Giftedness Acceptance

Q. Imagine that an adult person is struggling in life (because they are gifted, but don’t know that) – what kinds of struggles would this person be experiencing, that are caused by “invisible” giftedness – i.e caused by being gifted, but at the same time not knowing that giftedness is even a thing?

A. When a gifted adult is unaware of their giftedness, they may experience a variety of struggles that can be perplexing and challenging. These struggles often stem from their unique cognitive and emotional traits not being recognized or understood, even by themselves. Here are some common struggles that can be attributed to “invisible” giftedness:

  1. Feeling Out of Sync: Gifted adults may feel that they are out of step with their peers. They might have interests, concerns, and a level of intensity that differs significantly from those around them, leading to a sense of isolation or alienation.
  2. Perfectionism and High Self-Expectations: Without understanding their giftedness, these individuals may set exceedingly high standards for themselves, leading to perfectionism. This can result in significant anxiety, fear of failure, and a persistent sense that they are not meeting their own expectations.
  3. Multipotentiality: Gifted adults often have multiple talents and interests, making it challenging to choose a career path or focus on a single area. This can lead to feelings of frustration and a sense of being scattered or unfocused.
  4. Underachievement: Without recognizing their giftedness, some adults may not leverage their full potential. They might find themselves in environments that do not challenge them, leading to underachievement and a lack of fulfillment.
  5. Social and Emotional Issues: Gifted adults can experience intense emotions and deep empathy, which can be overwhelming without proper understanding and support. They may struggle with forming relationships where they feel truly understood and accepted.
  6. Existential Angst: Gifted individuals often engage in deep existential thinking from a young age, which can continue into adulthood. They may grapple with questions about the meaning of life, justice, and morality, which can contribute to feelings of existential depression.
  7. Imposter Syndrome: Even when they achieve, some gifted adults may feel like they are faking it or do not truly deserve their successes. This can stem from a lack of understanding of their own abilities and the effortlessness with which they sometimes achieve goals.

Recognizing these struggles is the first step toward understanding the role that unrecognized giftedness may play in an individual’s life. Once these challenges are linked to giftedness, it can be a relief for the individual, as they finally have a context for their experiences. This understanding is crucial for developing coping strategies and creating a more fulfilling life that aligns with their unique capabilities and needs.

Q. Those are great examples. What areas of life would struggles typically show up in, and how might they present themselves in those areas?

A. The struggles stemming from unrecognized giftedness in adults can manifest in various areas of their lives, often affecting their emotional well-being, professional life, relationships, and personal growth. Here’s how these struggles might present themselves in different areas:

  1. Professional Life and Career:
    • Underachievement: Gifted adults may feel unchallenged in their careers, leading to a lack of engagement or motivation. This underachievement can result in job hopping, dissatisfaction, or not reaching their full potential.
    • Misalignment with Values: They might find themselves in careers that don’t align with their deep values or don’t fully utilize their abilities, causing frustration and a sense of wasted potential.
    • Difficulty with Authority: Gifted adults may question inefficient systems or ineffective leadership, leading to conflicts in the workplace.
  2. Educational Experiences:
    • Boredom and Lack of Engagement: In educational settings, they may have experienced boredom or frustration due to a lack of challenge or pace that matches their learning speed.
    • Mismatched Learning Styles: Gifted individuals often have unique learning styles that may not align with traditional educational methods, leading to frustration or disengagement.
  3. Relationships and Social Life:
    • Feeling Misunderstood: Difficulty finding peers who share their intensity, interests, or level of intellectual curiosity can lead to feelings of isolation or alienation.
    • Intense Emotions: Gifted adults may experience emotions more intensely, which can be challenging in relationships if not understood or shared by others.
    • High Expectations: They might have high expectations for themselves and others, potentially leading to disappointments or strained relationships.
  4. Emotional and Psychological Well-being:
    • Existential Depression: Deep, existential thinking can lead to feelings of depression or anxiety, particularly if they feel unable to share these thoughts or find answers.
    • Overexcitabilities: Heightened levels of mental, emotional, and even physical sensitivity can result in overstimulation and stress.
    • Imposter Syndrome: Achieving success but feeling unworthy of it or fearing being exposed as a fraud can affect their self-esteem and confidence.
  5. Personal Development and Self-Identity:
    • Struggling with Self-Identity: Gifted adults might struggle with understanding who they are, especially if they have spent their lives trying to conform to societal norms or expectations.
    • Perfectionism: The drive for perfection in various aspects of life can lead to procrastination, anxiety, and a persistent sense of failure.

Understanding how these struggles manifest can help gifted adults seek appropriate support and interventions. By addressing these challenges, they can begin to harness their giftedness positively, leading to more fulfilling and balanced lives.

Q. How important is it, that the gifted adult first understand what the root problem is – for example, if the adult doesn’t realise they are gifted, they may consult a ‘normal’ therapist – and if that therapist isn’t gifted-aware – the therapist may diagnose incorrectly, and then prescribe the kind of help that would be useful if the assumptions were correct, but in this case, the help could cause more trouble.

A. It’s crucial for a gifted adult to understand the root problem, including the recognition of their giftedness, to receive appropriate support and guidance. If a gifted adult consults a therapist who is not aware of the nuances of giftedness, there’s a risk of misdiagnosis or misunderstanding the individual’s unique challenges and needs. Here’s why understanding the root problem is vital:

  1. Accurate Diagnosis: Without recognizing the role of giftedness, therapists might attribute a gifted adult’s struggles to other psychological issues. For instance, the intensity and overexcitabilities of gifted individuals could be mistaken for mood disorders, anxiety, or ADHD. An accurate understanding ensures that any interventions or therapies are appropriate and effective.
  2. Tailored Intervention Strategies: Gifted adults have unique cognitive and emotional characteristics that standard therapeutic approaches may not address. Therapy that is informed by an understanding of giftedness can be tailored to address their specific issues, such as existential concerns, perfectionism, and multipotentiality.
  3. Preventing Worsening of Issues: Inappropriate or irrelevant therapy can exacerbate the gifted adult’s sense of being misunderstood or mislabeled, potentially leading to increased frustration, anxiety, or depression. It can also lead to a mistrust of therapeutic interventions in general.
  4. Self-Understanding and Acceptance: Recognizing and understanding one’s giftedness can be a profound experience for a gifted adult, leading to greater self-acceptance and an ability to make life choices that align with their intrinsic needs and values.
  5. Effective Coping Strategies: When therapy acknowledges a person’s giftedness, coping strategies can be more effectively tailored. For example, a gifted individual might benefit from strategies that address overstimulation or intensity, rather than more general approaches.

For these reasons, it’s essential for gifted adults to seek out professionals who are knowledgeable about giftedness or to educate their existing therapists about the unique challenges they face. This ensures that the support they receive is genuinely beneficial and aligned with their true needs. If a gifted adult is unaware of their own giftedness, discovering this aspect of their identity can be a critical turning point in their therapeutic journey and overall well-being.

Q. Going back to the various areas of life in which the unacknowledged-gifted person will struggle – can you provide the same categories, but this time suggest what the root problem would be mistakenly seen as, when giftedness is not included because it is not known about.

A. Certainly, when the giftedness of an individual is not acknowledged or understood, the root problems in various life areas may be mistakenly attributed to other issues. Here’s how these misunderstandings might manifest across different aspects of their lives:

  1. Professional Life and Career:
    • Root Problem Misinterpreted: The person’s lack of engagement or job satisfaction might be seen as a lack of commitment, laziness, or indecisiveness, rather than a need for more stimulating, challenging, or meaningful work.
  2. Educational Experiences:
    • Root Problem Misinterpreted: Boredom and lack of engagement in education might be mistaken for a learning disability, lack of effort, or disinterest in academic success, ignoring the need for accelerated or deeper learning opportunities.
  3. Relationships and Social Life:
    • Root Problem Misinterpreted: The feeling of being misunderstood or the struggle to form deep connections might be interpreted as social ineptitude, introversion, or arrogance, rather than a mismatch in intellectual or emotional intensity.
  4. Emotional and Psychological Well-being:
    • Root Problem Misinterpreted: Intense emotions or existential angst might be misdiagnosed as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, or depression, without recognizing the connection to the intellectual and emotional depth characteristic of giftedness.
  5. Personal Development and Self-Identity:
    • Root Problem Misinterpreted: Issues with self-identity or self-acceptance might be seen as general self-esteem issues or identity crises without acknowledging the impact of unrecognized gifted traits and the lack of fit with societal norms.

By not considering giftedness as a contributing factor, the interventions or support provided may not address the underlying causes of these issues, leading to continued struggles and potentially exacerbating the situation. It’s essential for professionals working with such individuals to consider the possibility of giftedness as part of their assessment and intervention planning to ensure that the support they provide is truly effective and addresses the core issues at hand.

Q. I think this last response is perhaps the most valuable – as it presents an acceptance that there is a problem, and that their are struggles – which are unkowingly due to un-diagnosed giftedness – but presents the mistaken ways that people ‘make sense of’ what the struggle is caused by. Can we take each category individually, and flesh out in more specific detail – the typical struggles that present themselves (caused by undiagnosed giftedness), and what those struggles are typically put down to, when the true cause (undiagnosed giftedness) is hidden. Let’s start with professional Life and Career.

A. Absolutely, let’s delve into the specifics of how unrecognized giftedness can manifest in professional life and career, and how these manifestations are often misinterpreted.

Struggles in Professional Life and Career due to Undiagnosed Giftedness

  1. Boredom and Lack of Engagement: Gifted adults may quickly master their job responsibilities, leading to boredom and a lack of engagement. They crave stimulating, challenging work that engages their intellect and creativity.
  2. Job Hopping: They may change jobs frequently, seeking environments that better match their need for complexity and growth, which can be misinterpreted as a lack of commitment or stability.
  3. Unrealized Potential: Gifted adults might not fully apply themselves or showcase their abilities, either because they’re unaware of their potential or they’re in environments that don’t recognize or nurture it.
  4. Conflict with Authority: They may question inefficient or illogical systems and authority, leading to conflicts in the workplace, especially if their approach or ideas are perceived as too radical or unorthodox.
  5. Perfectionism and Procrastination: High standards and a drive for perfection can lead to procrastination or a fear of failure, impacting their productivity and satisfaction.

Common Misinterpretations

  1. Lack of Commitment or Laziness: When gifted adults lose interest in their jobs or change positions frequently, it might be misinterpreted as a lack of commitment, when in fact, they are seeking more challenging and fulfilling opportunities.
  2. Lack of People Skills or Team Spirit: Their questioning of systems or authority might be seen as a lack of teamwork or people skills, rather than an expression of their deep-seated need for efficiency and effectiveness.
  3. Inconsistency or Unreliability: The fluctuation in their engagement and performance, often tied to their level of interest and stimulation, may be mistaken for inconsistency or unreliability.
  4. Arrogance or Overconfidence: Their strong convictions and the intensity with which they may present ideas or solutions can be misinterpreted as arrogance, rather than a reflection of their passion and depth of thought.
  5. Underperformance: If a gifted adult is not working to their full potential due to a lack of challenge, it might be viewed as underperformance or failure to live up to their capabilities, without recognizing the need for a more suitable, stimulating environment.

Understanding these dynamics is crucial for both the gifted individual and their employers. For the gifted adult, recognizing the root cause of their career dissatisfaction can be a catalyst for seeking roles that align better with their abilities and aspirations. For employers, understanding the unique traits of gifted employees can help in creating environments that leverage their strengths, leading to increased satisfaction and productivity.

Q. Next, let’s look at edicational experiences

A. Exploring how undiagnosed giftedness affects educational experiences sheds light on why gifted individuals often face unique challenges in academic settings. These challenges, when not correctly attributed to giftedness, can lead to misunderstandings and missed opportunities for appropriate support.

