? She wants to learn computer coding too...she wants to make stuff and sell it and make tons of "moola"...she wants to play with her friends for hours on end.  She wants to do many other beneficial things. If she had the desire to be an Olympian, we would explore her options. Short answer. She doesn't want that.

 

 

It's one thing to encourage a child who has that innate ability AND the desire and drive to really compete.  It's a completely different thing to push a child towards Olympics when all they really want to do is flip, have fun, and enjoy the skills as a part of a broad and full life.

 

 

It's downright cruel to encourage a child in an area where they have zero innate ability, no matter the desire. When I was a kid, there was no youtube or fb.  Now, if a child humiliates themselves it is permanently recorded for all history.  But even worse, if you are putting energy towards things that the child is NOT gifted with, you are necessarily ignoring the areas where he could excel.

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Someone is going to be an Olympic gymnast, and an astronaut, and a president, and even a princess. Why not your child? 

 

Because you have to rob Peter to pay Paul. After doing 4 hours of theoretical maths each day, how much intellectual effort do you think he has left for his other subjects?  He has had to quit history and mandarin, and reduce writing and science. By definition, being a specialist means that you are not a generalist. And if you want to compete to be an olympic gymnast, an astronaut, or a president, you have to be a specialist, because everyone you are competing against is.  They have all sacrificed an awful lot to be where they are.  So it is definitely a choice that you should make with your eyes open.  

 

I am a maths tutor and work with a lot of different kinds of kids.  By the time parents are willing to pay for my services, their kids are typically in a pretty bad way.  Sad but true.  I have kids with physical illness, mental illness, learning disabilities, bullies, the bullied, etc.  These kids struggle for many reasons besides learning disabilities. I help them to set small but achievable goals.  At first we don't go for the long term goals because they have been failing for so long that they have pretty paltry goals.  So weekly goals first, then monthly goals.  As they start to achieve success, we talk bigger goals.  And the critical thing I do is teach them *how* to achieve these goals.  We acknowledge their weaknesses and I identify their strengths, and teach them how to use their strengths to overcome their weaknesses. I influence and manipulate them to see themselves differently.  I wrap up their strengths in pretty packages for them to take pride in.  My dyslexic kid has great problem solving skills and is a conceptual learner.  My dyscalculia kid is an insightful learner and a global learner.  My ADD kid is an active learner and uses 3D learning.  I teach them *how* to learn so that they can achieve their goals.   

 

One of my kids was pretty upset when he found out that he would be put back a level in math, so he will only finish 11th grade math by time he graduates.  His goal is to join the army and he has to have 12th grade math.  But I talked to him about how building a strong foundation will get him further in the long run.  That he can still take 12th grade math, just through the correspondence school or the polytechnic after he graduates.  So he enters the army 1 year later than planned, at least his math foundation will be strong enough that he can actually use the math he has learned.  So I sold him on this being the better path, because it is.  

 

My student with dyscalculia wants to be a neurobiologist. This is the student who cannot calculate 10-3 without a tally chart, fractions are incomprehensible, and algebra will always be beyond her .  But she is a brilliant and I mean brilliant writer.  She had a teacher last year suggest to her that she be a science writer.  My student was outraged.  How dare the teacher judge me wanting!  But the teacher was right.  Neurobiology is not in the realm of possibility for this student. So slowly, oh so slowly over the years, I have been influencing her to consider other options. She has so many interests, and so much talent, she just needs to consider jobs that match those two things together. Goals are great, but they need to be realistic to be reached. 

 

Recently, I ran across a triangle about being happy in your work.  You need to like your work, be good at it, and there need to be jobs available.  You really need all three to be happy.  It doesn't work with just 2, try it. My mathy boy has been interested in high energy particle physics, but my research says that CERN is dumping out 100 phds into a world wide market that cannot employ them.  So I have discouraged this goal. Quantum materials is a growing field, why not consider that?  There are just so many paths to success and happiness, why not stack the cards in your favor?  If in the end, he wants to work at CERN, I will support him, but he will go into the field with his eyes open to the upsides and downsides of his choice. 

 

We do not all need to be amaaaazing.  We need to set lofty but realistic goals for our circumstances.  And I think that it is our role as adults to help guide kids in their decision making.

 

Ruth in NZ

Edited by lewelma
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I think that telling kids who don't have talent that they won't achieve

as much as talented kids unless they work harder is being realistic,

not holding them back.

