Members in the Media
From: CNBC

Wharton Psychologist on How to Reach Your Potential: People ‘Really Underestimate the Slow Learners, the Late Bloomers’

Are you a formerly “gifted” kid, struggling to find success as an adult? Organizational psychologist Adam Grant may have a solution for you.

Put simply: Instead of giving up when things don’t come naturally to you, start thinking like a “late bloomer.”

“Natural talent is overrated,” Grant, a bestselling author and psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, recently told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “Most child prodigies do not grow up to become adult geniuses. And I think that leaves us to really underestimate the slow learners, the late bloomers.”

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My experience is a bit different from that of Dr. Grant, though it surely complements his experience. I have long been fascinated by late bloomers and sooner or later asked them the question: “How old were you when you realized you were smart?” In nearly every case during my 50-year career, they shared stories that their family or neighborhood culture stifled their career ambitions.

One of my favorite cases was a very sharp Navy prior-enlisted lieutenant commander whose program I was evaluating. Larry’s family and friends were all blue-color tradesmen, so after high school he joined the Navy to learn a trade as a Navy hospital corpsman. Later in his Navy career, he took a few night-school courses to improve his chances of being promoted to chief petty officer. After getting serial good grades, he began to re-evaluate his future and applied for Navy’s college enrollment program. With his BA in management, Larry was commissioned as a lieutenant and a few years later applied for an MBA in health services administration. When we met up, he was teaching leadership skills to Navy physicians who were being groomed to become hospital department heads. After retiring, Larry started a successful management consulting business.

In another case, one of my grad school classmates, John, was about 6 years older than most of us (and I too was older having just spent 4 years in the Navy due to the draft). John shared that he was raised in a culture in which he regularly heard: “Our family WORKS for a living.” as opposed to “collich boyz” with desk jobs. It took John awhile for his worldview to fade and make him feel it was okay to go to college. John was a wiz at multivariate statistics and became an academic. In contrast, the vast majority of my doctoral-level colleagues, like myself, had no cultural barriers to pursuing higher education. We were raised in families that encouraged us to go to college.

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