Struggles in Educational Experiences due to Undiagnosed Giftedness

  1. Underachievement: Gifted students may underachieve, not engaging with the material because it’s not challenging or stimulating enough, leading to a lack of motivation.
  2. Boredom and Disengagement: They often find standard curriculum slow-paced and unchallenging, resulting in boredom and disengagement in the classroom.
  3. Social Isolation: Gifted individuals might struggle to connect with peers who don’t share their intensity or interests, leading to feelings of isolation.
  4. Mismatch with Teaching Styles: Traditional teaching methods may not align with the learning style of a gifted student, who could prefer more depth, complexity, and autonomy in learning.
  5. Emotional Sensitivity and Stress: The heightened emotional sensitivity of gifted individuals can result in increased stress and anxiety in educational settings, especially if their emotional needs are not addressed.

Common Misinterpretations

  1. Learning Disabilities or Attention Issues: The signs of boredom and disengagement can be misinterpreted as ADHD or learning disabilities, especially when gifted students exhibit behaviors like daydreaming or inattentiveness due to lack of challenge.
  2. Lack of Effort or Motivation: When gifted students underachieve, it might be misconstrued as laziness or a lack of effort, rather than a response to unmet intellectual needs.
  3. Behavioral or Social Problems: The social struggles of gifted individuals might be viewed as behavioral issues or poor social skills, rather than as a consequence of their asynchrony with peers or the environment.
  4. Emotional or Psychological Issues: The intense emotional experiences of gifted individuals can be misdiagnosed as emotional or psychological disorders, overlooking the link between their emotional intensity and giftedness.
  5. Incompatibility with School Environment: Conflicts arising from a mismatch between a gifted student’s learning needs and the school’s offerings might be seen as the student’s inability to adapt, rather than a signal that the educational environment doesn’t align with their needs.

Recognizing and addressing these issues is crucial for educators, parents, and the gifted individuals themselves. Proper identification and support can transform the educational experience for gifted students, fostering engagement, achievement, and well-being. Schools and educators equipped with an understanding of giftedness can create differentiated learning experiences that cater to the diverse needs of gifted students, helping them to thrive academically and personally.

Q. Next, let’s look at relationships and social life – especially the relationship with parents and partners, and peer groups.

A. The impact of undiagnosed giftedness on relationships and social life can be profound, affecting connections with parents, partners, and peer groups. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for fostering healthier relationships and social interactions.

Struggles in Relationships and Social Life due to Undiagnosed Giftedness

  1. Intense Emotions and Sensitivities: Gifted adults often experience emotions more intensely, which can lead to misunderstandings or conflicts with partners, family, and friends who may not share or understand this intensity.
  2. Feeling Misunderstood or Isolated: The intellectual and emotional depth of gifted individuals can make them feel misunderstood or isolated, as they may struggle to find others who share their interests or understand their perspectives.
  3. Divergent Interests and Values: Gifted adults may have eclectic or intense interests that are not shared by their peers or partners, leading to a sense of disconnection.
  4. Communication Challenges: Their advanced vocabulary or complex way of expressing thoughts can sometimes create barriers in communication with others who might not resonate with or understand their level of expression.
  5. Asynchronous Development: Especially in younger gifted individuals, the mismatch between their intellectual maturity and their emotional or social development can complicate interactions with peers and adults.

Common Misinterpretations

  1. Perceived Arrogance or Aloofness: The deep, analytical nature of gifted individuals can be mistaken for arrogance or aloofness, especially if they engage in debates or discuss topics with a level of depth that others find overwhelming.
  2. Lack of Empathy: Their intense focus on interests or ideas can be misinterpreted as a lack of empathy or concern for others, even though they may experience deep empathy and sensitivity.
  3. Social Ineptitude: Challenges in finding common ground with peers can be misconstrued as social ineptitude or awkwardness, rather than a reflection of their unique perspective and depth of thought.
  4. Over-Emotionality or Drama: The intense emotional life of gifted individuals can be misunderstood as over-emotionality or drama, rather than a natural aspect of their giftedness.
  5. Unrealistic Expectations: Gifted individuals may have high expectations for relationships and may be seen as demanding or hard to please, when they are simply seeking depth and authenticity in their connections.

For gifted adults, understanding the impact of their giftedness on their relationships can be enlightening and relieving. It can help them navigate their social world more effectively and foster more meaningful connections. For their partners, family members, and friends, this understanding can lead to more empathy and support, facilitating stronger and more fulfilling relationships. It’s crucial for gifted individuals to find supportive communities and relationships where their traits are appreciated and where they can connect on a deep and authentic level.

Q. Next, let’s look at emotional and psychological well being

A. Undiagnosed giftedness significantly influences the emotional and psychological well-being of individuals, presenting unique challenges that can often be misunderstood or overlooked.

Struggles in Emotional and Psychological Well-Being due to Undiagnosed Giftedness

  1. Overexcitabilities: Gifted adults often experience intense forms of physical and emotional overexcitabilities, leading to heightened emotional responses that can be overwhelming or difficult to manage.
  2. Existential Depression: They may grapple with existential questions and concerns from a young age, leading to feelings of existential depression or a persistent sense of searching for meaning and purpose.
  3. Perfectionism: A common trait among gifted individuals is a tendency toward perfectionism, which can contribute to anxiety, stress, and feelings of inadequacy when they fail to meet their own high standards.
  4. Isolation: Feeling different from others can lead to social isolation, either because gifted individuals withdraw or because they are excluded by peers who do not share or understand their intensity and interests.
  5. Impostor Syndrome: Despite their abilities, gifted adults may struggle with impostor syndrome, feeling that they are not as competent as others perceive them to be, which can undermine their self-esteem and confidence.

Common Misinterpretations

  1. Mood Disorders: The intense emotions and sensitivities of gifted individuals can be mistaken for mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder or depression, leading to misdiagnosis or inappropriate treatment.
  2. Anxiety Disorders: The perfectionism and high self-expectations common among gifted individuals can be misinterpreted as anxiety disorders, without recognizing the root cause in their gifted traits.
  3. Antisocial Behavior: The tendency for gifted adults to seek solitude or engage in deep, introspective thought can be misinterpreted as antisocial behavior or a lack of interest in socializing.
  4. Eccentricity or Oddness: The unique perspectives and behaviors of gifted individuals can be viewed as eccentricity or oddness, rather than expressions of their complex inner lives and intellectual curiosity.
  5. Emotional Instability: The deep emotional experiences and overexcitabilities can be misperceived as emotional instability, rather than as a component of their giftedness.

For emotional and psychological well-being, it’s crucial for gifted adults to understand how their giftedness impacts their inner experiences. Recognition and acceptance of their unique traits can lead to healthier coping strategies and a more compassionate self-view. Therapy or counseling with professionals who understand giftedness can be particularly beneficial, as it offers a space to explore these complexities and develop strategies for managing the associated challenges. Additionally, connecting with communities or groups that understand and share these experiences can provide valuable support and a sense of belonging.

Q. And finally, let’s look at personal development and self-identity – please expand on this one in more detail than the previous ones 🙂

A. Personal development and self-identity are profoundly influenced by undiagnosed giftedness. The journey of understanding one’s giftedness is intertwined with the broader exploration of self, impacting various facets of personal growth and identity formation.

Struggles in Personal Development and Self-Identity due to Undiagnosed Giftedness

  1. Self-Acceptance: Gifted adults often struggle with accepting themselves fully, especially if their attributes or sensitivities have been criticized or undervalued. This struggle can impede their ability to embrace their unique talents and qualities.
  2. Asynchronous Development: Gifted individuals can experience uneven development in intellectual, emotional, and social domains, leading to feelings of being out of sync with peers. This asynchrony can challenge the formation of a coherent self-identity.
  3. Value Conflicts: Gifted adults may have deep-seated values and beliefs that differ from the mainstream, causing internal conflict and difficulty in aligning their external lives with their inner values.
  4. Identity Exploration: The multipotentiality common among gifted individuals can lead to ongoing exploration and sometimes confusion about their true passions and paths, complicating the development of a stable sense of identity.
  5. Alienation: Feeling fundamentally different from others can lead to a sense of alienation, impacting the individual’s self-concept and feelings of belonging.

Expanded Insight into Personal Development and Self-Identity

Identity Formation Challenges: Gifted adults often navigate a complex process of identity formation, balancing their intellectual capabilities with emotional depth and societal expectations. They may question who they are at their core and how their giftedness shapes their identity, leading to a nuanced and sometimes turbulent journey of self-discovery.

Multiplicity of Interests: The vast range of interests that many gifted adults possess can be both a gift and a curse. While it allows them to explore various domains of knowledge and skill, it can also lead to feelings of fragmentation or lack of cohesion in their self-identity. They may wonder if they are destined to be a jack-of-all-trades but master of none, or struggle to integrate their diverse passions into a singular sense of self.

Internal vs. External Perceptions: Gifted individuals often grapple with a disconnect between how they see themselves and how they are perceived by others. They may feel misunderstood or pigeonholed based on their abilities or achievements, leading to a conflict between their internal identity and external labels or expectations.

Existential and Philosophical Engagements: The propensity for deep existential thought can significantly impact the self-identity of gifted adults. They might engage in ongoing philosophical inquiries about their place in the world, the nature of existence, and the meaning of life, which can be both enriching and isolating.

Navigating Norms and Expectations: Gifted adults may feel pressure to conform to societal norms or to downplay their abilities to fit in, which can be at odds with their authentic selves. The tension between wanting to belong and the desire to remain true to oneself can be a central theme in their personal development. To support their personal development and self-identity, gifted adults benefit from environments and relationships that acknowledge and celebrate their unique traits. Engaging in communities where they can share experiences and explore their identities with others who understand can be incredibly affirming. Counseling or coaching that specializes in giftedness can also provide valuable guidance, helping individuals to integrate their various aspects into a cohesive and empowered sense of self. Ultimately, recognizing and embracing their giftedness can lead to a more fulfilling and authentic life, where personal development is aligned with their true nature.

Q. Please include common misinterpretations – in detail with specific examples

A. In the context of personal development and self-identity, gifted adults often face misinterpretations that can skew their understanding of themselves and how they are perceived by others. These misunderstandings can have significant implications for their self-esteem, relationships, and life choices.

Common Misinterpretations in Personal Development and Self-Identity

  1. Being Labeled as Arrogant or Aloof: Gifted adults who are confident in their abilities or who simply share their knowledge and insights can be misinterpreted as arrogant or aloof. For example, a gifted adult who offers a detailed explanation in a group setting might be seen as showing off, rather than genuinely trying to contribute to the discussion.
  2. Perceived as Underachievers: When gifted adults have a multitude of interests but do not conform to traditional measures of success (e.g., climbing the corporate ladder), they might be viewed as underachievers or lacking direction. An individual excelling in diverse fields yet not committing to one may be wrongly seen as lacking focus or commitment.
  3. Misunderstood Social Needs: Their need for deep, meaningful relationships can be misconstrued as being overly intense or demanding. For instance, a gifted adult seeking profound conversations might be misunderstood as being unsatisfied with normal social interactions, leading others to view them as pretentious or unsociable.
  4. Confused with Mental Health Issues: The intense introspection and existential questioning common among gifted individuals can be mistaken for signs of mental health issues. For example, a person deeply contemplating existential themes might be mislabeled as depressed rather than recognized as engaging in a form of intellectual exploration.
  5. Mistaken for Being Unempathetic: Gifted adults, particularly those with a highly analytical mind, might be seen as unempathetic or detached, especially when they approach emotional situations with logic. However, their way of processing emotions can be deeply empathetic, albeit expressed differently.

Specific Examples

  • Career: A gifted individual who switches careers frequently to explore different interests might be judged as lacking perseverance or being indecisive, rather than being recognized for their multipotentiality and desire for growth.
  • Education: A gifted adult who delves into self-education and rejects formal educational paths might be seen as non-conformist or resistant to authority, rather than being appreciated for their autodidactic approach and love of learning.
  • Relationships: If a gifted person prefers fewer but more intense friendships, they may be labeled as picky or elitist, overlooking their need for connections that stimulate their intellect and resonate with their values.
  • Emotional Expression: Their intense emotional experiences might be misconstrued as overreacting or being dramatic, rather than as a natural aspect of their sensitivity and depth of feeling.