 

I'm not telling my kid to not dream big. I'm telling my kid that she would

have to work *even harder* than more talented people to achieve that

dream. If she isn't willing to put in that hard work, then she isn't going

to achieve that dream, and she needs to know that.

 

When my girls tell me their big dreams, I ask them what they think it will take to get there.

So far, 100% of the time they have decided that they aren't willing to put in the effort.

 

If I had a kid who was very talented and already was putting in the hard work,

I would definately encourage her to dream big.

 

My girls would like to become professional ballerinas. But all of us know that won't

happen. They see the talent and work of the top dancers at our studio. And even most

of them will not make it. On several occasions I wonder if I did my girls a *disservice*

by picking this studio. If they were at a recreational studio, they would probably enjoy

dancing through high school. However, at this studio, they will probably quit before

then because they won't be able to put in the hours required to stay at the same level

as their friends.

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Yes, this is the majority thought, to hold others back as not everything is possible for all people. However, there is another school of thought, that has had wonderful success in motivating people to strive to reach goals many believed were impossible, which is to dream big dreams. And if we look into history, and see where this has actually worked, it's a wonder more people don't provide more rather than less encouragement. 

 

Someone is going to be an Olympic gymnast, and an astronaut, and a president, and even a princess. Why not your child?  

 

Why not?  Because those who will make it both have talent and internal drive.  They rarely need to be pushed.  They pull their parents along for the ride.  And even then, they'd best have a Plan B because only in the movies/books do they always make it to their dream.  In the real world, many things can derail success.

 

Kids who have false ideas about what is likely to happen or who are pushed without that internal drive tend to get super depressed at some point or another.  It can really ruin their lives.  Many regret what they missed.

 

I have three boys.  All are intelligent.  One has the drive to "go big."  The other two are quite happy living more normal (for them) lives.

 

My "go big" guy has wanted to be a doctor since 3rd grade/8 years old.  We didn't discourage him, but we've also never planted any rose colored glass ideas about what getting there or being there entails.  He's now a senior in college (though with one more year to go due to a program he was accepted into).  So far, he's done everything he needs to do to be super competitive for a top med school (and he has his sights set very lofty).  However, our conversations about it here at home have also included a Plan B if what he dreams about doesn't happen and a reminder that we're ok with whatever path he ends up on.

 

We definitely support his dreams, but more importantly, we support him.  We don't push him or put all of our hopes on his making it to The Top.  We also don't tell him to settle for less than he wants.  There's a balance.

 

That's an academic path as that's what he wants and has led us toward, but it's the same for anything really.  He won our state Chess Championship back in his chess-competing days.  His brothers did not.  Oldest should have won a more local regional championship, but the way the competition worked, he lost to a player he beat.  Those things happen.  We supported them all and loved them all the same.

 

There's also no way I'm going to tell other students that if they just put in the work like my "Go Big" guy has done that they will be competitive for either a top med school or the state chess championship.  Some of what he has accomplished has been due to talent.  The driven part just adds the rest.  Without both, it's not happening.

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Funny side note-  My son when he was quite young, say 5 or 6, was watching an Olympic Sport with me and when I tucked him into bed at night he mentioned wanting to get a gold medal in whatever it was, I can't remember.  So I explained in about 15-30 seconds the work involved in making that happen. His response was, "Then I'll go for silver."  :lol:

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Yes, this is the majority thought, to hold others back as not everything is possible for all people. However, there is another school of thought, that has had wonderful success in motivating people to strive to reach goals many believed were impossible, which is to dream big dreams. And if we look into history, and see where this has actually worked, it's a wonder more people don't provide more rather than less encouragement. 

 

Someone is going to be an Olympic gymnast, and an astronaut, and a president, and even a princess. Why not your child? Have you looked into the actual pathways of every astronaut and noticed that there is only one way to become one? That someone from Australia, or Canada, or Norway never could be one? And just because it may not have happened yet, what's to say it can't happen? 

 

My fil was an Olympic coach and motivator for decades (he has passed away now). He motivated others by encouraging them to dream big dreams, and many, many people went on to do just that and achieve amazing results in athletics, as well as numerous other areas. I'm one of them, as well. I was one of the very few Canadians to work in Norway as a sports school teacher. There was no blazed trail to follow on a route to my dream, just a desire. Luckily I didn't listen to the many people who said I wouldn't get a job in my field. 

