Talent: nature or nurture?

We tend to admire geniuses–people who are so different and so perfect in their fields. We learned from the biographies of those people that they were so different since they were really young. For example, Mozart showed his talents when he was only three years old and became an instant master performer at age three and a brilliant composer at age five. Pablo Picasso was also a child prodigy–at age of thirteen, his teacher, Ruiz felt that Picasso had already surpassed him and vowed to give up painting.

The debate on genius and prodigy (is it nature or is it nurture) has been the controversial topic amongst the scholars. For example, Dean Keith Simonton, a psychology professor at University of California, discusses in his book, Genius 101: Creators, Leaders, and Prodigies, that “geniuses are the result of both good gene and good surroundings.” On the other hand, the pop-sociologist, Malcom Galdwell addressed in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, that dedication and practice are the most important determinant of success (TIME’s 2009 article:“Is Genius Born or Can It Be Learned?). Simonton argues that gene play an important role because personality traits also matter. Geniuses tend to be open-minded, introverted, driven, and ambitious. He argues that these traits are partially inherited and also partially shaped by environment.

So…what does the bible say about the genius? We notice from the Bible that, we are all given talent. We are all born naturally talented. From the Parable of Talent (Matthew 25:14-30), a master, before going on a journey, he gives his servants his property. “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” However, the servants were given different talents:

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” (Romen 12:6)

God has given us the talent according to the grace given and to our abilities. You might complain that it is not fair to be given different amount of talent. However, “the amount” is not important here. “He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.” (Matthew 25:16-17). Both men with five talents and two talents had worked with the given talent and made profits, and they both were acknowledged by their master:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21).

However, the man with one talent, complaining that it does not amount to his peers’,  dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Then, the master took the man’s talent and gave it to the man with five talents.

This parable teaches us that we are given different talents. We are all born naturally talented–God has given us the talent.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:” (Peter 4:10).

Therefore, the talents were given to glorify God and serve our neighbors. As we learn from the servants with five and two talents, we need to work on what we have given. Gladwell, the author of Outliers: Story of Success, mentioned about the 10,000 hours rule and showed that practice is the thing you do that makes you good. This reminds us of the servant with one talent–the given talent can be taken away, if you just hold it and not work on it. That talent was given to the servant with five talents.

References:

1) http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1879593,00.html

2) http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2013/11/01/is-talent-something-you-are-born-with-or-can-it-be-taught/

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Where does the True Gold lie?

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Were you an avid watcher of the Sochi Olympics? If so, what were your thoughts about the games? Did you find this year’s Winter Olympics the best and most exciting thus far? I personally wasn’t an avid viewer of this year’s Olympics, but I did pitch in to some of the games and rooted strongly for the teams I supported. Otherwise, the only contact I had with the Sochi Olympics was through scrolling down my social media platforms and reading the titles of articles popping up on my newsfeed.

The final closing of the Sochi Olympics ended with the thundering spectacle of Russia’s glorious history. It boasted its national pride. It celebrated the champions, and congratulated the participants in a final boom. Furthermore, with the closing of the ceremony, the game has left athletes with either gold, silver, bronze, or other less precious medals. That also means that it has closed its curtains with fans either praising their country’s athletes and teams, or patting their players on the back and thanking them for their great sportsmanship.

Whatever the case, I think there is no better way to understand the value of the gold medal as demonstrated through the Olympics. For many of us, success or at least the sound of success (the one that sounds like a boom of explosion, with firecrackers bursting in the night sky, sparkling show lights, and the sound of cheers… I would imagine) comes in rather an ironic silence. It may come like a thief, silently and without being seen or heard, perhaps when you are busy maintaining that successful status. Yet, in an arena resembling a coliseum of people cheering and hooting for players who have waited and trained diligently for four years, success is visible and it is on the spot.

It’s going to be hard to argue that gold doesn’t matter. Most athletes that participate in the Olympics are there to win gold, even if they know they won’t be the ones going home with that medal hanging on their neck. But when these athletes are training, they envision that moment of standing on the highest podium, smiling and making their country proud.

But there is something interesting when each game ends. When their country’s team does not win, but their players have demonstrated exceptional sportsmanship and hard work, the often said words are: “It’s not about the Gold.”

