Tag Archives: natural abilities

Being a Clown

Kathy Kolbe for clown

I dressed up in a clown outfit once. To entertain kids at a camp I ran. It totally embarrassed my then 8-year-old son, David, who was in the audience.

Wearing a clown costume doesn’t make you a clown – but it can make a clown out of you. It proves my theory that dressing for success is often a waste of time and money.

Could a good school for clowns train me to be a better clown?

Not if I only mimicked being a clown. Being trained to act like a clown doesn’t make you good at it – anymore than being trained to act like a salesperson makes you a top salesperson. If you don’t have the right instincts to be good in a role, your attempt at it can come off as awkward.

Ouch Factor: Happy masks hiding Sad realities

Putting on a happy face while suffering in a misfit role is the stuff of tragedies (think Death of a Salesman). When people don’t have an ounce of the right conative instincts for the outfit, pretending the shoe fits ends up causing a lot of hurt. Maybe that’s why there are so many sad clowns. It’s the Ouch Factor.

We sense inauthenticity. It makes us uncomfortable. We don’t want to deal with a person who is putting on an act — whether it is as a carpenter, cleric, or cable guy.

People radiating the yucky vibes of the Ouch Factor seem to believe the fairy tale about being able to do anything they want to do. They must have bought into the notion that their preferences were the key to determining career decisions. It would be interesting to track people who followed career advice from programs based on such assumptions, and rate their Ouch levels.

Effort Effect

That wasn’t my excuse for being a lousy clown. It is in my conative nature to be at least OK at clowning around.

Being a clown was a side show for me. I certainly didn’t put much effort into it. But it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It might have helped if I had a least practiced a couple of minutes in front of a mirror. Instead, I was just me being silly. (Moms being silly always seem to embarrass their kids.) I overlooked the Effort Effect.

My clown moment was a bundle of years ago, and I still regret that I wasn’t more convincing. The point is not that I discovered “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” If that were true, I would have garden that’s a show place – and not had the time or energy to create the Kolbe theories.

I imagined that my clown act would get a “Good job!” rating from more than a couple of kids (My son proved he had learned the lesson of not giving false praise.). Mid-act I knew I hadn’t made the necessary effort to pull it off.

Effort Effect – Reversed

I bet the most creepy clowns are the most conatively misfit clowns – who work especially hard at being untrue to themselves. Kids trust their instincts – and stay really far away from clowns they sense are that degree of phony.

There’s something ugly and unsettling about watching a person trudge through life trying to be something he or she was never intended to be. Why try so hard to be a clown when it just isn’t working?

There is a time to turn in the costume. Misplaced efforts rob us of opportunities to succeed in roles for which we are a good conative fit. A misfit clown might make a terrific Ring Master or Lion tamer. The trick is to find roles that fit both our M.O. and our interests. That’s when we make wise efforts.

Effort + right Instincts avoids the Ouch Factor and ups the level of our performance.

I trusted my instincts when I did the clown act. I dressed for success in the role. But I didn’t make a high enough commitment of effort. I have both trusted my instincts and worked hard as a Theorist. I’d say “I made the shoe fit” – but much of the time I’ve been barefoot.

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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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Music by M.O.s

Musical instruments tileBach had to have been a Follow Thru because of his repetitive use of sequential patterns.

Beethoven was so much more the Fact Finder with a strong strategy.

Mozart went for the Quick Start pizzazz.

Lots of factors go into the making of a great composer, but certainly HOW a person composes will tie to their innate conative modus operandi.

What instrument should you encourage your child to play? Even if it’s just for a few years of learning music, selecting the right instrument can make the difference between it being a nurturing experience or a dreadful one.

If only my parents had known what I know now, I would never have started with the piano. My resistance to Fact Finder details made it a horrible choice. It was terribly unsuited for my Quick Start need for an instant result. My “ad libs” were considered unacceptable lapses into goofing off.

What’s a parent to do?

Fact Finder insistent kids: piano is the best place to start for those who need the background and strategy of both the instrument and way music is written. For any other kids, lessons that start with such information are tedious and could stifle their love of learning music.

Follow Thru insistent kids, who are not resistant to Fact Finder:  violin, cello, bass (string instruments, in general) meet their need for basing their efforts on patterns/systems, and being rewarded in performances because their sense of consistency helps to create quality.