I think I can see your point here, and I agree to a certain extent. But the fact remains that some things are either totally impossible, or so close to impossible that they are impossible for all practical purposes. Surely there has got to be a point where you gently steer the child toward something different? Because there is always an opportunity cost to be taken into account. Sure, you get those one in a million kids who achieve their dreams against the odds. But the other 999,999 kids will have spent years of time and effort that could have been directed to things that they would have succeeded at.

 

Saying that somebody has to be the Olympic gymnast, therefore why not my child, is even less logical than saying I should buy a lottery ticket because somebody has to win. It's like saying I should buy the ticket, even though there are other people who have thousands of tickets.

 

My 10yo is tall, fat, uncoordinated and has dodgy joints. After five years of gymnastics classes and plenty of hard work, she was still unable to do even a simple handstand properly. At that point, during our regular review of the kids' activities, we told her that she would have to work extremely hard to progress any further with gym, and that even with as much work as possible, she wouldn't necessarily do as well as those kids who have more natural ability and the ideal body type. We suggested that swimming might be a better sport for her, but let her make the final call. She elected to quit gymnastics and start swimming squad. So far she is enjoying it and doing quite well. 

 

IMO being positive but realistic isn't the same thing as holding people back. 

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But what else besides innate math talent and hard work  has allowed him to achieve in this way?

 

1) The love of math.  He has always loved it.  And this is not because he is good at it.  Until he was 11, he was *convinced* that he was bad at math.  Every. single. day was a struggle.  Math was hard hard hard.  And he failed all the time.  Now, this was because he was doing AoPS intro algebra at age 9, refusing any and all help, but he did not see it that way.  He loved math even though in his eyes he was bad at it, and I'm guessing that this would be surprising for many people.  I think that a lot of people think that kids do more of their passion because they find success which is motivating, but this was NOT true for my ds until he was 11. He did math for the pure joy not because of any success, because in his eyes he had none. 

 

2) Good teachers/resources.  AoPS and me.  I was never allowed to help him until about the age of 12 (this was a rule in his eyes.  Teaching was cheating.  He HAD to do it himself), but I was able to do a year of olympiad math prep with him that got him into the camp the first year.  Now, I will admit that it completely destroyed me for a full year -- I was completely burned out, but in contrast to many parents, I *could* at least get him that far.  Starting at age 13, he has been on his own.

 

3) Luck.  Hearing about AoPS through these boards when I am in NZ, learning about the IMO (international math olympiad) through Kathy in Richmond at just the right time, having the money to be able to afford these things, having the desire to homeschool which allowed him time to focus on math.  I could go on and on.  

 

4) Personality.  This boy is stubborn.  Any kid who is willing to spend 21 HOURS on a single problem and still get in wrong, has got to be bullheaded.  Willing to fail.  My son has failed more math exams than he has passed.  I will say it again, failed MORE than he has passed.  In fact, he has failed some quite spectacularly, getting a 1 out of 60 on the BMO the first time he took it.  But somehow, all this failure does not put him down.  I don't understand it.  Clearly, personality is very important.

 

I have spent a lot of time thinking about (and discussing with others) the components of achievement over the years.

 

My dd was born loving music.

 

As a baby, she sang herself to sleep and by her 1st birthday, sang little songs in tune often with made-up words. When she asked to learn violin at 2.5, she had already been listening to music (different genres) daily and her brothers were already learning their instruments of choice, so I found her a violin teacher.

 

From the beginning, she learned quickly. She loved her violin and brought it to me multiple times a day asking to practice. I doubted many 3 year olds were practicing 10-20 min four to five times or more a day. I knew dd had an incredible memory (she had memorized books since she was a year old) plus obviously had a good ear evident in her ability to sing in tune so young. Still, when her first teacher took me aside and told me I needed to find her a better teacher because she had "prodigy potential" I freaked out a little and when I went looking for advice, people on different music forums (and maybe even here) blew me off and told me there was no way to tell at 3.5 years old.

 

DD has the "perfect storm" of innate talent, drive, motivation, opportunity, perseverance, luck, and love of music.

 

When she first heard Irish music at 4yo, she fell in love and informed me she wanted to play "that." She played fiddle everywhere and learned multiple tunes weekly until I found her a teacher. She played along with CDs in the car, played along with CDs and youtube videos she found at home, and begged to attend camps and concerts to learn from and listen to many different musicians.