Understanding these misinterpretations is crucial for gifted adults as they navigate their path to self-awareness and acceptance. By recognizing these potential misunderstandings, they can better advocate for themselves and seek environments and communities that support their authentic way of being, fostering a healthier and more integrated sense of identity.

Q. Thank you! If we were going to turn this whole thread into a book – write an chapter and chapter section outline for the book, remembering it is written for the gifted adult who is struggling, because they have not yet acknowledged, understood and accepted their giftedness

A. Certainly! Here’s a chapter and section outline for a book aimed at helping gifted adults who are struggling due to unrecognized giftedness. The book would guide them through understanding, acknowledging, and embracing their giftedness to improve their overall well-being and life satisfaction.

Book Title: Embracing Your Hidden Gift: A Journey to Understanding and Acceptance for Gifted Adults

Chapter 1: Discovering Giftedness in Adulthood

  • Section 1.1: Signs of Giftedness in Adults
  • Section 1.2: The Spectrum of Giftedness
  • Section 1.3: Myths and Misconceptions about Gifted Adults
  • Section 1.4: The Importance of Recognizing Giftedness

Chapter 2: The Emotional Landscape of Gifted Adults

  • Section 2.1: Intensity and Sensitivity
  • Section 2.2: Navigating Complex Emotions
  • Section 2.3: The Double-Edged Sword of Empathy
  • Section 2.4: Overcoming Emotional Challenges

Chapter 3: Professional Life and Career

  • Section 3.1: Career Fulfillment and Challenges
  • Section 3.2: Multipotentiality and Career Choices
  • Section 3.3: Workplace Relationships and Dynamics
  • Section 3.4: Strategies for Professional Success

Chapter 4: Educational Experiences

  • Section 4.1: Lifelong Learning and Curiosity
  • Section 4.2: Formal Education vs. Self-Directed Learning
  • Section 4.3: Overcoming Academic Frustrations
  • Section 4.4: Leveraging Educational Experiences

Chapter 5: Relationships and Social Life

  • Section 5.1: Building Meaningful Connections
  • Section 5.2: Challenges in Romantic Relationships
  • Section 5.3: Friendship Dynamics
  • Section 5.4: Family Interactions and Understanding

Chapter 6: Emotional and Psychological Well-Being

  • Section 6.1: Understanding Your Emotional Depth
  • Section 6.2: Mental Health Considerations
  • Section 6.3: Coping with Stress and Anxiety
  • Section 6.4: Seeking Support and Therapy

Chapter 7: Personal Development and Self-Identity

  • Section 7.1: The Quest for Self-Understanding
  • Section 7.2: Nurturing Your Interests and Talents
  • Section 7.3: Values, Beliefs, and Giftedness
  • Section 7.4: Crafting a Cohesive Self-Identity

Chapter 8: Overcoming Misinterpretations and Misdiagnoses

  • Section 8.1: Common Misinterpretations in Various Life Aspects
  • Section 8.2: Navigating Misdiagnoses
  • Section 8.3: Advocating for Yourself
  • Section 8.4: Finding Gifted-Aware Support

Chapter 9: Embracing and Expressing Your Giftedness

  • Section 9.1: Accepting Your Gifted Nature
  • Section 9.2: Integrating Giftedness into Your Life
  • Section 9.3: The Role of Creativity and Innovation
  • Section 9.4: Contributing Your Unique Gifts to the World

Chapter 10: Building a Supportive Community

  • Section 10.1: Connecting with Other Gifted Adults
  • Section 10.2: Online and Offline Gifted Communities
  • Section 10.3: Creating Your Support Network
  • Section 10.4: The Power of Mentorship and Role Models

Chapter 11: Planning for the Future

  • Section 11.1: Setting Personal and Professional Goals
  • Section 11.2: Lifelong Learning and Growth
  • Section 11.3: Envisioning Your Future Self
  • Section 11.4: Legacy and Impact

Chapter 12: Resources and Further Reading

  • Section 12.1: Books and Articles
  • Section 12.2: Online Resources and Communities
  • Section 12.3: Workshops and Conferences
  • Section 12.4: Professional Services and Support for Gifted Adults

This outline aims to provide a comprehensive guide to help gifted adults navigate the complexities of their experiences, offering insights, strategies, and resources to foster a deeper understanding and acceptance of their giftedness, leading to a more fulfilling and authentic life.

Network Marketing

I was asked about success in network marketing recently..

As always, it’s important to make distinctions. Let’s look at the separate aspects of this:

  1. Network marketing itself
  2. Personal development/self-growth
  3. Self-image/self-awareness
  4. A mentor/coach

Network Marketing

To succeed in network marketing – you need to build a large network of people, which product flows through.

The larger your network – the more product flows through, and the larger your earnings.

So success in network marketing is directly related to how many people join your network – either through you personally, or through your downline.

So the metric for success – is “how many people did you ask to look at the business?” – and track that number every single day.

That number is your success metric. We have no control of other people – so we’re not really too concerned with how many people say yes – we do have control over ourselves, our behaviours – what we’re really tracking is our ability to drive our own behaviours – especially new behaviours that feel uncomfortable – i.e. asking people to look at the business.

Again – importantly – it’s doesn’t really matter what people say.. what matters, is how many people you are asking every day – to simply take a look at network marketing.

Of course – there are many different ways – better ways and not so good ways to “ask” – but the bottom line – is how many people do you ask that question of. Bottom line. A number – every day – how many people did you ask to look at network marketing.

I’ve clarified the ways to ask at the bottom..

Personal Development

If you are one of the lucky ones – if you have already achieved financial success in your previous endeavours – then network marketing will be no different – you will already have the skills and experience and confidence to approach and “sign-up” people relatively easily. You will succeed without much real need for growth or change.

However – if your previous success is not at the level you need to earn you the money you want – then there is some personal growth required, some self-development. And the more you “grow” and build skills and confidence, the more you easily will earn and the more easily you will succeed.

A good measure of where you are on your development journey – is either:

  1. What is the most money you have earned previously – as an annual income? This is a good measure of your level of awareness.
  2. Complete a very unique and unusual profile instrument, that directly measures your self-confidence, your self-belief (and your natural talents).

Bottom line – if you are not already comfortable operating at a high level of success, there is self-development work to do.

But super importantly – this is not learning new skills, nor is it learning about network marketing.

It’s about upgrading your hidden self-image. (Which the unique profile measures too incidentally).

How do we track our true level of awareness? – Look at our bank balance. 🙂


This is really where the work needs to be done.

Mostly unconsciously – you will always create/manifest/justify/find yourself in – a world that is in complete alignment with your hidden self-image. Your results will always be congurent with your hidden self-image. In fact, it is such a powerful relationship – that if you change your hidden self-image – your external results simply have to change to align. Your results cannot be out of alignment with your hidden self-image.

Your self-image is built out of beliefs, and values – meanings – that were formed in early life usually – what we call conditioning. And all of these beliefs, values, meaning, “realities” – form both your “working model” of who you believe you truly are – and also – importantly – a working model of the world in which you live. Your reality.

When you change these working models – you change both who you are, and the world you live in.

In order to understand how to change them, you need to know how they were formed. And it’s a simple cause and effect relationship at it’s most basic level.

When you can identify a belief that is limiting your level of success – you simply need to “prove” to your subconscious mind – that it is not true – and you do this by proving it experientially. You need to physically experience a new reality – that directly disproves your existing/previous reality. Which, usually requires that you do the thing which scares you – to prove that it is not scary/dangerous/true.

For most people – the fear that stops them asking 5 people a day to look at network marketing – is simply the fear of rejection, the fear of shame, humiliation, the fear of feeling “not good enough” or not “loved”. With millions of years of evolution as a mammalian species, we are hard wired to “belong”. Rejection, abadonment, failure, shame – all trigger that primal fear of separation and exclusion from the group – which would typically lead to death (as a small powerless mammalian creature that requires parental feeding, care and protection).

So in simple terms – we have to find a way – the courage – to ask 5 people a day to look at the business. But in a way that is in harmony with who we believe we are – that feels right. We cannot.. and will not – ask people to look at the business, of we don’t believe deep down it is a good thing. So it’s important to also understand what network marketing really is.

Linda Proctor’s life (income) was transformed radically when she met Bob – by Linda doing just one thing that Bob asked. He asked her to make sure she was stood in front of a prospect at 9am every morning – and that she asked that prospect to buy $100k of life insurance. When Bob asked her to do that, she thought it would be easy. It sounds easy. But it wasn’t. But she did it anyway. And that change in her behaviour, changed her beliefs about herself, changed her self image, and ultimately her level of self-awareness – all leading to her life reflecting the new self-image – which was transformed into the self-image of a millionaire.

If you want to succeed in network marketing – ask 5 people a day – every day – to look at the business. Understand that this is what will drive your personal growth, this is what will prove to you that you can do this, and this is what will change your self-image. This is what will ensure you succeed.

And understand that it will almost certainly feel ‘wrong’ or uncomfortable. Until it doesn’t anymore 🙂

(How do we accurately track our level of self-awareness? Measure it using the only instrument that accurately measures it. The Coaching Profile)

The Mentor/Coach

Of course – implicit in this story of Linda and Bob Proctor – was the fact that Linda found someone who both understood the process of creating successful change – and believed in Linda – and was there to support her as she came up against conditioned fears, old self-limiting beliefs, and plain old fear. What Bob calls the terro barrier. Notice it’s not called the “fear” barrier, or the “I don’t fancy doing that” barrier.. it’s called the “terror” barrier for a reason.

Finding a mentor is really about finding someone who can see in you and believe in – the person you have the potential to become – before you can see and believe in that version of you yourself. You have to find someone you can trust – to tell you what you need to do – because it won’t make sense to you at your current level of awareness – or – more problematically – it will make sense but in a wrong and incorrect way. You need to trust that person – trust they know what they are doing, and that they can see your “successful” self before you can. And just do that simple thing:

Talk to 5 people every day – and find a way that works for you – to simply ask them to look at the business.

It doesn’t matter whether they say yes or nor, whether they are open or not, whether they get offended or not. What matters – is only that you ask them to look at the business.

And – for the new starter – it is easier than ever – because you don’t need to know anything. In fact, it’s better to not know – because then you naturally rely on your upline to do the presenting, instead of thinking you need to do it yourself.

It’s literally as easy as asking someone if they are happy with their life/work etc. What would they change if they could? Would they like more time with their kids, more money, a new car, a bigger house, a better lifestyle. Most people will be curious at least. And then – you simply ask them to jump on a call with someone who has done it already – and can show them how to do it if they’re interested. That person you asked will then either be interested or not.

That’s it. Your upline does the work. All you do is find out what people want – and then ask them to jump on a call with someone who knows how to do it, how to get it. They’ll make their own mind up – and it doesn’t matter what they decide. You asking 5 people a day, is all you need to change your own life.

Ways to Ask

What I’ve learned personally over the years, is that people on some levels are the same – and on some levels we’re very different. Yes, we’re all people with the same basic needs – but we’re also all unique with different beliefs, talents, interests, styles of working and motivations.

It helps to have an idea of the kind of person you’re talking to – so that you ask in the right way for them.

The easiest way to ‘connect’ with another person, is to first get to know them, and what they really want, or don’t want. When you dig down deep enough, people don’t actually want money itself – they want what they think money will give them – such as freedom to travel, time with family, the thrill of driving an expensive new car.

Once you know what a person really wants – you can then offer them the opportunity to jump on a call with a person who has already done it – to hear how they did it. You don’t even have to mention network marketing. Your upline can do all that work – because they’re speaking from a place of truth – about how network marketing changed their lives. You can’t do that yourself – not yet..