Quick Start insistent kids: Singing is FAR better than “studying” an instrument, but to do it well, they need some lessons in piano or another instrument – but just for the basics of learning to read music. Make it performance-based, fun stuff, including making their own instruments. Harmonicas, bongos, ukuleles, are all better than the more formal lesson-requiring instruments.

Implementor insistent kids: Let them pound away on the drums, bang the cymbals, and/or use the mallets to play the xylophone. If they also have a high accommodation (or insistence) in Follow Thru, they’ll have a natural sense of rhythm. If not? Well, you might think more about getting them into the trumpet, bassoon or other places where they aren’t the essential keepers of the beat. Band instruments are best for them. Think marching bands!

Facilitator kids: Playing the guitar often appeals to these kids because they see themselves as using it to bring a group together in a sing-along atmosphere. For them, music is a means to an end – that does NOT include spending hours all alone having to practice their instrument. That’s why singing in a choir is excellent for them. It can lead to a very natural outlet for musical interest in a Facilitator – which is to become a musical conductor.

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My Theory of Creative Problem Solving

You will never create anything without a conviction that it’s worth creating.  

If you try to create something by making an effort that doesn’t fit your M.O., you won’t get very far with it.

It takes a Commitment of your conative abilities for you to solve a problem in a sustainable way.

Creative Process

Creative Problem Solving takes more than just Doing something you want to do, you also have to evaluate whether what you’re doing makes any sense.

Judging whether another person is fully engaged in Creative Problem Solving is easier than judging levels of beauty. You can evaluate the process without judging the outcome.

Q: Why bother evaluating the process if the outcome stinks?
A: Because those who engage in the process are more likely to get consistently creative results.

 Q: Couldn’t someone who is not using a Creative Problem Solving process create something by dumb luck?
A: Luck happens when you create the opportunity.

Q: Is that all there is to your Theory of Creative Problem Solving?
A: No, but I’ll wait for you to ask more questions here so I can tell you the things about it that you are motivated to discuss.

Creative Process ladder

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Like Forcing Water to Flow Uphill

Having spent a good part of the past weekend on a steep hillside, trying to get my amateur watering system to flow up to outlying trees, I was reminded of it being an analogy for conative stress.

Trying to get water to flow up hill is like dealing with:

1. Barriers to Innovation:
Convincing a determined Fact Finder boss that something that has never been done before could work well.

2. Inflexibility:
Getting a mega Follow Thru to adjust the schedule.

3. Misplaced Dependency:
Waiting for an empowered person, who is short on Implementor, to repair equipment.

4. Overcoming conative Conflict:
Having to get two totally opposite conative people to work together cooperatively.

5. False expectations:
Getting your short-lined Follow Thru friends to RSVP – or even find the invitation.

6. Endless Inertia:
Watching a team of conative clones trying to get something done.

7. Stunting Growth:
Helping an entrepreneurial Quick Start stick with the tried and true.

8. Making a Temporary Fix:
Making it easier for a conative Facilitator to choose a side – any side.

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OverDoing

 

OverDoing is what makes Rule #5 for Trusting Your Instincts especially important. That’s the one that says: Do Nothing – When Nothing Works.

Telling OverDoers to Do Nothing will get better results than telling them to hold back – just a little. Once they get into conative gear, it’s unlike them to hold back.

OverDoers come in different levels, and the worst of them get (and probably deserve) labels akin to hoarders. They need to have the stuff for OverDoing. It takes paraphernalia to have all the accoutrements for special occasions, the cataloging of the possibilities, and the car that can drag the special effects around.

OverDoing can cause clutter and chaos, and wastes money and time.
OverDoing can turn a special event into a fiasco.

Since it involves Doing, OverDoing is conative.
It isn’t driven by intelligent decisions, and is apparently not edited by them, either.

As with any creative effort, OverDoing is inspired by affective emotions.

OverDoing leads to the conative effort of converting the ordinary into the extraordinary.
OverDoing is the showering of affection, and results from an outpouring of love.

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Goals with Purposes

 

Goals are for keeping score. Purposes are for making differences.

Kids learn a lot about making goals in soccer games.

