I tweeted a recent NYTimes opinion piece by David Hambrick and Elizabeth Meinz last week and have been thinking about it since. They suggest that talent matters and has a payoff in education, work, and life.
Yesterday, Jonathan Wai, one of the authors of the study Hambrick and Meinz referred to, responded with an important piece in Psychology Today.
They are correct. In fact, the landmark study they discuss as a central piece of evidence is based onmy master’s thesis work along with work by my colleagues Gregory Park, David Lubinski, and Camilla Benbow from the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth at Vanderbilt University.
However, I think that lost in all this is an opportunity to discuss the importance of striving in addition to talent. The message from Hambrick and Meinz is that if you don’t have much talent then no matter how much you strive you are unlikely to become the very best. The message I want to share here is that no matter how talented you are, you still have to work like mad to become the very best. If you never do much with your talents, then being smart won’t really mean much at all.
Being super smart can be likened to having a giant engine for a brain. The thing is, if you never take the car out of the garage for a spin, you’ll never know what you can really do. And if you really want to achieve, you have to put yourself out there among the very best and learn what it feels like to fail. Then, and only then, will you fully value the moment when you have a success.
Most edreformers are ‘achievement through effort’ adherents. It’s good to see the ‘smarts matter’ folks acknowledge the importance of effort.