Network marketing provides the three things that cover all ‘wants’ – health, time freedom and money freedom. With those – a person can have whatever they want! But let your upline do the work – you just find people who are curious enough to jump on a call with someone who has done it, and will share how they did it, and answer questions from your prospect.


p.s. Even if you asked just one person a day – you would still be wildly successful and outperform 99% of people in network marketing. It would just take longer.

Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller: My Mental Autobiography

Loved the book.. here are the popular highlights..

Chapter 1: Unconditioned Thinking

  • What I thought we really ought to be doing was saying what does my experience teach me needs to be done that nobody’s attending to?
  • So I thought I would have to do everything I could to uncondition myself from anything I learned to believe, and go totally on what I had learned by experience. My thinking must always be experience.

Chapter 2: Process to Find Purpose

  • You’ll find out in due course whether if what you’re doing is what you should be doing, because you’ll find yourself surviving by what seems to be pure accident, absolute pure accident. No direct connection whatsoever.

Chapter 3: Future Thinking

  • I saw one thing that individuals can do right away and do it fast is think. A bureaucrat just isn’t allowed to think. You’re not going to be able to make a difference involved with that. Most of the thinking immediately involves you in seeing things that need to be donethat are going to take 45 years, 50 years, maybe 100 years. No corporation or political system will have the time horizon in view. They can’t afford it, the payoff isn’t there. I found society really tied up with very shortsighted way, with this year’s profit, this year’s crop, this year’s politics, next election.

Chapter 4: Evolutionary Tranformations

  • The mechanism was the ability to commit yourself to think about what needs to be thought about, whatever the size of the thing. Not worrying about time, not worrying about how you’re going to pay for things. But to really commit yourself, you must work very hard at it. You must do everything possible that is intelligent.
  • Another thing I decided was to never ask anybody to listen to me. I woudl only talk to human beings when they ask me to talk to them. I’m still very, very strict about this. I’m confident that people are not listening when you ask them to listen to you. They ony listen to you when they ask you to talk to them.
  • I must go into physical actions, and not just give my idea to somebody else to execute, or try to persuade other people.
  • I’m talking about an environmental alteration, rather than trying to reform human beings.
  • Environment to each must be, all there is that isn’t me. Universe in turn must be, all there is that isn’t me, and me.
  • I saw we were all processes. Whether we like it or not, we are chemical processes. A great deal of our time is preoccupied in attending to those processes. Anything I might do to accommodate your processes in less time would give you more time to really live. If I could cut down the numbers of hours and minutes that anybody else has to put into taking care of a chore, then that woudl allow them to have more time to pursue their own direction.

Chapter 5: Ordering Experience


Chapter 6: Results

  • One of the most important things to bear in mind is that there’s nothing one can budget. You can’t say I’m going to be able to afford to do that at all. You just have to say, what needs to be done and what do you need to know in order to be able to do it completely?

The Measurement of Value

by Robert S. Hartman

Research Professor in Philosophy. National University of Mexico & Chair of Excellence, Department of Philosophy, University of Tennessee

Originally prepared for the Director of Personnel at General Electric, Crotonville, New York April 29, 1959

A Short Introduction to Axiology


The subject of this short presentation will be “The Measurement of Intangibles.”

What are intangibles and how can they be measured?

The important choices we have to make in life and, I believe, in business, are based on intangibles.

Think, for example, of the choice of your wife. How in the world do you choose her? What do you have to go by? You know very well that if you would have a list of specifications of wives and you would carry that along when you were looking for girls and you would find one with all the specifications, then you wouldn’t marry her because you wouldn’t like her. There have been cases like this.

What is it then, that you base your choice upon? It is an intangible.

In business, suppose you have to choose a labourer. There isn’t much difficulty in doing that because you can put down in writing the specifications of that job and if he can raise a hammer and carry a heavy load than he will be a good labourer.

But how do you choose the president of a company? What specifications can you write down for the president of a company like General Electric who has to make decisions of hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of hundreds of thousands of employees?

How about the choice of the President of the United States? Why did you vote for Eisenhower instead of Stevenson or for Stevenson instead of Eisenhower? What did you go by? Why did they vote for Truman as against Dewey? I bet many did because Dewey had a moustache.


So, what are these tremendously important choices based upon? Can the intangibles be measured? You will say, “of course not, it is impossible, it can’t be done.”

Well, I agree up to a point – because the science of measuring those intangibles is in its infancy. But I want to remind you that also in the natural sciences, where you have the precision measurements on which General Electric is based, there was a time when all these ‘tangibles’, as you might call them, of measurement today, were absolutely intangible.

That was before Galileo had invented the marvellous application of mathematics to nature. For us today, it seems absolutely natural, a tangible thing, that if you go a hundred miles in two hours you have a speed of fifty miles per hour.

But for Galileo to produce the equation v = s/t was a tremendous achievement, and of such importance that it actually destroyed the medieval world. And, as you know, it almost killed him.

Why? Because he did something tremendous. He made the intangible tangible – and he did it in such a way that those who liked the intangibles more that the tangibles didn’t like it. What was the intangible that he made tangible?

Before Galileo, motion or movement was defined by Aristotle, in his Physics, as ‘the transition of potentiality into actuality.’

This was the Aristotelian definition of movement of things, of animals, of the soul, of God, of the limbs of the human body, and so on. This was called Natural Philosophy and on this you could not have built General Electric.

So Galileo did something absolutely unique and at that time unheard of.

First of all, he said, “I am only interested in the motion of objects,” – mechanical motion as we call it today. Therewith he toppled the whole Aristotelian world picture; he “secularized” movement.

Secondly he said, “I will measure such motion with measuring instruments,” and therewith he toppled the metaphysical view of the world. Since ‘falling’ was too fast to measure, he put balls on inclined planes, designed a water clock and measured, and the result was the little formula, that “v” equals the mathematical division between space and time, v = s/t.

Then he said the following.

“If this formula is correct according to my measurements, then I don’t have to look at observations of mechanical motion any more at all. All I have to do is look at what this equation means.

And what does it mean? For example, it means that vt = s.

If this is true, then it is also true that s is a rectangle with the sides v and t.

If this is true, I will try to see what are the properties of this rectangle and that, then, will give me the space of motion.”

And when you opened Galileo’s great book, Two New Sciences (1638), all you find is drawings of rectangles, triangles, and so on and, as you know, he said, “The book of nature is written in rectangles and triangles, in geometrical symbols,” and this is the beginning of modern science.

Now, this was the development from natural philosophy to natural science, and on this little formula is based the whole of modern science. It formulates uniform motion, then came the formula for accelerated motion, a = ½ gt2 , then the system of Newton, combining Galileo’s and Kepler’s formulae, the system of Einstein, and the atomic bomb. All this was based on the break by Galileo with Aristotelian physics. The book called Physics by Aristotle contained intangibles which Galileo
made tangible.


Aristotle also wrote a book called Ethics – the Nicomachean Ethics (his son was Nicomachos). Today when we teach ethics we teach the ethics of Aristotle and similar moral philosophies. Thus today we combine Einsteinian physics with Aristotelian ethics.

We have a disequilibrium of tremendous proportions: technological development in natural science and absolute stand-still in moral philosophy. We are morally at the stage of Aristotle.

Some of us philosophers, when we were students, thought that this situation was rather lopsided and that we must do to Aristotle’s Ethics what Galileo had done to Aristotle’s Physics.

We had to take the philosophical definition of goodness of Aristotle (and, by the way, “transition from potentiality to actuality” may also be regarded as an Aristotelian definition of value – it means just as little or as much for value as it does for motion) and we had to change it into something that meant as much for value as the Galilean definition for motion.

So our task, we figured, was to find an exact definition of value, of goodness in terms of either a mathematical or logical relation which would be as applicable and as developable as the Galilean definition of motion. This definition was finally found and I will in the time I have, give you the principles of it. We are today in the rudimentary beginnings of a science of value, you might say the first ten years of Galileo. If you remember how long it took to go from Galileo to General Electric,
then you will understand the tremendous development that is ahead in the science of value.


Now, what is a science? A science is nothing but the application of a formal frame of reference to a chaos of phenomena. In other words, you have the chaos of moving things. Aristotle tried to order this by words like “potentiality,” “actuality,” and the like, but these words themselves are disorder. For what is potentiality?

If you want to define it you have to define it by words, these words have to be defined, and the definitions defined, and the definitions of the definitions defined, and so on ad infinitum. Such a nest of definitions within definitions itself represents no order, or only a very rudimentary one.

However, if you take a system like mathematics – and the great achievement of Galileo was the line between the s and the t in the formula for velocity, v = s/t which represents the arithmetical division – then you are within a framework that is systematized and you can then apply this system to the chaos. You take points in the system and apply them to points in the chaos, and the order between points in the system is the order between the points in the chaos.

On this relationship between a formal system and phenomenal chaos is based all scientific definition. The minute a ray of light was defined as a straight line, the science of optics was born: the system of geometry could be used to account for rays of light, for “straight line” is a notion in the system in geometry.

Thus, a science is a combination of a formal system, whether it be mathematics in physics or theory of harmony in music or axiology in value, to a chaotic set of phenomena, be they natural phenomena or musical sounds or value situations.

So today we have the following view of science. You have the various natural sciences which are ordered by mathematics, namely physics, chemistry, astronomy, and so on, each applied to a set of natural situations. For example, a situation such as a cyclist cycling, is ordered by the science of physics which is ordered by mathematics and mathematics is itself ordered by logic; so that in the last instance the mechanical situation is ordered by logic. All natural science is, in the last instance, applied logic.


Now, we figured about twenty years ago, there are also value situations – such as I said before – choosing my wife, choosing the president of a company, or to give you another example, the flight of the airplane Enola Gay to Hiroshima. The pilot wrote in the log book the wind velocity, the weather and everything, at this exact minute we released the atomic bomb, angle so-and-so, weight so-andso, weather so-and-so, etc., all the details mechanically, aerodynamically, meteorologically, of the flight.

But at the end of these entries in the log book are these words, “My God, what have we done?” As you know, the pilot had to go under psychiatric care; he had such a tremendous guilt complex that he couldn’t hold a job, committed petty crimes, and so on.

Now everything in this log book entry up to these last words is natural science, mathematics, physics, astronomy, chemistry – but these last words, “My God, what have we done ?” – that is a moral question, something in the field of value. If we had value sciences, say, ethics, religion, aesthetics, and so on, all these value situations would be ordered by the corresponding sciences.

But if they are to be sciences then there must be a formal frame of reference which must order these sciences as mathematics orders the natural sciences; and this formal frame of reference is what we call formal axiology, from the Greek word “axios” meaning “valuable.”

This notion “formal axiology,” was already coined in the year 1903 by the German philosopher Husserl. Formal axiology must be a kind of logic just as mathematics is a kind of logic but it must be a different kind of logic; and what kind of logic, that was, was precisely the question.

So, what I want to develop for you very shortly, and only in principle, are the foundations of the science of formal axiology, as that science which does for value situations and value sciences what mathematics does for natural situations and natural sciences.


I shall now give you the definition of good or value, not in words which don’t mean anything and which the books are full of, like potentiality, actuality, or self-realization, purpose, pleasure, satisfaction, and the like. With these words you can’t do anything for they are themselves undefined. Rather, I will do it in terms of exact logical relations. Before I do that, we must be absolutely clear that what will be defined is good in the general sense and not in the moral sense. In other words, when I say -“He is a good murderer,” – I do not mean that morally. I mean he murders well. A murderer is good if he murders well but that does not mean that he is morally good; on the contrary he is morally bad.