They learn:
Who is best at making goals
What it takes to defend against others who make goals
Where to position themselves for making goals
When to shoot for a goal
How to use soccer skills to score goals

It’s easy to make the Who/What/Where/When/How list regarding goals of almost any kind.

Who on the sales team is most consistent in reaching sales goals?
What will get a lot of good PR?
Where can you find the best new team members?
When is a right time to buy new equipment?
How is it possible to save enough money?

What’s missing is the WHY

Why is it valuable for kids to play sports like soccer?
Why is good PR an important goal?
Why are new team members a necessary goal?

For all of the other W’s, there is always a Why.
In the Why, you will find the Purpose.

As a journalism student at Northwestern,
I was taught to always include the 5W/s and the H in a news story.
The Why often became clear only when I wrote the headline
–or at least contemplated Why the story mattered.

Kids Prove Teamwork Pays
PR Leads to an Increased Number of Job Applicants
New Employees Add to Team Synergy

Goals, like Deadlines, focus our conative energy.
They help us fulfill our Purposes.

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It Pays to Know Others’ M.O.s

It’s just not worth it to ask people to do things if the way they do them doesn’t work for you.

Don’t ask initiating
     Fact Finders for an answer – if you aren’t prepared to provide lots and lots of background information.
     Follow Thrus for help – unless you’ve cleaned up pretty well ahead of time.
     Quick Starts for ideas – if you aren’t willing to take at least some of the recommended risks.
     Implementors to fix something – unless you have plenty of time to wait for it to be done really, really well.

When you know another’s M.O. you can predict what they’ll do based on non-prejudicial information, not on myths regarding gender, age, and race. You won’t make the mistake of making false assumptions that can hurt feelings and ruin relationships.

Don’t assume you can change people or that they will “wise up” and stop being whatever part of them may annoy you.

You might even see the humor in
     a perfectly healthy, resistant Fact Finder forgetting important details.
     a seemingly sensible initiating Follow Thru rejecting time-saving shortcuts.
     an introverted initiating Quick Start surprising others with sudden decisions to do the unexpected.
     a resistant Implementor pushing the wrong buttons and messing up technology.

If you know those things will happen, you have a better chance of stopping them from causing problems.

When resistant Implementors grab one of three remotes and operates it by instinct, they often mess it up.
(I just gave my resistant Implementor husband the latest, greatest universal remote. I’ll let you know if it helps.)

Leaders – and bossy spouses – have told me that knowing a person’s M.O. wouldn’t help. They would just demand that people do what they were told to do.

How has that worked for them?

When they have demanded
     Fact Finders cut to the bottom line – they got errors.
     Follow Thrus use short cuts – they got sloppy work.
     Quick Starts stick to the script – they got turnover.
     Implementors sit still and listen– they got disputes and disobedience.

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Microsoft: Ignorant or Arrogant?

Microsoft:

You have set yourself up as a language expert.
You mercilessly correct our spelling errors all day every day.
You posture as an all-knowing judge and jury of right and wrong in use of language.

Yet,
You ignore Peter Mark Roget, the true expert in the English language.
You ignore Plato and Aristotle and thousands of other thought leaders.
You ignore modern research and well-documented studies of the differences in the three parts of the human mind/brain.

Why?
…do you continue to spell-check the word for one of the three faculties of the brain, and simply replace it with the word for an altogether different mental faculty?
…do you ignore calls to correct your error?
…do you think we should trust you when you confuse the source of human actions with the source of passive thoughts?

When?
…are you going to Get Conative?
…are you going to recognize the existence of your resistant Fact Finder M.O.?
…or am I confusing your conative behaviors with affective Arrogance?

MS Blog Pic2

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Don’t Mess with Truths of Conation

Unfortunately, some think that it would be a good idea to try and figure out how to make the brain conform to a job or educational system. For example, some say that it would be wise to find a way to get students to conform to regulations and do their work all in the same way. They don’t see the harm to the individual in doing this because it will “help” them do a better job. Many researchers are looking for ways to use QEEG technology to “change” brains so they are not ADHD. Some researchers are also trying to claim that since the brain has proven to have plasticity, my theory that conation is a constant isn’t accurate.

Yes. There is a way in which all human beings truly are equal. It is in the quantity of their conative abilities.