But, does gold matter?

It probably does, doesn’t it. If it’s not about the gold, then what is all the hard work about? If the dream you envision, the one that was about that shining gold around your neck, doesn’t come true, was that a dream not worth having dreamt in the first place?

But, is it all about the gold?

The answer is no.

No, because even though gold does matter, it isn’t everything. No, because even if one’s goal was to achieve that gold medal, they have earned something exquisitely profound and invaluable that a gold medal would not have given. No, because even if the winners say that the world only remembers the ones that win the gold, people are moved by those who have a golden heart and shine because of their genuine hard work and a battle won against their limits.

Apply that gold medal to the silent victory in our everyday lives, among the people who don’t have the arena to hear the applause that they deserve. What does it mean to be the first and the best at what you do? And more importantly, how does the Bible teach us to understand success. Does it only prize the first and the best in class?

The Bible defines success in many ways, but one way it doesn’t is: one big bang with explosions in the air and a thrilling round of applause.

Rather, much like the response of many people all over the world who congratulated the Olympic players for their participation, hard work, and genuine sportsmanship, the Bible too resonates a message similar: “It’s not about the Gold”. There is something more, something more valuable.

It is the good well-played game, the fair play, the hard work and the payoff of it all. It is the thanking of the people who believed in the players who at times wanted to give up. It is the competing against the odds, playing in advantageous and even in disadvantageous situations. It is creating, for the next generation, a story of a person who had to beat all odds to make it to where they have. It is the lesson of challenging and trusting.

Though we don’t have every four years to test how much we have come, or the chance to visibly see and feel a glimpse of the so-called success, we go through a similar journey everyday. How much are we participating in this life? How fair are our fruits of success? Have we earned them with honesty and hard work? Did we put our complete trust in God with all that we do, so that even through our success and failure, we never forget why we do what we do? And have we remained steady in our faith, not losing hope in God every time we stumble on an obstacle?

Sochi is over, but not our game of life. Our gold medal lies not in the worldly signs of success but further:
“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:32-33)

Importance of Practice

2014 has begun and I bet we all have done planning and setting goals. That is the first and the most important part of achieving a goal. However, we tend to forget something more important: “how to achieve that goal?”

“How to achieve?” is a crucial question because you get lost if you do not know how to get where you want. I want to suggest that the most important step to it is to reflect your habits. What were the bad habits that hindered you to succeed? What kind of habits do you need in order to reach your goals?

good-habits-bad-habits image from: http://www.lawyerswithdepression.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/good-habits-bad-habits.jpg

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

 

Aristotle stated that a habit is what we repeatedly do. This might be discouraging since this means that we need to “practice” in order to have a good habit. It might take some time and effort to get a good habit because habit is something we can do it unconsciously. Some might say practicing repeatedly might bore us and we can get burn out. However, I want to oppose to that with the story of the Shouldice Hospital.

Shouldice Hospital is a small medical center located at Toronto, and they are specialized in hernia repair surgery. A hernia is a weakening of the abdominal wall and in most hospital, from 10 to 14 percent of the cases, the operation eventually fails and the hernia returns. However, none of that statistics apply in the Shouldice Hospital. Their recurrence rate is an astonishing 1 percent. The secret to this success is that dozen surgeons at Shouldice do nothing else but hernia operations. Each surgeon repairs between six hundred and eighty hundred hernias a year, which is more than most general surgeons do in a lifetime. 1

With a lot of repetition, surgeons performed each step without pause, and the assistants and nurses were in perfect harmony. Bynes Shouldice, a son of the clinic’s founder and a hernia surgeon, was asked whether he ever got bored doing hernias all day long, and he said, “No, perfection is the excitement.” 1

Perfection always excites us because we can never be perfect. “Practice makes perfect.” Practicing is the only way to reach the perfection. Therefore, practicing and creating good habit should motivate us to move forward rather than exhaust us.

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.” (Luke 22:39)

             Jesus also showed us a good example of habit. His habit was to go up to the Mount of Olives and pray. This was the secret to His victory on the cross.

