13 April 2010

I need to stop playing so much Minesweeper

Yesterday, on MPR's Midmorning, Kerri Miller interviewed David Shenk, the author of The Genius in All of Us, wherein he argues that our talents and traits aren't as genetically predetermined as we thought. In fact, a lot of science is showing the opposite. Basically, it isn't that someone has a genetic disposition to be a great writer, athlete, musician, photographer, accountant, actor, doctor, etc. Rather, a person's environment and effort (disciplined practice) go a long way in determining their gifts and attributes.

And that goes for physical traits as well. Here's an excerpt from Shenk's book (via NPR):

One of the most striking early hints of the new understanding of development as a dynamic process emerged in 1957 when Stanford School of Medicine researcher William Walter Greulich measured the heights of Japanese children raised in California and compared them to the heights of Japanese children raised in Japan during the same time period. The California-raised kids, with significantly better nourishment and medical care, grew an astonishing five inches taller on average. Same gene pool, different environment — radically different stature.
I'm drawn to this idea, because, well, it's empowering. I have the power to control who I am and what I want to do! Of course, the flip side to the responsibility for success is the responsibility for failure. I can't just look around at the successes of other aspiring writers and brush it off with a "Well, they're just more naturally gifted than I am. Back to Minesweeper and Facebook!"

Here's the audio from the Midmorning interview:

And if you're interested, Shenk has a blog to promote the book.

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