Category Archives: Education

Kathy Kolbe’s blog entries regarding Education

What I know about Being Gifted

Being gifted cognitively does not make you smart. Nor does it give you instinctive problem solving abilities, a better personality or a greater work ethic than others.

“Gifted” is a dumb label for high intelligence. It is a “gift’ that comes with no instructions, and is often like the proverbial “White Elephant.” It can be hard to figure out how to use it.

Being gifted adds to your workload

People with higher IQs often find it hard to use normal solutions.

If you have a high IQ this means:

You have to work hard to figure out how to get along with the majority of people who don’t “get it” as fast as you do.
If you don’t overcome this problem, you will be a terrible teacher/trainer/boss/roommate/team-member/next-door-neighbor.

You have to discover how and why you learn differently, because most teachers will not challenge you sufficiently.
If you don’t figure out that you have to be self-motivated, you’ll simply learn to regurgitate facts and not fulfill your potential as an excellent creative problem solver.

You have to work very hard to communicate the ideas in your head in ways that work for most others.
If you don’t make this happen, you will be frustrated by others not listening to you, or joining you in developing solutions you know are possible.

You have to work hard, some times to avoid the bad behaviors that stem from boredom.
If you don’t self-manage your mind, you will attract attention to yourself for all the wrong reasons.

“Over-achieving” is impossible. “Under-achieving” is a betrayal of possibilities.

Those who have a “gifted” mind do not have the option of re-gifting it. They have the responsibility of using it for good purposes.

Advantages of High Intelligence

Three characteristics, which could be used to define the unique nature of high intelligence are:

1. Ability to Anticipate Actions
2. Ability to Empathize
3. Ability to Manipulate

It’s because they have the first two abilities that gifted people CAN manipulate – for good or for not-so-good. They can to choose how and when to use this attribute.

When someone seems to “know” how you feel, it can be a sign of high IQ. However, do not confuse this with Caring about how you feel, which is, of course, in the affective domain rather than the cognitive.

Those who anticipate a movement in the stock market, or of a bear in the woods, or what will make a tree crash to the ground – are all showing higher degrees of IQ. Whether they act on it is an affective issue. How they act on it depends upon their conative instincts.

Being Gifted is Never the Whole Story

I was told as a child that I was highly gifted – in everything but math. Math turned out to be one of my greatest strengths as a theorist and entrepreneur. The terms “severely dyslexic and dysgraphic” weren’t used yet, so my weird way of reading and writing made some people think I wasn’t trying hard enough. It always took effort to “show them!” that my weird ways worked. It also took effort to prove that a severely gifted girl (born in the late 1930’s) didn’t have to play dumb. Most of all, it has required tons of effort to prove that a highly dyslexic person could play smart.

Effort is as essential for a gifted person as it is for any other person. This is understated in most literature on gifted education. Although I have been a university Adjunct Professor of Gifted Education, published “Resources for the Gifted,” and run programs for gifted youngsters, no amount of reading or discussion among experts in the field ever taught me as much on this subject as my observations and discussion with four generations of gifted family members. There is not a single one among them who has not had to work very hard to overcome challenges and discover their nitch in the world.

It is through interactions with gifted grandchildren, that I believe I have completed my home work. I finally consider myself a bona fide authority on the subject of Being Gifted.



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Power of Resistance

Natural resistances in the way you act, react and interact (in other words, the way you get “Get Conative”) are essential to your being at your best.

  • Trust a conative strength to resist and you will find yourself avoiding problems.
  • Resistances are as necessary to making good decisions as trusting your methods for taking the initiative.
  • Natural resistances have nothing to do with your personality.

A major detriment in our current Good-Job culture is that we over-reward taking initiatives that involve low levels of effort, and under-reward efforts that require a conative resistance. This happens even after a resistance has prevented a nonproductive, even potentially harmful initiative. Who noticed?

Our culture, which notices and praises emotions, often mistakes a constructive resistance with a negative attitude.

What happens when we don’t benefit from the natural counter-balance of our instincts to resist initiatives?

  • Academic programs have too much analysis/paralysis
  •  Large institutions have too much bureaucracy
  •  Innovators sell before they have a reliable product or service (think vaporware)
  •  Physical protectors construct solutions that come with too high a price to be realistic.

Pay attention to how you use your resistant strengths in your conative MO (modes of operation), and pat yourself on the back for having the gumption to do it. You’ll notice how unlikely it is in today’s world that you’ll get praise from others.

Also watch the outcomes. You’ll find they will payoff for you – and that others benefit, too.

If your Kolbe A ™ Index result finds you prevent in a Kolbe Action Mode, here are the possible ways you could prevent problems (you can complete it at

Fact Finder Resist: You solve problems despite a lack of specific information, and cut into complex discussions to clarify issues.