If I say, “She’s a good girl,” I don’t mean it the way you hear it, because that is the moral use of goodness. I mean it in the way that she’s got everything that a girl has got to have, and that (allows for the fact that) she might, morally, be a bad girl. I mean axiological goodness. Or if I say, “The better your conscience the worse it is,” then you have both uses in one sentence. The axiologically good conscience is a sensitive conscience. If you have a sensitive conscience then, of course, it will be a bad conscience morally more often than when you have an axiologically bad conscience which is an insensitive conscience. So, an axiologically good conscience will be often a morally bad conscience because it’s sensitive, and an axiologically bad conscience will be more often a morally good conscience because it’s insensitive. We have two levels of language here which must not be mixed up. Their mixing up has been the curse of ethics for two thousand years, although Plato already made the distinction crystal-clear; but Aristotle messed it all up.


Now then, let us define goodness axiologically. In that same year 1903 there was an English philosopher by the name of G. E. Moore, from whom stems the whole development that I’m explaining to you. After much reflection Moore wrote a book called Principia Ethica, the title patterned after Newton’s Principia Mathematica Philosophae Naturalis, The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.

Moore wrote Principia Ethica as the preface to any future ethics that pretends to be scientific. However he didn’t get very far in founding the science of Ethics. The gist of the book is that there is good and that it is indefinable. The book, therefore, is very short. Yet, what it says is fundamental, namely;

  1. There is good and good is not anything else but good, nothing like satisfaction, pleasure, and so on; and
  2. But nobody can possibly know what it is.

Then Moore goes back into the history of ethics and shows how everybody had messed things up, mixing up goodness itself with things that are good, starting from Aristotle up to Moore – and he’s right.

When we were students we thought that that was an awful situation. What is goodness is not definable, and what is definable is not goodness. What we had to find then, was Goodness which is definable. G. E. Moore himself gave us some help. In 1922 he came up with a kind of definition and in 1943 with a little more of it, the gist of it all being as follows:

“Two things are true of goodness;

    1. It is not a natural property and
    2. Although it is not a natural property it depends entirely upon the natural properties of the thing that is said to be good.”

Let me explain this, “Good is not a natural property.” A natural property is a property of the senses which describes a thing. This desk here is brown, high, with a microphone, and so on. These are the sense properties of this desk and they describe it. Now, says Moore, “Good is not a natural property.”

Let’s take a chair. A chair is a knee-high structure with a seat and a back. These are the natural properties of the chair which describe it and which you learn as a kid. Good, according to Moore, is also a property of the chair, but isn’t any of these (natural properties). It’s a value property. “And if only I knew”, he said, “how this value property depends upon all those natural properties then I would know what is goodness.”

Well, we produced this definition, in a very simple way. But first let me illustrate what Moore said with another example. Let’s say that I have my automobile standing out there on the parking lot and I forgot my key, and I say to one of you, “Pray be kind enough and go outside and get me the key out of the car.” And you say, “Which car is it ?” and I say “Oh, it’s a good car.” Will you ever find it ? You won’t. Good is not a natural property.

When I say, “It is a good car,” I have not described the car. You don’t know whether it’s a Ford, Oldsmobile, Chevy, how many doors, what {kind of} tires, you know nothing of the car. You don’t know the natural properties. Yet, you do know a great deal about the car, you know it’s a good car.

What does that mean ? It does have tires; it does have a motor; it does have a door; and when you push the accelerator it will accelerate; when you push the brake it will brake, and not the other way around, all that you know just by my saying, “It’s a good car” – and yet you know nothing of the car itself.

Now, there’s the clue. What we did was a very simple thing. For Moore, there was no relation between descriptive properties and value properties. We put in a relation.

What we did was this: “A thing is good if it has all its descriptive properties.” [all of the attributes of the fully defined concept]

This is the fundamental definition of value of formal axiology.

It is both simple and obvious. Take anything that you call good, and you will see that you call it good because it has all its properties. This is a good chalk because it writes and it has all the other properties of chalk. Anything that you know has all its properties you may call good. From this definition, follows the system of axiology, for it is a logical definition of value, and logic is a system.

It means that the measurement of value is the concept of the thing in question. This concept you have in your mind.

We are now getting close to the measurement of intangibles.


Goodness is an intangible. It’s none of the descriptive properties that you can see or hear or smell or taste, yet you can measure it with absolute precision. The measure is no more tangible than is mathematics. It’s the concept of the thing that you learn by learning language. In other words, language itself has within it the measurement of value, it is value measurement. Let us see what this means.

Let’s take that chair again. The concept “chair” is in quotes, the actual chair is standing there. The concept chair is not a chair. The concept is in the dictionary, you look it up if you don’t know it. So the concept chair has one, two, three, four properties – “knee-high,” “structure,” “a seat,” and “a back.”

The set of these properties is called the intension or meaning of the concept and the set of chairs that are, have been, or will be, is called the extension or class of the concept. The concept chair, then, looks logically as follows:

You learn the intension or meaning of the concept as a kid. How? By asking mother. What’s this? A Chair. What’s this? A girl. What’s this? A mirror. My little boy, when he came to the ocean first, looked in and said, “Daddy, mirror!” I said, “No. This mirror is liquid.” I added another property. I said, “Such a liquid mirror is called water.” So you learn the words of the language, learning their meaning as a set of properties, and this set of properties is the measurement of value for the things named.

Those of you who have read the autobiography of Helen Keller will remember the tremendous excitement of a child on learning names, when her tutor Miss Robinson spelled into her hand the word W-A-T-E-R. The excitement is not only because the name names, but also because it values.

A good chair, then, has all the properties you learn chairs have. It is a knee-high structure with a seat and a back. Now if a chair is nothing but a back it’s a pretty poor chair. It’s a good back but a bad chair. There you have another little beautiful thing of our simple definition. Anything which is good if it has the totality of its properties is not good when it has less than the totality of its properties.

But it is also true that any set of properties can be looked at in terms of some concept. Take any set of properties and you can always find a concept for them.

So that a bad chair with legs and a seat but no back is a good stool – because it fulfils the properties of the stool, and a bad house is a good ruin, and a bad car is a good jalopy.

Here you have the difference between the pessimist and the optimist. The pessimist always finds the concept which is not fulfilled by the properties at hand, and the optimist always finds the concept which is fulfilled by the properties at hand. So the pessimist says, “I have a lousy car” and the optimist says, “I have a lovely jalopy.”

In other words, the famous saying that for the optimist the glass of water is half full and for the pessimist it is half empty, means in logical terms, that for the optimist the concept is half full and for the pessimist it is half empty.


Now, let us look at the definition of value in greater detail. The measure of value of a thing, we said, is the set of properties which defines the thing. So let’s take our chair again, one, two, three, four properties, “knee high,” “structure,” “a seat,” and “a back.”

If it is not knee-high it is not a very good chair. If it is not a structure but wobbles it is not a good chair but it’s a good contraption for circus acrobats. If it has no seat it’s not a good chair and if it has no back it is not a good chair either. Thus, if a particular thing is what it is named to be, for example something called a “chair,” then we call it a good such thing. If this thing here having all the chair properties would be an elephant then it would be a monstrosity.

This is the definition of being not good or of disvalue – transposition of frames of reference.

Let us now use the concept as measure. If the thing has all the conceptual, or intensional, properties, we call it good.

Let us say that the number of properties contained in any conceptual intension is P, whatever that may be. A good chair, or a good anything, has P properties.

If it has half the properties it is a so-so or average thing and has P/2 properties. If it has more than half the properties it is a fair thing and has P/2 + m properties, where m is less than P/2, m < P/2.

In other words, in the case of the chair, m would be less than P/2, and since P = 4, P/2 is 2 and less than that is 1. The chair would be fair if it had P/2 + m = 2 + 1 = 3 properties. In other cases, of course, fair would be something else. Bad is less than half, P/2 – m, in the case of the chair only one property; it would be pretty bad. In sum, the four values of a thing, goodness, fairness, averageness, and badness, can be measured as follows, using the example where P = 4:

All this is extremely simple. But now look what’s happening. Let us put a girl on the chair so we get some differences of opinion, for if four people look at a chair it is difficult to get real differences of opinion. There she is sitting with four fellows sitting around her. One says, “Boy, that’s a girl!” What does he mean? She’s got all the girl properties; she is P. Another says, “Aw, I don’t think she’s so hot.” What does he mean? Well, she’s so-so, not so hot, not so bad either. He says she’s P/2. The other says, “I think she’s pretty good.” She’s P/2 + m. The fourth says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I think she’s awful.” She’s still a girl, but she doesn’t have much of girl qualities. He doesn’t mean to say she’s a bad girl, that wouldn’t be so bad maybe. No, to him she’s P/2 – m.

Now, my question is, what is the value of the situation of the fellows saying this about the girl? Or, what is the value of the girl in the situation with these fellows? What does what they say add up to? Very simple. The one said P, the other P/2, the third P/2 + m, the fourth P/2 – m. So let us add up what they say (P) + (P/2) + (P/2 + m) + (P/2 – m). The result is 2 1/2 P.

This is a peculiar result. Remember, P is the totality of all her qualities. Does she then have more qualities than she has? Indeed she does. And this is the core definition of value: valuation is a play with pure properties.

You abstract from the thing itself and take the properties of the thing as a set with which you play around. Depending upon how you play, you call the thing good, bad, indifferent, and so on.

In other words, fact is only one of the sets of properties that a thing has, and it is that set upon which people most readily agree. This is a desk because it has all the desk properties. We all agree on that. However, when it comes to valuation, you abstract from that factual set and just take the properties of the thing by themselves, playing around with them, arranging and rearranging them in your imagination.

Evaluation is an imaginative play with properties and not looking at the thing itself. And fact itself is only one set of the thing’s properties. This means that valuation is a function of the imagination. You have the capacity of valuation in the degree that you have imagination.

If you lack imagination you will see only facts, like the dejected fellow in the Thurber cartoon about whom the ladies gossip, “He doesn’t know anything except facts.” But facts, being themselves sets of properties, they are not factual at all.

To give you an example, one day I was sitting in my study, my wife came in the door and she kind of coiled back and said, “What’s going on, are you here?” I said, “Sure I am, here I am.” She said, “But the car isn’t in the garage.” I said, “What? It must be stolen!” We rushed to the garage and there big as daylight stood the car. She had been looking in the garage but had not seen it because she thought (imagined) I was out. We see what we conceive to be. Even fact is a part of what we have in our mind.

So, valuation is a play with pure properties; and axiology is the score of that play, just as music is a play with sounds and musical science is the score of that play.

Now, let us continue our play. I can do much more with the sets of girl properties or of chair properties or any other set of properties than merely add. I can subtract, multiply, divide, arrange and rearrange these sets in sub-sets, and the result of all this is value. Let us ask ourselves how many different values a thing can have.

Since the set of properties and each of the sub-sets of this set is a different value, and since according to a well-known formula, a set of P items has 2P – 1 sub-sets, a thing with P properties can have 2P – 1 sub-sets of properties. This number, then, 2P – 1 is the totality of different values which a thing can have.

Now, look what that means. Our chair, for example, has four properties, 24 – 1 = 15. A chair with four properties can have 15 different values. Why? Because it can have one value of goodness; there’s only one set of all properties. In combinational analysis 4C4 = 1. There are 6 ways in which the thing can have two properties,  because 4C2 = 6; hence there are 6 different ways in which the chair can be so-so; it can be knee-high and have a seat but wobble and have no back; it can have a seat and a back but not be knee-high and wobble, and so on. There are 4 ways in which the chair can be fair; and there are 4 ways in which it can be bad, for 4C1 = 4.  Thus, our chair can have one goodness, four fairnesses, six averagenesses, and four badnesses. In toto, a thing can have 2P – 1 values because every sub-set of properties is, by definition, a value.

Let us apply this now, say, to job evaluation. Suppose you have evaluated a job as so many properties, let’s say ten. Then in how many ways can the employee fulfil or not fulfil this job… in 210 – 1 = 1,023 ways. There are 1,023 ways in which the employee can perform or not perform one particular job which is defined by ten  properties.

To be exact, there is 1 way of good performance, 385 ways of fair performance, 252 ways of average performance, and 385 ways of bad performance. By dividing the possible number of performances through the possible total of all performances, we get the percentage of performance expectation: 0.098% for good, 37.64% for fair, 24.64% for average, and 37.64% for bad.

