But I digress. Here’s the essence of it: Pick the “genius” of your choice — Bill Gates, Eric Clapton, Carl Sagan, Luciano Pavarotti, Ray Charles, Rafael Nadal, Meryl Streep, anybody. (I’ve listed several who leave me cold.) Did they get rich and famous through innate ability or practice and determination?
Sheer effort, Orszag says. He thinks it’s a shame most of us have “bought into several misconceptions about excellence, which are not only wrong but affirmatively counterproductive … Too many of us believe in the ‘talent’ myth — that top performers are born, rather than built. But Syed shows that in almost every arena in which tasks are complex, top performers excel not because of innate ability but because of dedicated practice.”
[ ]…In a follow-up piece, Orszag halfway concedes an objection made by many readers “that it is too simplistic and that even with hard and dedicated practice, not everyone could become Mozart. Perhaps.”
Perhaps, the man says. This in a newspaper whose readers rank nursery schools the way sportswriters do college football teams, and who begin scheming to secure their children’s enrollment in the Marie Antionette Pre-K Academy in advance of conception.
And in a country, furthermore, whose most important literary work may be “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” but whose national credo is based upon “The Little Engine That Could.”
When the late Norman Mailer offered up the proposition that we should invent or pretend their is a Jehovah otherwise society and culture would go to hell in a hand-basket, he meant well. Orszag and the like minded probably mean well also, but Norman’s idea would probably cause less lasting damage as far as fantasies passing as ideas go. There is a compromise position on this newest version of the nature v. nurture argument. Work hard and get as much education as possible. The kind of education can vary, but always try and take advantage of opportunities to learn new things – within ethical borders. The big picture is to be prepared. Even in a world, a life, which is subject to circumstances and luck, getting into the habit of trying to master tasks that will optimize one’s potential to deal with what comes down the road. For now anyway the gifted like Madame Curies and Bachs are going to be one in a million.
If you’re a good writer you can write charming self-deprecating posts like this – True Life: The Downfall of a Former Grammar Nazi