Follow Thru Resist: You work well despite constant interruptions, and mix things up so systems aren’t too boring and repetitious.

Quick Start Resist: You stick with what’s working despite others’ desires for change, and avoid taking unnecessary risks.

Implementor Resist: You are able to make buying decisions despite not being able to see the thing in person, and can imagine what the results will be.

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Conation has It’s Place

Where does conation live?

Conation is within you. It’s not just some knee jerk reaction. Or effort that requires elbow grease. Or thing that’s isolated in your guts. It oozes out of you and bursts forth from every pore. It’s probably in your head. Your brain, specifically. That’s where scientists logically place it, because how else could it inhabit every single thing that you do?

Where do you see it?

I see it in everything I do. It’s like my shadow, yet it precedes me, and roots me as well as trails me.

I especially see it where I live.

  • It’s in the energy of the colors I put on the walls (the more intensity the more it sparks my creativity).
  • It’s in where I put things (neatly, when I’m under stress; all over the place when I’m in my groove).
  • It’s in the number of projects I have out or stuffed in closets (if you can’t seen ’em, I’m in-between ’em).
  • It’s in how healthy my plants look (their wellness shows I’m getting down time)).
  • It’s in the degree of formality with which I set the table (the more of that the less of me).
  • It’s in the compromises I make with my husband (I can’t reach where he put the spices).
  • It’s in the whimsy all around me (don’t expect me to explain).


So how do you move you from a place that is/was you? How do you leave a home that you created, that you made perfect for your conative needs, that brought you and your spouse joy? How do you leave it without leaving a part of you behind? How do you move on?

The house I’m putting behind me is the one that helped us create a nurturing environment for a blended family. It’s the nest into which I brought my newborn grandchildren. Its bedrooms housed their hundreds of sleepovers and many session of Camp Kolbe. Its  Conasium(tm), which I was compelled to build, has a 3/4 size stage, art corner,  technology oozing out of the walls, and natural light from all directions, including overhead.  It has the pond I personally lined with cement and the swiming  pool with the linear waterfall I made so  kids could swim thru it- and they called their ‘carwash’; and a wood burning oven for  individually designed over-the-top pizza creations, and the tree house my son-in-law built around the palm tree because it needed to be left it free to sway.

When I see potential buyers look at all the gardens I created and say “Looks like too much work,” and just look, not skip around the soft surface “race track” in the grandkids play ground, I realize they just don’t get it. It’s not built to their MO. It doesn’t fit how they act, react and interact in their lives.

How can I get past the past of this place I created? This place that housed my conative spirit for 18 years?

It didn’t help to think so carefully about what to do with each and everything little thing and hope family and friends would want to take this and that. It didn’t matter that I  love where I now live, and haven’t had a moment of regret or sadness about the decision to move on. 

It took getting conative — taking action — about leaving that  house before I actually moved my conative self completely out it.

Yesterday I found myself with a paint brush in hand, personally painting over the colors I had so carefully chosen. I personally took down the large magnetized white board where grandkids had posted the names of their plays and roles they played (and sometimes used the wrong kind of markers, making it messy to others’ minds). I personally chose the shade of off-white for the carpeting and walls in all the bedrooms. I personally packed up the last of the whimsy.

Now the bones of the wonderfully designed house show through. It’s ready to house someone else’s conative creativity. Mine has moved on.


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Life without Rue: The Snoopy Factor

Life doesn’t have to be so difficult. Work doesn’t have to take unending effort. Anger and frustration don’t have to run rampant. Conflicts don’t need to fester. Dreams shouldn’t be squashed. You can be at your best without besting someone else.

There is a way to un-complicate over-saturated lives. There is a way to focus on who we are and what matters most. It’s the Snoopy Factor.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had the self-assuredness to think the kind of thought Snoopy had when Lucy shouted “You’re just a dog and will always be a dog!” And Snoopy’s thought: “How reassuring!”

The Snoopy Factor is the simple truth that we are who we are, and that’s all we need to be. It’s being able to celebrate who we are with something akin to that wonderful little dancing spin Snoopy does when  he’s pleased with himself.  It’s trusting our guts enough to lie on top our world and do nothing — as he does when stretched out on his dog house perch; or go out and fight the good fight – as he does when he takes on the Red Barron approach.

The Snoopy Factor is reassurance that we, too, can do what we do best, encourage others to do what they do best – and let go of the rest. And that we can be a part of the gang, make a significant contribution to the action, and be totally loveable without following any self-improvement advice. We are all that we need to be.

Lucy, like many self-help gurus, pulls the ball away just when Snoopy actually thinks he’s going to kick it. She’s convinced she’s doing it for his own good, for his character building.  She’s sure he’ll improve himself by doing everything she says he should do.