 

She won her very first competition (in the under 12 age group) at six years old. Her first fiddle teacher suggested we go so she could meet and hear other kids who love fiddle "like she does." We had no idea she would win. She has since won the "world championships" of Irish music a couple times in her age group (music adjudication is subjective, sometimes she wins competitions and sometimes she doesn't but she is always in that group of 3-4 kids at the top). Competitions are not her favorite but a good excuse to travel to Ireland to attend festivals and meet/session with others. She has performed with many of the most well-known professional Irish musicians, released her debut CD to rave reviews in large genre publications, and performs regularly with a number of different groups.

 

When people talk about her "gift," I tend to say her drive and self motivation are the gift. Sure, there had to be some innate ability to begin with and maybe that innate ability yielded early/quick success with practice which motivated more practice (chicken or the egg?) but she also had to have the drive to work hard and the focus to practice effectively plus the personality that wants to work hard and enjoys spending hours daily on her craft. I cannot remember a day in the last 10 years when she didn't play her violin/fiddle. She picks it up to play a bit even when sick because she "misses her." I figure she has spent more than 9000 hours playing her violin if I only count lessons (private, group, camps) and practice/rehearsals during the last 10 years. I have no idea how many hours if I counted performances and sessions where she can often play for 3-6+ hours at a time (sometimes staying up to play "one more tune" until the wee hours of the morning).

 

She has also been lucky to be in the right places at the right times to meet certain people or have certain people meet her and she has parents who are willing to sacrifice to give her opportunities…we go to camps and competitions instead of on family vacations, downsized our home a few years ago to afford lessons and travel, and I work part time so I can homeschool her (and ds) allowing time to travel and practice. I think having a mom who works with babies and toddlers might have helped as well because I made practice fun for her when she was little by breaking difficult tasks down and creating different games to help her. We have a motto "You practice to make it easier." (I wonder how helpful Ruth believes as a math tutor she was in nurturing her ds's love of math early on?)

 

DD has been willing to give up other things for her music…"robbing Peter to pay Paul" as Ruth said. She has had to go lighter on her classical music studies (we decided on a teacher who is fun and is not going to try to force her away from Irish music so she can continue studying classical music in a less intense way) and gave up orchestra to give her more time with her Irish music. She spends her weekends traveling for gigs and going to music sessions rather than hanging out at home or with friends. We are trying to figure out how to work high school to cover what she needs/wants to cover but in a way that fits with her practice and travel schedules. I think these teen years will be determine where she goes with her music…if she wants to study music in college or if she decides to study something else in college and play music in her free time.

 

Someone posted a meme on Facebook recently showing an iceberg with the tiny bit people see above the water labelled "success" and the giant part beneath the surface labelled "hard work, late nights, risk, struggles, persistence, action, discipline, courage, doubt, changes, criticism, disappointments, adversity, rejections, sacrifice." It is like that for every child doing [inset activity of choice] at a really high level.

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I just love hearing about your daughter, Donna. She has so much energy and enthusiasm for her music.

 

Interestingly, I did not really have a clue that my ds was special in maths until he was almost 7, and did not know he was *really* special in maths until he was about 12. We were unschoolers way back when, and I never used a math curriculum with my son.  We just played shop, and estimated numbers, and mucked around making up word problems.  It wasn't until he was 6.5 that he sat down and *invented* algebra.  I was like  :huh: and then a bit of  :eek:  and then a bit of  :o .  Clearly, I had no idea the level he was capable of -- truly I was pretty embarrassed to miss it by such a wide margin.  So I bought him a math book that day.  And then another the next week, and then another the following month, until we finally got to an appropriate level as a starting point.

 

But it wasn't until he was 12, just 3 years ago, that I had any idea of where we were headed. My ds is actually an accomplished violinist and we running around doing all these weekly practices, lessons, accompaniment rehearsals, concerts etc.  And we were spending a ton of money.  And one night, the accompanist was talking to my ds about his future music career, and ds turned to me and said "I don't want to be a musician, I want to be a mathematician."  And the accompanist in a very confused voice said "but you are doing everything right for a career in music."  

 

That night my dh and I had a very long talk.  All our time and money were being misdirected.  I had no idea how to encourage a child in mathematics besides buying books.  Over the month as we discussed it and I came here for advice, it became clear that what he needed was mentors, peers, and competitions.  So we spent 9 months redirecting his life. It took some time to work our way out of music commitments, and time to work our way into the mathematics community.  