Reference:

1. Gawande, Atul; “Complications: A Surgeon’s Note on Imperfect Science” pg 39-14

What the Passover Teaches Us

Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover unto the Lord thy God: for in the month of Abib the Lord thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.

                                                                                             -Deuteronomy 16:1-

The Passover is well-known (to the gentiles) as a Jewish festival commemorating God’s freeing of Israelites from Egyptian enslavement. It seems odd to write a blog post about a Jewish holiday, but Reverend Goshen Choi has given us a wonderful message on what it means to overcome hardships and become successful with the help of our Lord with this seemingly obscure passage in Deuteronomy.

According to Rev. Choi, there are four things we must do to overcome hardships with success in the eyes of God:

1. Always live by the Word of God

As Christians, we must always live by the Word of God and by nothing else. His words are the truth that we must strive to live by.

2. God works at Night

Traditionally, people work during the day and rest during the night. But in the scripture above, it says that God has brought His People out of Egypt by night. As such, there are several other indications in the Holy Bible to suggest that God likes to work during that particular time. Though the word “night” should be understood as it is in the context of the Holy Scripture, it can also be interpreted in different ways, and one of the ways that Rev. Choi has analyzed the scripture was that God prefers to work during the most darkest times of our lives, that time of our life when we just cannot trust our abilities and give up to go on, as we do when we face the night in our work. That is the precise time in which our Lord begins to work his miracles on His People. Therefore, Rev. Choi urges the people to surrender themselves to the Lord early in their lives and careers, to admit that they are facing the night of their lives and need the Lord to start his work.

Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.

                                                                                        -Deuteronomy 16:3-

 

3. The Bread of Affliction is our time to be trained

In Deuteronomy 16: 3, God tells His people to eat the “no leavened bread” during the time of Passover. He further calls this bread “the bread of affliction.” While this idea of “no leavened bread” should be understood as it is, Rev. Choi has interpreted the concept of “no leavened bread” as the “bread of affliction” that contains none of one’s thoughts and egos when it is baked. Unleavened bread does not contain any yeasts, and God calls this bread the “bread of affliction” to have the Israelites remember that it was the Lord who has led them out of Egypt.

Rev. Choi tells us that no one is free from this bread of affliction. We all encounter a time of trial and tribulation at some point in our lives. When that time happens, God wants us to eat this unleavened bread of affliction; he wants us to chew it well and digest it properly. We need to have the same attitude about our own problems; we should accept this suffering with happiness and transform it into a time of training for our better selves in the eyes of the Lord. Rev. Choi has told us to not despair and be afraid that we are toiling with no end at sight. He told us to cherish this time by learning and training from its hardship, as God has commanded the Israelites to eat the bread of affliction to never forget that it was the Lord who has freed them from the shackles of Egypt. Let us strive each day to accept this bread of affliction with open arms and embrace its hardships to learn from it!

4. Always remember who you were before meeting God

Rev. Choi has told us that we must first remember the kind of person we were before accepting Jesus in our lives, and thank the Lord for leading us to His ways. Humans are prone to forget, and this forgetfulness is what drives our ego and causes us to be arrogant. If we can just remember who we used to be before receiving the Lord’s Grace, we are much less likely to commit the sin of denouncing the Lord’s miracles and announcing our greatness. As God wanted Israelite to eat the unleavened bread to never forget that it was His work that lead them out of Egypt, He also wants us to never forget the grace we’ve received from Him.

Of course, all these are much easier said than done. Let us all pray and strive to become true Achievers with these four qualities!

A.K. 

 

* Reverend Goshen Choi is the founder and the president of Nyskc World Mission Center. Nyskc World Mission Center was founded in 1993 with the purpose of establishing a global organization devoted to the restoration of worship and churches. Their motto is “When the Worship is restored, the church is risen, the nation renewed and the family revived!”