Lucy tries to advise Snoopy on how dogs need to fetch, roll over, sit up, and play dead. His note-to-self : “But we never take advice.”

To have Snoopy’s impact on the world and the same peace in your own life, you need only to be powered by your own intrinsic MO. What makes you – YOU.

My Personal favorite Snoopyism.

Lucy, criticizing again, commented on Snoopy’s attempts at writing a book:

He had written:

“I will wait for you,” she said.

“I’m not going anyplace,” he said.

“If you don’t go anyplace, I can’t wait for you,” she said.

Lucy tells Snoopy:

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever read.”

Snoopy thinks to himself:

“I’ll add some footnotes…”

I was reminded of that cartoon when an editor emailed me about my 5 Rules for Trusting Your Guts.  He said: “Tie them more directly to your research and put them in the context of ‘brain science,’ then readers will give them more respect.”

That’s when I decided to publish them without editorial interference. (See 5 Rules for Trusting Your Guts on

A Life without Rue

Instead of ruing the day you did or didn’t trust your guts, celebrate a Joie de vivre — a joy in life: A sense of well-being, completeness, wholeness. Personal truth. Confidence. Playing in the zone.  Being in the Groove.  Indulging yourself in being who you are. A life without regrets.

Rule #1: Act before You Think.

In Snoopy’s life without rue, he trusts his guts, and acts upon them without hesitation, explanation or regret. When things don’t work out as he hopes, he works them into another scenario. He doesn’t fret about what goes wrong because it just creates another opportunity. As in his Red Barron dog-fights, he does what comes naturally, rather than getting strategic – and losing the “moment.”

As he says: “If you think about it, you can’t do it.”

A business person armed with the Snoopy Factor would tackle an economic turn-down as a opportunity to fight the good fight against the personified marketplace, then  retreat to a comfortable place to get well-earned down time before taking on the next battle.

A parent armed with the Snoopy Factor teases and nudges a child, and rounds up [round-up cartoon strip] the little ones, without having to bark out orders or threaten or punish.

The student  armed with the Snoopy Factor is filled with positive self-esteem, hopefulness, courage, wonder – and observes life with the assumption that his way needs no correction.

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High School Musical by MO?

When people ask me about the beginnings of my leadership theories, they’re usually surprised that it started with a high school musical.

In 1957, I was a part of an extraordinary adventure. Over 200 kids at New Trier High School, Winnetka, IL, wrote and produced a musical comedy, performing it for several nights running. The annual show was known as Lagniappe, a Cajun word meaning a little bit extra or something more. It was developed from scratch each year.

For me, it was the something more that no MBA program could have provided. As co-director of Lagniappe, I experienced the innovative process from brainstorming about what type of show to do (ce.g. musical review or comedy sketches) to selecting and leading a group of amazingly talented young lyrists, composers, singers, actors, choreographers, dancers, salespeople, set builders, lighting experts, costumers, choral directors, orchestra members, props people and numerous other essential crew members

My co-director and I selected those who originated the music and lyrics based on challenges we created and sample solutions we received. Given the talent we realized was available, we decided to take on the challenge of having all original songs. Auditions were tense  with over 400 students trying out or applying for roles in cast and crews. We recruited some whose efforts we’d seen  in other school projects such as the newspaper, sports, government, debate and  the arts.

Ann-Margaret may have had her start in musicals with us. (She had a last name then, and as a sophomore, was considered a risky choice. We put her in the chorus.)

Over months of working together, our efforts became collaborative, self-determined, persistent, persuasive, and passionate about seemingly impossible goals. Because we were dependent upon one another, we began looking after one-another with an inordinate amount of compassion (which dissipated after the show, but proved the possibility).

During that time, I began writing short quips about the natural abilities or “Creative bent” as I called it, of those involved. I had an ever-present clip board with tasks I’d check-off on the front of pages, and notes-to-self about how to deal with the creative needs of individuals/groups on the back. (Would that I never did throw anything away, as some believe.)

I recall making a list of the people who I could count on to be precise in everything they did. They argued  about specifics that improved the final production – and I rarely sat through the entire discussion. Sure enough, many became scientists or lawyers. In current emails, these are the people who have detailed  memories about those debates. For instance  Dick Wirtz, our musical director, is still weighing the pros and cons of the show’s title:

We went around and around on the title.  Some of us thought “On the Rocks” was good because (1) Laurentz was approached by Duke Boniface through the “towering Alps” (lyric) so it must be in the mountains somewhere and (2) Laurentz was broke.  Others thought that sounded too much like the title of a previous show (On the House?) and the title ought to be “In the Year 1173.”  I argued against that because I thought the audience would mistakenly believe that the show was set in the year 1173.  My side won.  In retrospect, I think we should have lost.

Another list was of the quick-take ad libbers. They were fun to let loose on ideas, but a challenge to keep to the final script. I predicted they’d do their own thing at some point and many of them did become entrepreneurs, PR people, TV personalities.