The difference between this theoretical expectation and the actual performance in your shop is an objective measure of your shop performance.

The calculus can, of course, also be applied to gauge the acceptance of your product. If the product, in the mind of the public, is determined by 10 properties, the theoretical expectation of evaluation of it are 210 = 1,024, adding one evaluation {equal to} zero; and there are 385 ways in which the product may appear fair or bad and 252 ways in which it may appear so-so. These ways may in turn be broken down; of the 385 ways in which the thing may appear fair, there are 10 ways in which 9
properties may be accepted, 45 ways in which 8 may be accepted, 120 in which 7 and 210 ways in which 6 properties may be accepted. The corresponding percentages of expectation are, respectively, 0.98, 4.4, 11.73, and 20.53. Again, the actual acceptance as against the possible acceptance is an objective measure of your product’s success.

Here already you have a calculus of value, measuring much that at present is intangible.


However, the calculus has much wider scope. The above application is valid only if properties can be enumerated. But how if they cannot, as in the case of the company president or my wife? Here, it seems, matters become really intangible. Yet, even these values can be made tangible, even they can be measured. Let us see how.

So far we have spoken only of one kind of concept, abstract concepts such as “chair” or “girl.” There are two other kinds of concepts which give rise to two other kinds of values. The three kinds of values are the dimensions of value.


Let us look first at the abstract concept again. Abstract concepts are concepts which are abstracted from the space-time empirical things. In other words, in the world we have all the chairs or girls or what-not and we abstract those properties which all these kinds of objects have in common. The result is the properties of the concept “chair,” “girl,” or “what-not” or “X”.

We had before my little boy who saw the ocean and thought it was a mirror. I had to tell him, “No, it’s liquid, and such a thing is called water or ocean.” I gave him a new concept.

Such concepts, abstracted from sense reality, have the following important characteristic: their properties are denumerable, or enumerable, one by one. For they have been abstracted one by one. You have to take common properties and you just have to learn one by one, one after another, all these properties. A set of items which can be identified one by one is mathematically called a denumerable set. The properties of an abstract concept, thus, are a denumerable set. If I couldn’t enumerate and thus identify them I would not know the thing. Denumerability is the essence of discursive knowledge. But, secondly, how many properties can I abstract that things have in common ? If I have a huge number of things they will have very many properties in common; if I have only two things I can abstract an almost infinite number of common properties. The range of the number of properties that can be abstracted, then, is between one and infinity. Or, the properties of an abstract concept are, at most, denumerably infinite. There is a mathematical sign for such an infinity which is the Hebrew A with a zero. This is mathematically as exact a symbol as any you know.

When an abstract concept is fulfilled or not fulfilled there appear degrees of valuation, goodness, badness, as we have seen. Such values are called extrinsic values because what is valued is not the thing itself but its belonging to a certain class. A good chair is good because it is a good member of the class of chairs.


The second kind of concept is constructions of the human mind – constructs. Have you ever wondered why there are no bad geometrical circles? Because the geometrical circle is defined with such precision in the system of geometry – as “plane closed curve equidistant from a centre” – that if a curve does not have all these properties and lacks just one of them it is not what it was defined to be. It’s not a bad circle; it’s not a circle.

Why aren’t there bad electrons? For the same reason. When a thing seems like an electron and lacks an electron property we cannot call it an electron; and the main endeavour of modern physics is to find out about these “bad” electrons and give them new names: positron, neutron, meson, and so on.

Why are there no bad square roots of minus one? For the same reason. Why is there equity in the law? Because even in the law there are such exact definitions that when a thing lacks a part of the definition it is not what it is defined to be, and in order to relieve the tension between the system and reality, jurists have invented equity and other institutions.

If the systemic rules remain unrelieved you have legal injustices, as in Menotti’s powerful opera The Counsel. Again, you have moral injustices if, for example, you define a human being by a system, say, the system of spectroscopy If you define a human as “white,” and all “non-white” as “non-human” you use a minimum of properties to define a very complex being. Such a definition is a transposition of frames of reference and hence, as we have seen, not good.

Constructs have the following characteristics:

The number of properties is finite. It is a minimum number of properties, say, n. A construct gives rise to only two values, either perfection or non-existence. There are no degrees such as good, bad, indifferent, and so on. This kind of value is called systemic value.

I can apply systemic value to anything, say, my wife, I look at her systemically when I see her as my housekeeper and get mad when the soup isn’t on the table or when she pushes the toothpaste from the top and I at the bottom. But that is not the right way of looking at my wife.

I also can look at my wife extrinsically as a member of the class of wives, compare her with other wives, and so on. But that’s not the right way either.


When I really think of my wife the way I should, she’s unique. The concept “my wife” is a singular concept. How many properties does she have? She has an infinity of properties and I cannot put my finger on any one of these properties. I see her, as the psychologists say, as a “gestalt” or as the mathematicians would say, as a “continuum.” I neither abstract from nor construct her. I live her life, identifying myself with her. She is an intrinsic value. Logically, this means that the properties she has are non-denumerably infinite, and the sign of this is Aleph1.

Let me explain this sign and then give you an example. When we come to transfinite numbers most peculiar things happen. If you take all the rational numbers to infinity you have the odd and even numbers, 1, 2, 3, 4… Now take only the odd numbers, 1, 3, 5, 7… How many odd numbers are there? Infinitely many. This means that there are as many odd numbers as there are odd and even numbers. How many even numbers are there? 2, 4, 6, 8… Again, infinitely many. There are as many even numbers as there are odd and even numbers. So the mathematical definition for a transfinite number is that the part equals the whole.

This is a most peculiar arithmetic, yet, it is as exact an arithmetic as any other arithmetic. Actually, it is much simpler than finite arithmetic. Suppose you deduct an infinity from an infinity, what is the result? Well, an infinity. Now add an infinity to an infinity – again an infinity. Whatever you do you always get an infinity: Aleph – Aleph = Aleph, Aleph + Aleph = Aleph, etc.

The most significant thing is that no subtraction is possible. The only thing that may significantly happen is rise to higher infinities, by exponentiation: Aleph0Alepho = Aleph1.

This is all we need as foundations of axiology. Let me summarize:

  1. Value is the degree in which a thing fulfils its concept.
  2. There are three kinds of concept: abstract, construct, and singular. Correspondingly, there are three kinds of value:
    1. Systemic value is the fulfilment of the construct
    2. Extrinsic value is the fulfilment of the abstract
    3. Intrinsic value is the fulfilment of the singular concept.

The difference between these concepts is that a construct is finite, the abstract is denumerably infinite, and the singular is non-denumerably infinite.

To wrap it all up in an example, let us take a student, say, of mathematics at MIT, John. He’s going on a vacation trip to Europe all alone and while he steps on board the Queen Mary he says to himself, “I’m going to have a good time.” While he thinks this, he has nothing on his mind but a mathematical curve, a kind of sinus curve, belonging to the concept “girl.” He does not think of any girl in particular but, so to speak, the principle of femininity. This is systemic valuation, construction in the mind. He sets up an ideal of some kind.

The next day out on board there’s a little party, quite formal as it is on these European ships. The boys line up on one side of the room, the girls on the other side. John is standing there and over there are samples of the class of girls, in space and time.

Now the concept has enriched itself and, by the way, you may also define valuation as enrichment of properties. The concept m = now is not just a mathematical curve but quite a bit more – the curve has been filled in. In looking over there he uses the concept in his mind, “girl,” with those new properties, to measure what is standing over there, the samples of the class – he weighs in his mind the members of the class in light of the concept – and the word axios is our word “axle,” namely the axle of a scale.

The process of weighing is reflected in his face. On one he says, “Uh uh” and on one “Mmmm” and on this one “Ah!” meaning P (all – so far) properties. So he walks over, asks her to dance, and the dancing itself, of course, is a continuation of the process of valuation, weighing what he has in his arms against what he has in his mind.

Well, let’s say he likes her; let’s call her Mary. They keep company and do have a wonderful time. Extrinsic valuation – she’s the best girl in the axiological sense.

One day before the ship arrives in Southampton there happens a most peculiar, and you might say irrational and intangible, thing were it not for axiology. He wakes up in the morning and suddenly thinks, “Mary – she’s not a girl at all; she’s the only girl in the world.” He knows very well there are one thousand million girls in the world and yet he knows with equal certainty that she’s the only girl in the world.

So, being a mathematician and very logical, he reasons, “If she’s the only girl in the world and I’m a man, and I have to live with a girl, then I have to live with her.” So he writes her a letter which starts as if he had read axiology. “My one and only.” Uniqueness! And the language of the letter is as foreign to mathematics as poetry. “My treasure,” “my world,” “the sun of my life,” and the like. And he adds a “P.S. If you don’t marry me, I’ll jump overboard.”

What has happened? Systemic, extrinsic, and now intrinsic valuation. In intrinsic valuation, since you do not abstract nor construct, how do you know it? By self-identification. He identifies himself with her. They marry and after three months or three years the process goes into reverse. He walks down Main Street and suddenly sees, “Ah, there are girls.” And then he compares Mary with them; extrinsic (comparative) valuation.

Then he goes home and there comes systemic valuation as his housekeeper, as I said before, the soup isn’t ready and she pushes the toothpaste at the wrong end and the linens are not washed (and there’s no milk in the fridge) and he gets mad. He shouts at her, “I’m working all day and the soup isn’t ready,” and she cries and she says, “Now you’re not nice to me,” and he looks at her and there she is again, the one and only girl in the world, and he goes over and says, “I’m so sorry, I  measured you systemically.” And she says, “Yes, you were very bad. I am unique. I am to be measured intrinsically. I am I.”

All right. This wraps up the thing. Now we come to a few applications.


The Axiological Nature of Man: Moral Goodness

The most important thing for all of us to determine: What is a human being? We define a human being as the only thing in the world that has its own definition of itself in itself. That chair over there doesn’t know it’s a chair, but I know that I am I. And no matter how people might look on Mars – they may look like chairs with four legs, who knows? But if they can say “I” and can reflect upon this, then they are human beings.

From this definition of a human being follows a far-reaching consequence. When I say, “I am I,” then I am thinking of myself, that is I think of Me. But I think Me, how about the I that thinks? Since it does the thinking it is not being thought. How can we think of the I that thinks Me? By making it a Me. So, let’s think of it. I think of Me thinking of Me. But now what about this new I? Well, let’s think of it. I think of Me thinking of Me thinking of Me. Again, there appears another I that cannot be
thought of and so on, ad infinitum. By the simple definition of a human being as self-reflective it appears as an infinity. I can never completely reach myself as  thinking.

The peculiar thing is that in one of the first mathematical treatises on infinity German mathematician Dedekind, 1887, used this example to prove the existence of infinite systems. The American philosopher Royce, twelve years later, turned around Dedekind’s proof in order to prove the infinity of the human being. The human being, axiologically, is an actual infinity. Moreover, he is a non-denumerable infinity: for what is true of I and Me is true of any thought I may have. If I think of this chair, I can think of my thinking this chair, and my thinking thinking this chair, and so on, ad infinitum. Each of my thoughts, thus, may be an infinity. If I can have a denumerable infinity of thoughts – as potentially I can – then the infinity of this infinity is non-denumerable, for Aleph0Alepho = Aleph1.

Since a non-denumerable infinity, by our definition, is intrinsic value, the human being is an intrinsic value. This is an objective definition of the worth of a human being. Depending on how I fulfil it in actuality, I am a good or not good human being.

If we now define moral good as the application of intrinsic value to humans, then the goodness in question is moral goodness.

Let us see what this means. Our definition of value was that a thing was good if it fulfils its definition. The definition of a human being is in himself. Hence, a human being is good when he fulfils his own definition of himself. What does this mean? It means that he is morally good if he is as he is. All the words of ethics mean this very same thing, this identification of myself with myself, being sincere, being honest, being genuine, being true to myself, having self-respect – these words mean that I am as I am, that I am myself. This seems to be a very simple thing and yet it’s the most difficult to achieve. For I can define myself in three ways; systemically, extrinsically, and intrinsically.

