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/

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

How to Face Adversity

Some say adversity is a blessing in disguised and I couldn’t agree more! Adversity is not a misery, but a chance in our lives. However, didn’t we learn from the Bible that our lives should be prosperous and serene if we believe in Jesus Christ? We often find out that this is not always the case. For example, when we look into the book of Jobs, God gave Jobs a lot of adversities and he lost everything he had—his children, wife, wealth, nobility, people, and health.

Why would God do such thing to Jobs? And to us?

It is because He wants to test us. He wants to examine that our hearts and faiths are true to Him. Of course, He is an almighty Lord and already knows them, but he wants us prove to ourselves that our hearts and faiths are real! Through this process, our faiths get mature and harden.

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart” (Proverbs 17:3)

“These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:7)

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Yet, when we face such hardships, we often don’t think they are blessings. Instead, we agonize and complain about them. How should we face it? How should we twist adversity into blessing?

  1.  Embrace your adversity

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1: 2-4)

 Do not run away from your hardship! Running away doesn’t mean you are escaped from the hardship. Who can truly be joyful when they face the trials or tests? However, the Bible tells us to do so because “the testing of [our faith] develops perseverance.” When we face adversity and embrace it, we produce the characters of nine fruits of Holy Spirit—“ […] love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. “ (Galatians 5:22-23)

      2.  Pray! Pray! Pray!

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.  You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.” (Psalm 139: 1-3)

 Adversity is a chance for you to talk to God! Remember that He is giving you the chance to cry out to Him. He is with you most closely when you are facing adversity. When David was running away from Saul, whom tried to kill him, he couldn’t do anything but pray. He finds out that God is always with him and he confesses that God knows everything—He knows David better than himself and guides him on His path. David felt Him most closely when he was in hardship.

3.  Give thanks

“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.”

(Psalm 18:30)

 Be thankful for your adversity! Thank Him because you are in His boundaries. He is leading you in His way. He is perfect and flawless. Be thankful for your hardships because in the end, He will lead you to victory!

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

Foresight

Who would have known that the bomb was going to be exploded at the finish line of Boston marathon? The explosions at Boston marathon on April 15, 2013 caused three death and 180 injuries. Boston was completely locked down while FBI and police officers were man hunting door to door. The whole country was terrified and grieved over this incident. This incident made us realizes that we are certainly living in the world where unexpected tragedy strikes and unpredictable events occur.

What would happen if someone had predicted the terror just ten minute earlier?  Would things be different? We are so blind to the future. We never know what will happen in the future—even five minutes later.

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Foresight is an ability to accurately predict future outcomes. It is an ability to see the “bigger picture” of how certain events will progress and predict the outcome. Foresight requires trend analysis, critical thinking, visioning, and modeling.  Foresight has become an important requirement for entrepreneurs, leaders, and politicians, because they need to “see” potential opportunities or pitfalls lay in front of them.

According to studies done by Addis et al (2007), our memories of past play an important role in imagining future events. Past and future thinking showed to activate many of the same regions of the brain. This study shows that we use our past experience as a “guidelines” to predict future. Also, it shows that people heavily rely on their experience to predict and foresee their future.

Despite all studies and predictions made by human, God is the one who governs this whole universe. Nothing is impossible for Him. We are all under His government and He had planned everything and He governs us in His Good Will.  We can see the miracles He made in the Bible, where He made all illogical and impossible things to happen.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  (Proverbs 16:9)

Ralph Waldo Emerson had quoted “All thoughts of a turtle are turtle.” This quote possibly means that people are what they think of—we have limited perception and insights. We cannot understand God’s plan with our limited perception and understanding. Despite, people do foresee and make predictions of future; our future is in God’s hand. We can only be humble under His wisdom and insights.

“God’s finger touched him, and he slept” –Lord Alfred Tennyson

Our hearts are heavy for those who had died and injured in Boston Marathon. We pray for them and their families. God is good and He will comfort all those have grieved and hurt. May God Bless America.

References:

1)  Addis DR, Wong AT, Schacter DL. “Remembering the past and imagining the future: common and distinct neural substrates during event construction and elaboration.” Neuropsychologia. 2007 Apr 8;45(7):1363-77.

2)  Source of Intellectual Discourse. The Publishing House of The Achiever Club. 2011. Aug pages 15 and 21

3) http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/16/us/explosions-reported-at-site-of-boston-marathon.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

4)  http://emergentbydesign.com/2010/06/15/essential-skills-for-21st-century-survival-part-4-foresight/

 

How hard is it to obey God?

The Marshmallow Test is a classic experimental measure of children’s self control. In the 1970’s Walter Mischel, a psychology professor at Stanford University, ran a series of experiments with four-year olds. He gave each child a marshmallow with an instruction that if they do not eat and wait 20 minutes, he will give them another.

Each child is tested in the room that was little larger than a closet with a desk and a chair, and had to stare at the marshmallow for 20 minutes. Of course, 20 minutes feels like eternality to four-years olds. All kids agonized over resisting the marshmallow. They all could not stop staring at it, poking it, and even licking it. However, some kids broke down in 20 seconds, some in 40, and others in two minutes. A few broke down even in last 20 minutes. Only one in three were able to resist the temptation and wait.

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The Marshmallow Test clearly shows how weak we are in front of the temptation. The Marshmallow test reminds us of the story of Adam and Even. In the Bible, God commands them to “not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” However, when the serpent temps Eve, she sees that “the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight[ful] to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” She eats the fruit and also offers one to Adam.

Obedience is the simplest thing (because all you have to do is just follow), yet the hardest thing because we are naturally sinners. We naturally tend to choose what looks good and “delight[ful] to the eyes,” instead of what God has told us to choose. Most of the times, what I want is so different from what God wants, and we agonize over resisting what we want to do.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Roman 12:2)

Obeying God is not hard when we believe that He is the Creator who loves us deeply, and also when we love Him. When we start obeying Him, we begin to discover that God’s will for us is “good, pleasing and perfect.” Though it is the constant fight between what I want against what God wants—choose what God wants and discover the perfect will He prepared for us.

– Shua Kim

Source:

http://www.rochester.edu/news/show.php?id=4622

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_lehrer

Genesis, Chapter 3, verse 3-6

Roman, Chapter 12, verse 2