Many Lagniappe ’57 participants are now communicating about the difference the show made in their lives. It didn’t make any of us different from who we were, it gave us confidence  to BE who we are. We were able to celebrate our differing contributions and share a sense of purposefulness that brought out our natural strengths – our MOs.

In an email this week from a cast member Laura Coleman Keith:

I know a lot of the wellness I feel about being me can be attributed to my participation in Lagniappe, where being a part of the team rounded me out.  It taught me about talent and genius, which I was able to see close up.  A person whom I wouldn’t have suspected of having gifted skills, nor someone I would probably never have known, I got to be around and appreciate in awe… I loved being there with you.

Free from the confinement of the traditional classroom requirements, we literally did our own thing – and made it work.

Lagniappe was more than just a little bit extra. It was an extra-curricular activity, done without the hovering of faculty members or parents that gave a group of high school kids the self-confidence to act on our own instincts or natural abilities — our innate conative strengths..

Lessons learned during my leadership role in this student-produced project provided a foundation for my life’s work. 

How often are today’s students given the freedom necessary for this level of thought and self-discovery?

UPDATE: Several Lagniappe ’57 alums are putting together a CD and libretto from the show. Next you may see us take it to Broadway!

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Conative Bias in the SAT?

Education Testing Service, the company that publishes the SAT exam had asked me to do a presentation for its test development team. They said they’d been trying to develop a test based on conation for many years and had not figured out how to do it. The guy who invited me explained that they hoped I would share with their professional team how I had created the Kolbe Index.

 My favorite way of demonstrating the predictive validity of the Kolbe Index is to do Glop Shop, a three minute activity during which three people I’ve never met create a hands-on solution for a problem with no right answer. I provide a challenge, a bag of assorted junk they must use to achieve the goal, and when they are out of the room, give predictions for their actions, reactions and interactions during the exercise.

 I selected the top SAT developer to participate because of his surprising MO: insistent Follow Thru and Implementor, resistant Fact Finder and Quick Start. Less than a minute into the activity he showed a strong bent toward the opposite MO.

Totally trusting my instincts, I stopped the activity (only time I have ever done that), and asked him:

“Why did you cheat when you took the Kolbe Index?”

Caught by surprise he blurted out:

“Because I wanted to see what would happen if I answered in the most socially undesirable way possible.”

 I asked why he had such a strong bias against a perfectly wonderful conative strength – and wondered aloud what impact that might have on his work on the SAT.

Only a few people in the room seemed incensed by his lack of truthfulness in filling out the Kolbe Index questions and demographic information (he said he was a female, for instance).  Aghast that one test developer would be so disrespectful of another’s data, I no longer felt comfortable sharing my work with those in the room. I ended my presentation.

Studies we then did, using data provided by universities,  showed there is a difference in SAT scores by modes of conative insistence on the Kolbe Index. People who were insistent in Follow Thru and Implementor did not receive as high scores on the SAT as people who were  insistent in Fact Finder and Quick Start. Since there is no correlation between IQ and Kolbe Index results,  my instincts tell me that the SAT has a conative bias. The very one expressed by its then lead developer.

After your comments, please add to our databank the following information (or email for confidentiality):

Your:        Kolbe MO  ________       SAT score _______   ______      GPA in college ______      

Thanks:  Kathy        


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(Kathy Kolbe)

It’s unacceptable to say you’re doing everything you can, when all you’re doing is thinking about it.

unacceptable to confuse natural conflict in conative ways of getting things done with ‘personality problems.’

It’s unacceptable say you’re brainstorming then tell a contributor “You’ve already had a turn.”

It’s unacceptable to think one conative MO makes you more intelligent than another ( as per college entrance exams).

It’s unacceptable to label someone a leader when they don’t bring out the best in other people. 


It’s unacceptable to tell a kid he or she did a good job when they didn’t make a commitment to the task.

It’s unacceptable to waste years of education to learn to do something for which you’re not naturally well suited. 

unacceptable to evaluate people on whether they did a good job of doing it your way, instead of on the results they achieved

unacceptable for us to ask each other to do things in ways that set us up for failure

unacceptable to drug kids because their natural abilities require them to learn in ways that don’t fit the conative MO of education system.

unacceptable to label a kid ADD or ADHD when the system is not enabling them to use their God-given conative strengths.

unacceptable to say testing for selection is racially biased when the Kolbe A Index has proven unbiased by gender, age and race. 

It’s unacceptable to say women do things differently from men when conative research proves that’s just not true. 

unacceptable for the academic world to demean conative drive, the energy behind how we get things done.

It’s unacceptable for you not to know your natural abilities. Find out what you do best

From Kathy Kolbe’s tweets, July 10, 2009

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