When I define myself systemically, I put up a system, I construct something as myself which I’m not at all. And you probably know some people in your acquaintance whose images of themselves are very different from everybody else’s images of them. They live a construct. Karen Homey and others call this the “self system.” It leads to neurotic breakdowns and similar sicknesses of the self for in the long run you can’t live another’s life or an imaginary construct. In the worst case, it leads to the

Also, a person can define himself extrinsically, as a member of some class. In our lives we are continuously in external situations, all kinds of situations, like now I am a speaker, then I’ll be a listener, then an eater, and so on. I am a father, I am a commuter, I am a Rotarian, etc. I’m in the millions of situations in my lifetime. But do these situations add up to myself?

Suppose I define myself as the best professor in the world. So what? I haven’t touched the core of myself, which would be my intrinsic definition of myself, not as this or that, doing this or that, but as the gestalt of my essential being, as simply who I am. Who am I ? I am this human on this planet Earth. I was born a naked baby and I have to die. That’s all. That’s the gist of being myself and being a professor or anything else for that matter is a different thing from being this human, born on this
planet Earth and having to die.

Any extrinsic definition of myself is really not the definition of myself. In order to make the definition of myself I must neither construct myself nor even abstract from myself, but simply BE, namely, identify myself, as we said before, with myself. And this is the most difficult and the most important task of our mortal life. It is very difficult simply to be, to be natural and not to pretend, nor be proud nor ashamed of this or that. Sometimes we reach this stage when we “get away from it all” on
vacations, to be alone with ourselves and to get acquainted with ourselves. To be moral is, so to speak, to bring the vacation spirit into our daily lives.

The moral, in this sense, appears whenever you cannot impress anyone either positively with your achievements or negatively with your failures. It is what makes children and dogs love you – if they do – and what makes your wife look at you when you are asleep.

Just to Be, in daily life, is highest maturity. Also it is very powerful for it brings into play the infinity of your intrinsic self. To scramble around in the treadmill of extrinsic value is not only immature, it is inefficient. It shuts up your infinite powers and lets them lie idle. It prevents you from really Living. It is not, however, immoral; it is amoral – neither moral nor immoral.

To be immoral is not-to-identify oneself to be insincere, dishonest, not true to oneself, to lack selfrespect – nor to identify oneself with any other human being, to be indifferent to human beings. Often, those indifferent to concrete human beings profess great concern for humanity in the abstract.

All this is illustrated by a wonderful story by Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych. Ivan Ilych is a judge in a provincial town in Russia whose whole ambition is to be a judge of the Supreme Court in Moscow. He finally reaches that ambition, his whole family moves to Moscow, they get a great big mansion, furniture and everything, and while he puts up the curtain he falls down the stepladder, breaks a rib, it goes into his liver and from that moment he dies.

The story is about the dying of Ivan Ilych. How trivial, how insignificant is the fact, that now {that} he is a judge of the Supreme Court, that death is upon him. All his family falls away from him, it takes too long for him to die, all his friends fall away from him and at the end the only friend he has is his menial servant, Gerasim, the butler’s assistant, a peasant lad, who makes him comfortable.

Here we have the transition from extrinsic to intrinsic self-definition.

Examples from Business

Now let’s turn to some examples from business. Take, for example, the idea of a worker. Systemically, a worker is a system of mathematical elements, as you have it in time and motion studies.

Extrinsically, a worker is a member of the class of workers or a member of the shop or some other function. This, of course, is a different view from that of time and motion studies. It leads to different kinds of compensation, such as incentives.

Intrinsically, a worker is a human being with infinite value, and this again leads to entirely different consequences in business actuality, e.g. to the partnership of worker and employer in profit sharing.

What is a salesman? Again, systemically, he may be a person who has learned a certain approach by rote, he makes that approach and he sells.

Extrinsically, he has been trained in analysis of situations, in psychology: the science of psychology is defined as extrinsic value applied to a human being. He analyses the situation as such and such a situation, and he sells.

But intrinsically, he goes in there and he uses no approach at all, he breaks all the rules and he runs away with the sales. His secret is that he identifies himself with the customer.

In one of the companies where we discussed this matter in detail we came to the conclusion that every single job except the most simple should be specified and evaluated in all three of the value categories.

Every single job can be both systemic, extrinsic, or intrinsic.

Let’s take the president of a company. If you have a company which is nothing but automation and there are people just pushing buttons, then the president of course can be systemically selected, for things here run by themselves like an elevator. All he has to do is to push the main button and, perhaps, to know why the thing works.

But if the company is defined in a different way, let us say in its function in society or as making the best product at the lowest price or, as some do in Europe, as making the worst product at the highest price, or by whatever other social or economic function, then you need a different kind of president.

He has to have the extrinsic view of situations; he has to be a master politician and manipulator. And if the company is as big as a country and has a tremendous number of people, then every decision is wrought with “intangibles,” with values, and the president should be one who, in addition to the other value dimensions, also knows intrinsic value and is a human being.

Take other examples. Think of the Hawthorne experiments. A group of girls was taken out of the factory and experimented upon.

They got better working conditions and productivity increased. They got worse working conditions and productivity increased. They got better lighting, productivity increased, they got worse lighting – productivity increased. They got rest periods, midmorning lunches, a shortened work week – productivity increased. They got no rest period, no midmorning lunches, a lengthened work week – productivity increased.

No matter what was done – productivity increased. Roethlisberger and Dickson shook their heads, and wondered what kind of logic was at work. Any particular thing we do, they concluded, is unimportant, the only important thing is the attention we give them and the cooperation they give us. And that was exactly right. What was mobilized was intrinsic valuation: “stores of latent energy and productive cooperation” were uncovered.

In intrinsic valuation, as I said before, the only thing that can happen is addition. Once these girls were given intrinsic human attention everything that happened was addition. The finite arithmetic of subtraction simply did not apply.

Again, take the case of profit-sharing companies. Some give away 50% of their profit (I am thinking of a foundry in Ohio) and you might think that the formula would be 100% – 50% =50%. But in that particular case the formula was 100% – 50% = 170%. Why ? Because, again, the human element was mobilized, productivity increased 40%, profit increased 340%, split 50/50, it was 170% for each.

Or take the example of rest periods. You want to put in a rest period of 20 minutes a day for your workers. Your time and motion engineers use their slide rules, “Twenty minutes a day less for 1,000 people is 20,000 minutes less a day, 100,000 minutes less a week, half a million minutes less work a month, you lose production.”

Well, suppose you have a common sense, or you have read Roethlisberger and Mayo, and you have stamina, you introduce the rest period anyway, and production increases, as you knew it would.

Again, what has happened? You went from extrinsic to intrinsic valuation, and finite arithmetic, the arithmetic of subtraction, passed out of the picture. I could cite many more examples if I had time.

An Example from War

Let me give you an example from war. When I was at one of the war research laboratories in the East they had the following very serious problem.

Suppose there was an enemy attack, and from the direction of the planes we know it can either go against the computer upon which the whole defence system of the area is based or against the city of Boston of a million people. We only have enough planes to protect one of them. Which one should we protect?

We discussed this for several hours, and the consensus was the following, based on value theory: War is a systemic thing. People don’t count in war, they are numbers.  Within the war system you must protect the computer. Of course, this is a highly immoral result but the war system is immoral; and if you want to be moral then you should not work at a war research laboratory or be a part of the war system.

An Example from Religion

This profile is not based on any religious principle. This example is simply meant to illustrate a concrete context in which to understand the ways in which the dimensions of thought can be applied.

When Peter asked Jesus why He spoke in parables, Jesus answered, “If I would not speak in parable nobody would understand me.” For – and this is the moral of the Parables – “Whosoever has, to him shall be given and he shall have more abundance and whosoever has not, from him shall be taken even that which he has” (Matthew 13:12).

Now, what in the world does this mean? It does not mean, of course, that the bankers will go to Heaven, and the beggars will go to Hell. These are called the Parables of the Kingdom. It means very simply, if you live in the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the kingdom of intrinsic value or infinity, then since in infinity the only thing that can happen is addition, “to him who has will be given.”

Or as He said in another context, “It will be added unto you.” And he who has not or only lives in the material world from him shall be taken even that which he has because he can’t take it with him; when he dies it’s gone. A very simple solution of this difficult saying.

And so, the moral of all the parables is precisely this – infinity against finiteness. For example, the workers in the vineyard. They work all day in the hot sun, at ten minutes to six in come two loafers who work ten minutes in the shade. At six everybody lines up at the cashier’s window, everybody gets a dollar. Everybody gripes, saying, “The two loafers get a dollar!”

The master of the vineyard says, “What’s it to you, you got what you were promised. The first will be last, the last will be first. For many are called but few are chosen.” It is again very simple.

In the Kingdom of Infinity there is no space and time. If there is no space there can be no different pockets. If there are no different pockets what difference does it make where the dollar is? Because what one has all have and what one does not have nobody has. Again, the only thing that can happen is addition. In infinity every part equals the whole, hence is infinite.

Thus, those who are finite will become infinite when they enter the Kingdom of Heaven by faith in intrinsic value, the last will be first; but those who lose faith will become finite and lose their infinity, the first will be the last, the intrinsic becomes extrinsic: For many are called to live intrinsic value but few achieve it for good. If you re-read the Parables in this interpretation they will give you a great deal.

The Efficiency Of Value Theory

Let me close with an example that shows you the efficiency of this method. It is being taught at some colleges. What I am outlining for you here corresponds to over 100 college hours, so you can imagine how little I can actually give you. When I taught it at MIT the semester started in October and by Christmas we had gotten to intrinsic value. I asked the boys to write me a term paper over the vacation and analyse any situation or text they wanted in terms of axiology.

One of them, who was the editor of the school magazine, analysed his own articles – you can analyse with this method with great precision the value of words, a very nice thing, for example, for advertising – and found much more in them than he had ever thought he had put into them.

Another analysed a drama by T.S. Eliot. A third came to me just before we left for home and said, “Sir, I want you to know that the writing of this paper is the most important thing in my life.”

I said, “How do you mean?” He said, “You just wait until you get that paper.” So, after the vacation I got the paper. It was entitled “Homecoming of a Son,” and the story he told was this.

He was a very bright fellow, on a four-year scholarship at MIT, and his parents were Polish immigrants, working by the way in a GE lamp factory, and he was ashamed that they were just workers. Now, by learning value theory he knew very clearly what he had only known vaguely, that a person is what he is and it isn’t important what he does and that his parents were wonderful persons.

So he wanted to go home and tell them how he loved them. But how could he do that without showing them at the same time that he had never loved them before? The paper was the method he evolved to show them his love without showing them that he had never loved them before. He just produced one value situation after another and poured love into it. The whole household changed, laughter and happiness prevailed; it was an entirely new family.

I got this paper and it was a wonderful thing to read, a miracle consciously brought about. After about three weeks he comes into my office with a letter from his mother, and the mother writes, “John, this was a beautiful and strange vacation and Dad and I have been thinking about it and talking about it all this time and finally we have come to a conclusion. We want you to know our conclusion. It is that we have never loved you before.”

Now just imagine what happened here. Nobody talked to anybody and yet the logic of value worked itself out to such a degree that the parents were able to put into words, from their own side, what the boy had started out with in the first place.

This was a very small introduction to axiology. I do hope that in the sessions to follow we will be able to pull it all down into your everyday practice.

