Is every healthy child a potential prodigy? ... Before Laszlo Polgár conceived his children, before he even met his wife, he knew he was going to raise geniuses. He’d started to write a book about it. He saw it moves ahead. ... By their first meeting, a dinner and walk around Budapest in 1965, Laszlo told Klara, his future bride, how his kids’ education would go. He had studied the lives of geniuses and divined a pattern: an adult singularly focused on the child’s success. He’d raise the kids outside school, with intense devotion to a subject, though he wasn’t sure what. "Every healthy child," as he liked to say, "is a potential genius." Genetics and talent would be no obstacle. And he’d do it with great love. ... Computers have long since outclassed humans in chess; they’re vital in training, but their recommended moves can seem quixotic. "No, it’s very human," Polgár assured them. The students, most of them grandmasters, grew quiet, searching the more than 100,000 positional situations they had ingrained over their lifetimes, exploring possible moves and the future problems they implied — moving down the decision tree. It’s the knot at the heart of chess: Each turn, you must move; when you move, a world of potential vanishes. ... "It’s important to look at top performers to look at the limits of human abilities — the maximum adaptations people can undergo." By looking to the best, we can understand the rest.
In the current era of sports, where athletes are often jumping from team to team for the highest paycheck, Coach Popovich and his organization have created a climate in which their best player, Tim Duncan, and the other stars of the team, consistently take below-market value to stay there and continue the winning tradition. | GP: When I’m interviewing a kid to draft I’m looking for specific things. Over the course of sitting in the gym and talking, having lunch, watching him at free agent camp, this is what I’m after and not necessarily in this order. ... Having a sense of humor is huge to me and to our staff because I think if people can’t be self-deprecating or laugh at themselves or enjoy a funny situation, they have a hard time giving themselves to the group. ... Being able to enjoy someone else’s success is a huge thing. ... At some point he’ll start to think he’s not playing enough minutes, or his parents are going to wonder why he’s not playing, or his agent’s going to call too much. I don’t need that stuff. I’ve got more important things to do. I’ll find somebody else, even if they have less ability, as long as they don’t have that character trait. ... Work ethic is obvious to all of us. ... We also look at how someone reacts to their childhood. ... I go to bed every night and I don’t worry about anybody on my team. I don’t come to work in the morning and say, “Ah, jeez, I’m going to have to clean this mess up.” It doesn’t happen. ... We spend a good deal of time discussing politics, race, food and wine, international events, and other things just to impart the notion that a life of satisfaction cannot be based on sports alone. ... You can’t just get your satisfaction out of teaching somebody how to shoot or how to box out on a rebound. That’s not very important in the big picture of things.
As the longest-running longitudinal survey of intellectually talented children, SMPY has for 45 years tracked the careers and accomplishments of some 5,000 individuals, many of whom have gone on to become high-achieving scientists. The study's ever growing data set has generated more than 400 papers and several books and provided key insights into how to spot and develop talent in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and beyond. ... the work to identify and support academically talented students has raised troubling questions about the risks of labeling children and the shortfalls of talent searches and standardized tests as a means of identifying high-potential students, especially in poor and rural districts.
The gift for talent-spotting is mysterious, highly prized and celebrated. We love to hear stories about the baseball coach who can spot the raw ability of an erratic young pitcher, the boss who sees potential in the guy in the post room, the director who picks a soloist out of the chorus line. Talent shows are a staple of the TV schedules. We like to believe that certain people – sometimes ourselves – can just sense when a person has something special. But there is another method of spotting talent which doesn’t rely on hunches. In place of intuition, it offers data and analysis. Rather than relying on the gut, it invites us to use our heads. It tends not to make for such romantic stories, but it is effective – which is why, despite our affection, the hunch is everywhere in retreat. ... The low level of the validity ceiling makes sense when you think about the web of interacting forces – individual ability, organisational culture, social and economic change, pure luck – involved in any success or failure. Weather forecasters using vast databases can say with confidence if it’s going to rain only a few days in advance. Predicting the outcome of human endeavour is even more complex – imagine if clouds had feelings – yet we desperately want to believe our hunches can tell us what will happen in a year or five years’ time.