Who has the potential to achieve true greatness? According to conventional arguments based on nature versus nurture, very few people. The clear lesson from gene expression, brain plasticity, and expertise studies, however, is this: no one knows. We do not – and cannot – know our own limits until we acquire and deploy the right resources and find the necessary motivation to push ourselves to them. That doesn’t mean that parents and teachers should constantly push children to the extremes. But it does mean that we must rid homes and schools of low expectations and the insidious gene-giftedness mindset. We must teach children from their earliest days to regard failure not as a verdict on their potential but as a doorway to an unlearned skill.
David Shenk is a journalist and author. David Shenk’s latest book, The Genius in All of Us, is published by Doubleday.