Where do all the Geniuses go?

This is a question that seems to be orbiting in my space. And from very different sources, firstly from a piece of Zen Buddhist writing and then from NASA.

I was inspired to write an earlier blog (To die infinite, click here) which explored the idea that we are born with incredible – almost infinite – opportunity which over the years we chip away at in a quest to develop specialisms and expertise. Coincidentally I was then introduced the work of George Land by my colleagues at Passe-Partout.

Land was initially commissioned by NASA to help identify source and develop the Geniuses of tomorrow for their own future intake. As part of the programme he gave 1,600 four- and five-year-old children a creativity test that he had developed to find innovators for engineering and design positions. The test identified genius level creativity.

The outcome was not exactly expected, so much so that he extended the work for those young people as they grew. Here are the results:
• age 5 98%
• age 10 30%
• age 15 12%
• adults* 2% (*avg. age 31)

What are we doing to ourselves?

We consider the western programme of education and learning to be the pinnacle. Something to aspire and share. Land’s work seems to challenge this idea.
I am often struck in my mindfulness readings how the development of research in Neuroscience seems to be shining new light on the benefits and teachings of Buddhism and Mindful practice. The Dalai Lama is increasingly open to embracing this research, with ex-Scientist Monks such as Mathieu Ricard leading the cross-discipline investigations.

We know that in the first years of life the child undertakes a huge amount of cognitive growth building neural pathways and connections with every experience, so much that they essentially hit capacity – the twos are terrible for a reason. The is then a pruning back, essentially a use-it or lose-it process. This resonates with the patterns above.

We should accept the neural “pruning” as necessary – life would probably be functionally impossible without it – but do we need to keep going!

I think there is something about excessive focus on our heads and what happens there. Once we send our progeny to school we fill them with facts and train them to regurgitate them – often without synthesis or analysis (or at least not beyond received wisdoms).
Somatic coaches help their charges develop full body learning – understanding the effects of the physical AS WELL AS the mental cognition.

Our bodies generate a lot of raw information about our lives and experiences but we often “conditioned” to tune that out in favour of the more mental priorities – given our limited awareness band-width.
Most extremely let us reflect of our opinions of different professions – think of a few – say plumber, footballer, accountant, lawyer, academic. How would you rank them? One thing for sure I am confident you would not cite them as equals.

We generally look down upon physical learning.

If we look at the multiple intelligences hypothesis of Howard Gardner – logical and linguistic learnings are but two of seven. There is more and they are all important yet do we allow them equal rating. Is the physical learning and capabilities of an Olympic gymnast really any less valuable or credible than those of the average PhD student? For most of human evolution I would suggest the Gymnast might have had the upper hand.
Our headspace creates incredible achievements – from medical science to moon-landings – but it is not everything.

I am not saying that we need to rip up the rule book and start again – but we need to consider what we are not doing as well as what we are doing. We need to bring ourselves back into our “whole being” – not just our headspace.

To return to the Zen idea – there is a challenge to reconnect with the infinite – re-find our Genius as perhaps George Land might put it.

My journey of the last few years has enable me to build upon and develop the skills I learned over the last 50 years, and I consider that I have grown in ways that would generally have never happened if I had allowed myself to be limited by my “specialities”.

I believe that we all can reconnect. I believe that we have a choice. Sadly, we are rarely even aware that we have the choice.

I challenge you to stop for 10 minutes – sit and reflect upon that reconnection with the infinite and to once again contact that Genius that was born within you. Just say “hello” for now. Just recognise it is there. One day that Genius might prove of great value to you.


© The Mindful Horse