A Motivating Story of Nick Vujicic

“I have the choice to be angry at God for what i don’t have, or be thankful for what i do have”―Nick Vujicic, Life Without Limits

He goes around the world to tell people “you are beautiful just the way you are.” Nick Vujicic is a motivational speaker with no arms and no legs. He was born with tetra-amlia syndrome, which is a disease characterized by the absence of all four limbs. Instead of choosing to be angry with God for what he doesn’t have, he chose to thank him for a little foot with two toes. He learned to do everything without limbs—He does most of the daily skills with his two toes on his foot. He can eat, brush his teeth, type up to 43 words in a minute, play drum, play soccer, swim, and etc.
He had attempted suicide at the age of ten due to bullying in school. However, he decided to live after few attempts because he didn’t want to leave his loved ones with the burden and guilt. The turning point was when he was thirteen. He hurt his foot and couldn’t do all of the daily things he used to do. This made him realize that he has to be grateful for what he has and focus more on the abilities than disabilities. He decided to give his life to Jesus at the age of fifteen because he experienced the greatest peace, joy, and fulfillment when he found faith in Him.
“Jesus has given me victory over every circumstance and comforted me in every pain. I believe that once you find faith in God, you will experience the greatest peace, joy and fulfillment. My faith in God is why I am driven to motivate, share and travel.”
He still keeps a pair of shoes in his closet. Since he was young, he prayed God for two arms and two legs and his prayer is unanswered. However, he realized that his life could inspire others when his struggle and embrace his lack of limbs—he became to be thankful for who he was. Though his prayer was not answered, God had showed him the way, His plan, and the purpose of life. He said “if you can’t get a miracle, become one.” Even though he still prays for two arms and two legs, he knows that God will not make such miracle, instead, He made Nick to become a miracle, and spread Jesus, hope, and dreams.

Grit: A Secret to Success

For past few decades, many believed that our children’s future success and potentialities were depending on the measure of their IQs (Intellectual Quotient). However, recent researches have proved that success was not simply a matter of intelligence or talent. Success had more to do with ability to persist in the face of obstacles and to stick with the same one goal. The recent scientific terms described this kind of personality trait: grit. This characteristic can be described as endurance in terms of TAC ideology.

“Genius is 1 % inspiration and 99% perspiration,” is a well-known quote by Thomas Edison. He had told us, about seven decades ago, that genius is the one who endures obstacle and overcome barriers to accomplish their goals. However, we have focused too much on one’s talent and intelligence when it comes to “success.” It is because the talent and intelligence were an exposed phenomenon whereas their perspiration and grits were hidden characteristic behind that big phenomenon. For example, Newton’s discovery of gravity seems like a sudden epiphany. An apple fell on top of his head and that explained whole ideas of gravity and orbits of the moon and beyond. In fact, Newton had studied and thought about gravity for a long time. He went through tedious and painstaking work. It is well known that he filled his notebooks with scribbles of equations and spent months to find the exact moment of a pendulum. This shows that his discovery of gravity was not an instinct insight.

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Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at University of Pennsylvania is a pioneer of the study of Grit. She conducted a study based on the fifth graders in New York City Public School. She divided fifth graders into two groups A and B. She assigned an age-appropriated version of IQ test to both group. Then, she praised group A for their intelligence whereas group B was praised for their effort. She assigned them the second test, which was an upper grade level. There were different reactions in both groups. Group A were discouraged from doing the difficult problems, on the other hand, group B worked hard to finish the test. Then, they were given the third exam that was the same level as the first exam, and group A’s exam average decreased by 20% and whereas group B increased by 30%. This experiment clearly shows how efforts and endurance is the crucial maker of success.

Through this study, we realize the importance of stressing one’s qualitative value rather than quantitative value. When Group A was praised for their quantitative values like their grades and smartness, they became discouraged when they faced an obstacle. They refused to struggle through it. However, group B were able to struggle and endure because they were stressed on efforts they made. The researcher tried to convey that our mindset grow when we endure and go through a struggle. However, fixed minded people are those consider quantitative value as the most important trait and they give up when they meet an obstacle.

 

“And not only [so], but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;” (Roman 5:3-4)

Jesus Christ exemplified endurance for us. He suffered from the cross and endured all the pain to achieve one goal: to save us.  At the end of all the obstacles and tribulations, He was glorified and elevated to heaven. He showed us the secret to success—Girt, the power to endure.

References:

Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Self-discipline gives girls the edge: Gender in self-discipline, grades, and achievement test scores. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 198-208.

Lehrer, Jonah. “The truth about grit.” Boston Globe 02 Aug 2009.

S.Kim