Yes. There is a part of all human beings that is consistent and sustainable throughout their lives. It is the conative modus operandi.

Yes. There is a renewable form of mental energy within all human beings that provides a natural resilience. It is a life-long, replenishable, conative drive.

Yes. I have discovered the patterns of a person’s M.O., and try to help individuals and organizations use this powerful resource for productive purposes.

Yes. I have found evidence that this resource emanates from a very deep region in the brain.

Yes. I can help individuals self-manage this resource to maximize their mental efficiency, reduce functional stress, and bring them the joy of accomplishment.

Yes. Ethical leaders have a responsibility to give those they lead the freedom to act, react, and interact according to each person’s M.O.

No. I absolutely, positively will not allow my work to be used to justify denying individuals the freedom to act according to their conative strengths.

No. I will not sit quietly and watch children and adults be medicated in an attempt to alter or dull their M.O.s – so that they “fit in” or act, react, and interact in a culturally more desirable way.

No. I will not assist faulty management systems that try to make human beings “more pliable” or force them to conform to work processes that denigrate their conative strengths.

No. I will not go along with brain researchers who, because of ignorance of conation, confuse the neuroplasticity among the three faculties of the brain with the absence of a need to protect the integrity of the brain’s M.O.

Bottom Line Conative Truths:

• Consistency of conative M.O.s assists an individuals’ Sustainability and Resilience and is compatible with theories of neuroplasticity.

• It is not only unethical to deny the free use of natural conative abilities, it is also unethical to try to alter the conative functioning of the brain.

• It is just plain stupid for any human being to think he or she is smart enough to create a better source of human power than the conative energy with which each person is endowed.

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Journalists vs. Today’s Media

Journalists dig behind the words.
Today’s media parse words.

Journalists interview subjects to get the story, not to be a part of the story.
Today’s media promote themselves on entertainment shows.

Journalists try to keep personal biases from being apparent.
Today’s media flaunts views in “panelist” roles.

Journalists seek unique angles and untold stories.
Today’s media repeat (and repeat) the story that is going around.

Journalists seek a wide variety of sources.
Today’s media interview people in the “Spin Room.”

Journalists don’t use the weird phrase, “Take a listen;” or begin a segment by issuing the command: “Look, what you have to know is…”
Today’s media believe it’s imperative that we pay attention to them.

Journalists don’t moonlight for the candidates or organizations in his/her stories.
Today’s media boast about insider connections with subjects in the news.

Journalists don’t confuse reporting the news with giving opinions about it.
Today’s media are confused about their role.

Journalists give the most important news at the top of the story.
Today’s media tease you to stay, but save the best part ‘til last.

 
(My bias: I am a long ago graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism)

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When a Fast-Forward Mind is Forced to Rewind

By my own reckoning, my instincts compel me to be future oriented and to resist living in the past. I’ve thrived by living according to my instincts, even when others have wished I could explain exactly when and where I had done what.

It’s not easy to avoid the past.

The Past is Omnipresent.

Everyone talks about it – a lot.
Most writers start with it.
Teachers tell you about it and test to see how much of it you recall.
Friendships are built on it.
Religions celebrate it.
Friends relive it.
Doctors dwell on it.
Politicians rewrite it.
Lawyers restate it.
Accountants refigure it.

How can the Past be avoided when:

Problems recur?
Events are relived?
Dialog is repeated?
People reappear?
Plans are reinvented?
Ideas are refreshed, reinvented, and reproduced?

What’s a person to do when redoing and remembering doesn’t come naturally?
Look stupid? Seem uncooperative? Satisfy requirements?

When I meet others with my conative MO, I often ask them about their survival tricks. They don’t want to talk about what has and hasn’t worked in the past. Worst of all is recalling times they had to justify steps they had previously taken.

Having to clean out a storage area in which I’ve dumped 3½ decades of my past efforts has made me realize there are 100s of products, programs and manuscripts that I could retrieve and reinvigorate.

I wouldn’t need another new idea as long as I live.

 

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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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What was the Deal with Resources for the Gifted?

Graduate students in my university class on Gifted Education included public school coordinators and teachers for what were usually called “Gifted and Talented” programs. Yet, when I asked them to define a gifted student – without using the legislative gobbledygook for it – their answers were all over the place.

