This article is a review of the book “The Genius in All of Us” by David Shenk. In this book he argues that humans have a dormant talent abundance which most people are not even aware they possess.
In his book he has two main arguments. The first relates to the science of epigenetics, which is the study of the effect environment has on the expression of genes. People think of genes as a set of fixed instructions that cannot be changed or altered in any way. But according to Shenk genes can indeed be influenced by elements such as environmental stimuli, nutrition, hormones, nerve impulses, and even other genes. He even says that it is, to some extent, under our control to change our genetic limits.
His second body of research is the qualities of exceptional abilities. He believes that talent is not a product of nature but of “highly concentrated effort.” He thinks of talent as a process that can be achieved through practice, not as a “gift” that someone is born with. Shenk describes the genome as a control board, with switches that can be manipulated in order to alter our genes.
All in all, Shenk believed that nature and nurture were not opposites. Nature is what is provided to us when we are born, and nurture is how well we take advantage of it. He thinks that deliberate practice can actually produce changes in the brain. So in order to be a “genius” Shenk argues that practice and ambition are imperative. Whatever it is one wishes to do well, one must practice over and over again with the mentality that failure is part of the process. One must also be ready to sacrifice time, money, sleep, etc. in order to reach this goal.
Shenk's ideas are very different from many others I have read about. Instead of putting the ideas of nature and nurture against each other, he presents them in a way in which they are both part of something greater. Also, he believes that every human has the mental capacity to achieve great things. The reason why people don't is beacause they don't try hard enough and just give up before even trying. He makes it very clear that in order to achieve this "intellectual greatness" people have to make it a priority and practice, practice, practice.
Is the dedication required to achieve these goals inborn? Does everyone have the same capacity to have such intense drives?
Murphy Paul, Annie. "How to Be Brilliant." The New York Times 18 Mar. 2010. Web.