 

Music will always be one of my son's passions and will give him his humanity, but now our efforts are aligned with his desires.  I'm so glad that he was able to express his desires so clearly all those years ago.  And I am so glad that I took what he said quite seriously. Is that more luck?  or an observant parent?  or just the right comment at the right time?  I don't know.  But in contrast to Donna' experience, our path has been a bit more meandering. 

 

Ruth in NZ

 

 

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Actually, I am good at recognizing which young writers have 'the spark'.

 

When I work with young people who don't have 'the spark' we work on becoming competent writers and communicators, which is a goal most of us can meet and will find useful in our lives.

 

It is a fact of life that most of us will not become award winning poets, or prima ballerinas, or Nobel prize winning scientists. Should that stop us writing poems, dancing or learning about science ? Obviously not.

 

But it's patently ridiculous to suggest that hard work and education can make a brilliant writer, without talent also being present. 

 

I don't know what rules have to do with it. Great writers know all the rules. They know the rules inside out and back to front. Then they break them if the work requires it.

 

Whatever 'breaking rules' means it doesn't lead to genius in and of itself. 

 

I think your animus is entirely misplaced here. I have one child with the 'spark', i have one who is 'merely' a very good communicator and I have one who struggles with the written word.

 

it hasn't stopped me teaching all three of them to write! But it also doesn't stop me from recognizing that it's the one with the spark who has the capacity to take it to the next level.

 

I would be 100% lying to you if I said that any child, no matter their innate ability, can - with a superior education and hard work - be an elite writer. Why would you want to hear a lie ?

 

I think maybe this becomes fraught because "talent" can be big or small, and it depends a bit on the size of your pond.  I think many people consider their kids talented, but they are never going to be in the Olympics or a Nobel laureate.  So how taleneted does someone need to be to follow that talent or be worth the time?

 

I'm not suer its useful, in many cases, even to talk about it.

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I think maybe this becomes fraught because "talent" can be big or small, and it depends a bit on the size of your pond. I think many people consider their kids talented, but they are never going to be in the Olympics or a Nobel laureate. So how taleneted does someone need to be to follow that talent or be worth the time?

 

I'm not suer its useful, in many cases, even to talk about it.

Does it matter how talented one is as long as the person putting in the time and effort enjoys the process? Take music, for example, there are people at all levels of playing pursuing various careers in music. I think you could have difficulty if you do not have a realistic view of where you reasonably "fit" in the spectrum but I think it is worth learning a skill even if it is just something you enjoy.

 

For example, we have a friend who began learning fiddle four years ago in her late 50's. She enjoys learning tunes. She knows she will never a world class performer but she can play along in slow sessions and her goal is to one day be able to play the tunes she knows at regular sessions...an attainable goal for her. No one could say it was not worth it for her to learn to play.

 

 

Edited to correct the autocorrected silliness from typing on iPad.

Edited by Donna
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Does it matter how talented one is as low nag as the person putting in the time and effort enjoys the process? Take music, for example, there are people at all levels of playing pursuing various careers in music. I think you could have difficulty if you do not have a realistic view of where you reasonably "fit" in the spectrum but I think it is worth learning a skill even if it is just something you enjoy.

 

For example, we have a friend who began learning fiddle four years ago in her late 50's. She enjoys learning tunes. She knows she will never a world class performer but she can play along in slow sessions and her goal is to one day be able to play the tunes she knows at regular sessions...an attainable goal for her. No one could say it was not worth it for her to learn to play.

 

That is what I am getting at to some degree when I say, in a lot of cases I'm not sure it matters if someone is talented.  If someone is motivated, or needs to become competent, then talent really isn't a significant issue as far as pursuing the interest.  At some point it will become clear, if it isn't clear at the beginning, that others will go further. 

 

The other possibility happens as well.  I've been considering whether I should send my daughter to some kind of dance or gymnastics class, maybe to study seriously - she seems to have some talent.  However, she also has some talent in music, and we would probably have to drop some of that because of financial and time constraints.  So I find myself asking what the trade-offs are - where would gymnastics take her?  Well, I don't know that I like the idea of her doing serious competitive gymnastics, so I am not so keen to drop music, which I think is a long-term interest, for something that tends to be shorter term and hard on the body.  And while I am less negative to dance, most likely she won't have a career in music or dance, but my observation has been that fewer dancers keep it up as a hobby.  Circus I know she would love, but it is too expensive.

 

I just don't think talent is often the main question.  And perhaps also, it isn't so narrow as people sometimes imagine either.

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