 “So, what’s the difference between a “gifted” youngster and a “talented” one?” I’d ask.

 “Talented kids aren’t necessarily smart, but they can do one thing really well?”

 “Does that differ from a ‘savant’?”

 “Well, sure. A talent could be anything that doesn’t mean academically advanced.”

 “Does that mean that a kid who wins national yo-yo contests would qualify for your program?”

 “Not really.”

 “Define a talent that should get a student into your program in contrast to one that clearly would not.”

 They were really stumped when I once gave the following questions as a homework assignment. I taught the class for a few years, and rarely repeated assignments — or I’d have some interesting data from the answer to these questions:

 What percent of students in the school district in which you teach are neither gifted, nor have a talent? What evidence is there to support that figure? Are the natural abilities of a student a talent? Identify research that has been done on students’ natural abilities? How do you know giftedness or talents when you see them? When or how do natural abilities convert to ‘talent’? Does your role in your program require you to increase, nurture, or build on giftedness or talents? If not, what is your goal and how will you know if you’ve achieved it?”

 You can probably imagine how frustrated my seasoned graduate students were with these questions – and how enlightened I became by seeing their often illogical answers.  

 Those who just came to the class to get the lesson plans for teaching gifted education were dissatisfied. I was CEO and primary author for Resources for the Gifted, the leading (actually, the only) worldwide publisher of materials for gifted education. They expected me to give them the answers, not ask questions for which they suspected I didn’t have the answers.

 My #1 rule for teaching creative problem solving (which I hoped would be what they wanted to learn how to teach) is: Never ask a question for which you know the answer.

 “I’ll share the methodology for teaching critical and creative problem solving,” I said, “but I will not limit the discussion to offering these materials to only those labeled’ gifted or talent’ – especially since those terms are not even clearly definable. Every child has natural abilities, and some day I’ll be able to identify “talents” or natural abilities in a way that educational system can not ignore.”

 I got called into the Dean’s office:

 “Kathy,” he said sternly, “you have the experience and expertise to teach gifted ed or we wouldn’t have you doing it. But if you say you’re going outside that specialty, then there are people who will not be able to use federal funding for gifted education to pay for the class. Don’t make waves.”

 That’s when I had to reevaluate not only teaching that class, but calling my business Resources for the Gifted. The 101 books, games and brain teasers I’d written or edited and published would help all youngsters experience the creative problem solving process. I hadn’t denied any kid that opportunity in the five years I’d been conducting my own lab school – and I had no intention of restricting the use of my materials or learning systems. I knew from raising my own gifted kids that their need for these materials was imperative – but that didn’t justify others not having them available.

 The next catalog I mailed out had two covers. One said Resources for the Gifted, the other said: Problem Solving Tools. Other than that they were identical. I split our mailing labels into two random groups, and mailed each set out on the same day. Almost twice as many orders came back from the catalogue with the Resources for the Gifted cover.

 I asked close friends in education why they thought so many more educators bought from the Gifted cover than the other one, and the answer was what I expected:

 Federal funds for “differentiated materials for gifted education” were able to be used only when the materials were labeled for the gifted and were not available to other students.

 Proving I’ve never been as driven to be as entrepreneur as to be a crusader, I changed the name of my award winning publishing company to Think Ink, and never mailed out another catalog labeled Resources for the Gifted.

 I focused a good deal of my energy on figuring out what truly differentiated giftedness from natural abilities, and the cognitive from those other patterns I’d been observing.

 Gifted people, I concluded, can be differentiated by their ability do three things better than others. They:

  • Anticipate
  • Empathize
  • (and therefore) Manipulate

 Within a year, I had found the other piece to the puzzle. I’d discovered the word Conation and that the ancient philosophers’ had discussed it as being the third part of the mind (along with cognition and affection).  

 Within days of the goose bump  moment when I realized conation was the missing piece of my life-long search, everything in my life came to a screaching halt.  The car I was in was struck and I was almost killed by a drunk driver.

 While the physical damage was excruciating, the brain damage became one of the greatest blessings of my life. It robbed me of my cognitive abilities  for over a year and made me totally reliant on my conative strengths.

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