The Outsiders

This post is a direct copy, with apologies, from

Mainly because I don’t want it to be lost. Here is the original article:

The Outsiders © 1987 by Grady M. Towers

His name was William James Sidis, and his IQ was estimated at between 250 and 300 [8, p. 283]. At eighteen months he could read The New York Times, at two he taught himself Latin, at three he learned Greek. By the time he was an adult he could speak more than forty languages and dialects. He gained entrance to Harvard at eleven, and gave a lecture on four-dimensional bodies to the Harvard Mathematical Club his first year. He graduated cum laude at sixteen, and became the youngest professor in history. He deduced the possibility of black holes more than twenty years before Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar published An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure. His life held possibilities for achievement that few people can imagine. Of all the prodigies for which there are records, his was probably the most powerful intellect of all.

And yet it all came to nothing. He soon gave up his position as a professor, and for the rest of his life wandered from one menial job to another. His experiences as a child prodigy had proven so painful that he decided for the rest of his life to shun public exposure at all costs. Henceforth, he denied his gifts, refused to think about mathematics, and above all refused to perform as he had been made to do as a child. Instead, he devoted his intellect almost exclusively to the collection of streetcar transfers, and to the study of the history of his native Boston. He worked hard at becoming a normal human being, but never entirely succeeded. He found the concept of beauty, for example, to be completely incomprehensible, and the idea of sex repelled him. At fifteen he took a vow of celibacy, which he apparently kept for the remainder of his life, dying a virgin at the age of 46. He wore a vest summer and winter, and never learned to bathe regularly. A comment that Aldous Huxley once made about Sir Isaac Newton might equally have been said of Sidis.

For the price Newton had to pay for being a supreme intellect was that he was incapable of friendship, love, fatherhood, and many other desirable things. As a man he was a failure; as a monster he was superb [5, p. 2222].

Photo of Lewis M.Terman, coordinator of the first longitudinal study of the gifted.

There was a time when all precocious children were thought to burn out the same way that Sidis did. The man most responsible for changing this belief was Lewis M. Terman. Between 1900 and 1920 he was able to carry out a study of about a hundred gifted children, and his observations convinced him that many of the traditional beliefs about the gifted were little more than superstitions. To confirm these observations, he obtained a grant from the Commonwealth Fund in 1922, and used it to sift a population of more than a quarter of a million children, selecting out all those with IQs above 140 for further study. That group has been monitored continuously ever since. Many of the previously held beliefs about the gifted did indeed turn out to be false. The gifted are not weak or sickly, and although the incidence of myopia is greater among them, they are generally thought to be better looking than their contemporaries: They are not nerds.

Nevertheless, in his rush to dispel the erroneous beliefs about the gifted, Terman sometimes made claims not supported by his own data. In fact, in some cases, the data suggests that exactly the opposite conclusion should have been drawn. Terman’s own data shows that there is a definite connection between measured intelligence and mental and social maladjustment. The consequences of misinterpreting these data are so grave that it will pay to re-examine them in some detail.

Terman’s longitudinal research on the gifted included a constant assessment of mental health and social adjustment. Subjects were classified into three categories: satisfactory adjustment, some maladjustment, and serious maladjustment. Terman defined these categories in the following way.

1. Satisfactory. Subjects classified in this category were essentially normal; i.e., their “desires, emotions, and interests were compatible with the social standards and pressures” of their group. Everyone, of course, has adjustment problems of one kind or another. Satisfactory adjustment as here defined does not mean perfect contentment and complete absence of problems, but rather the ability to cope adequately with difficulties in the personal make-up or in the subject’s environment. Worry and anxiety when warranted by the circumstances, or a tendency to be somewhat high strung or nervous–provided such a tendency did not constitute a definite personality problem–were allowed in this category.

2. Some maladjustment. Classified here were subjects with excessive feelings of inadequacy or inferiority, nervous fatigue, mild anxiety neurosis, and the like. The emotional conflicts, nervous tendencies and social maladjustments of these individuals, while they presented definite problems, were not beyond the ability of the individual to handle, and there was no marked interference with social or personal life or with achievement. Subjects whose behavior was noticeably odd or freakish, but without evidence of serious neurotic tendencies, were also classified in this category.

3. Serious maladjustment.
a.) Classified as 3a were subjects who had shown marked symptoms of anxiety, mental depression, personality maladjustment, or psychopathic personality. This classification also includes subjects who had suffered a “nervous breakdown” provided the condition was not severe enough to constitute a psychosis. Subjects with a previous history of serious maladjustment or nervous breakdown (without psychosis) were included here even though their adjustment at the time of rating may have been entirely satisfactory.
b.) Classified as 3b were those subjects who had at any time suffered a complete mental breakdown requiring hospitalization, whatever their condition at the time of rating. In the majority of cases the subjects were restored to reasonably good mental health after a brief period of hospital care [6, pp. 99-101].

In 1940, when the group was about 29 years of age, a large scale examination was carried out. Included in that examination was a high level test of verbal intelligence, designated at that time the Concept Mastery, but later re-named the Concept Mastery test form A. Terman found the following relationship between adjustment and verbal intelligence. (These are raw scores, not IQs.)


CMT-A [6, p. 115]



Satisfactory adjustment40795.230.934492.428.7
Some maladjustment91108.031.25998.625.4
Serious maladjustment18119.523.617108.627.1

The data show three things. First, that there is a definite trend for the maladjusted to make higher scores on the Concept Mastery test. Second, that women show symptoms of maladjustment at lower scores than men. And third, that 21 percent of the men and 18 percent of the women showed at least some form of maladjustment.

During 1950-52, when the group was approximately 41 years old, another examination was made using a new test, the Concept Mastery test form T. Test scores were again compared to assessments of adjustment. (CMT-T scores are not interchangeable with CMT-A scores. They have different means and standard deviations.)

CMT-T [7, p. 50]



Satisfactory adjustment391136.426.2303130.827.7
Some maladjustment120145.626.1117138.126.4
Serious maladjustment40152.823.833140.029.6

Similar conclusions can be drawn from these data as well. Again, there is a definite trend shown for the maladjusted to make higher scores than the satisfactorily adjusted. Again, women show symptoms of maladjustment at lower scores than men. But the most alarming thing of all is that the percentage of maladjustment shown for both sexes rose in the 12 years since the previous examination. The percentage of men showing maladjustment having risen from 21 percent to 29 percent, and the figure for women having risen from 18 percent to 33 percent! Nearly double what it was before!

How did Terman interpret these data? Terman states:

Although severe mental maladjustment is in general somewhat more common among subjects who score high on the Concept Mastery test, many of the most successful men of the entire group also scored high on this test [7, p. 50].

In other words, Terman deliberately tried to give the impression that the relationship between verbal intelligence and mental and social maladjustment was weak and unreliable. He did this by misdirection. He gave a truthful answer to an irrelevant question. Terman failed to realize that a small difference in means between two or more distributions can have a dramatic effect on the percentage of each group found at the tails of the distribution. The relevant questions should have been “what is the percentage of maladjustment found at different levels of ability, and does this show a trend?” Terman’s data can be used to find answers to these questions.

The method used to solve this problem is a relatively simple one but tedious in detail. (See appendix.) The results, however, are easy to understand. Using CMT-T scores for men as an illustration, and pooling the data for some maladjustment and serious maladjustment, the following percentages can be obtained.





< 97.8
97.8 – 117.1
117.1 – 136.4
136.4 – 155.7
155.7 – 175
> 175


By comparison, the Triple Nine Society averages 155.16 on the CMT-T, and the average score for Prometheus Society members is 169.95 [1, 2]. The implications are staggering, especially when it is realized that these percentages do not include women, who show more maladjustment at lower CMT-T scores than men do. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why super high IQ societies suffer so much from schisms and a tendency towards disintegration. In any event, one thing is certain. The currently accepted belief that verbal intelligence is unrelated to maladjustment is clearly a myth.

Nevertheless, while Terman’s data do provide a prima facie case for a connection between verbal intelligence and maladjustment, they fail to explain the causal mechanism involved. To obtain such insight requires close observation by a gifted observer. Fortunately, those insights are available to us in Leta S. Hollingworth’s book, Children above 180 IQ. Hollingworth not only observed her subjects as children, she also continued to maintain some contact with them after they had reached maturity. So although her book is ostensibly about children, it is in fact laced throughout by her observations on exceptionally gifted adults as well.

Before examining Hollingworth’s findings, however, it is necessary to explain how childhood IQs are related to adult mental ability. As a child ages, his IQ tends to regress to the mean of the population of which he is a member. This is partly due to the imperfect reliability of the test, and partly due to the uneven rate of maturation. The earlier the IQ is obtained, and the higher the score, the more the IQ can be expected to regress by the time the child becomes an adult. So although Hollingworth’s children were all selected to have IQs above 180, their adult status was not nearly so high. In fact, as adults, there’s good reason to believe that their abilities averaged only slightly above that of the average Triple Nine member. Evidence for this conjecture comes from the Terman research data. Terman observed the following relationship between childhood IQs on the Stanford-Binet and adult status on the Concept Mastery test form T.



> 17048155.8



The average childhood IQ score for those with childhood IQs above 170 was 177.7 for men, and 177.6 for women. That’s quite close to the 180 cutoff used by Leta Hollingworth in selecting her subjects. Note that Terman’s subjects who scored above 170 IQ as children averaged 155.8 on the CMT-T at age 41, a score quite close to the 155.16 made by the average Triple Nine member. Such a close match makes it reasonable to generalize Hollingworth’s findings to members of both the Triple Nine Society and the Prometheus Society.

Hollingworth identified a number of adjustment problems caused by school acceleration. As this is rarely practiced in today’s educational system, these are no longer problems and will not be discussed. There still remain, however, four adjustment problems that continue to perplex the gifted throughout their lives, two applying to all levels of giftedness, and two applying almost exclusively to the exceptionally gifted–i.e. those with childhood IQs above 170, or adult Concept Mastery test (T) scores above 155.

One of the problems faced by all gifted persons is learning to focus their efforts for prolonged periods of time. Since so much comes easily to them, they may never acquire the self-discipline necessary to use their gifts to the fullest. Hollingworth describes how the habit begins.

Where the gifted child drifts in the school unrecognized, working chronically below his capacity (even though young for his grade), he receives daily practice in habits of idleness and daydreaming. His abilities never receive the stimulus of genuine challenge, and the situation tends to form in him the expectation of an effortless existence [3, p. 258].

But if the “average” gifted child tends to acquire bad adjustment habits in the ordinary schoolroom, the exceptionally gifted have even more problems. Hollingworth continues:

Children with IQs up to 150 get along in the ordinary course of school life quite well, achieving excellent marks without serious effort. But children above this mental status become almost intolerably bored with school work if kept in lockstep with unselected pupils of their own age. Children who rise above 170 IQ are liable to regard school with indifference or with positive dislike, for they find nothing in the work to absorb their interest. This condition of affairs, coupled with the supervision of unseeing and unsympathetic teachers, has sometimes led even to truancy on the part of gifted children [3, p. 258].

A second adjustment problem faced by all gifted persons is due to their uncommon versatility. Hollingworth says:

Another problem of development with reference to occupation grows out of the versatility of these children. So far from being one-sided in ability and interest, they are typically capable of so many different kinds of success that they may have difficulty in confining themselves to a reasonable number of enterprises. Some of them are lost to usefulness through spreading their available time and energy over such a wide array of projects that nothing can be finished or done perfectly. After all, time and space are limited for the gifted as for others, and the life-span is probably not much longer for them than for others. A choice must be made among the numerous possibilities, since modern life calls for specialization [3, p. 259].

A third problem faced by the gifted is learning to suffer fools gladly. Hollingworth notes:

A lesson which many gifted persons never learn as long as they live is that human beings in general are inherently very different from themselves in thought, in action, in general intention, and in interests. Many a reformer has died at the hands of a mob which he was trying to improve in the belief that other human beings can and should enjoy what he enjoys. This is one of the most painful and difficult lessons that each gifted child must learn, if personal development is to proceed successfully. It is more necessary that this be learned than that any school subject be mastered. Failure to learn how to tolerate in a reasonable fashion the foolishness of others leads to bitterness, disillusionment, and misanthropy [3, p. 259].

The single greatest adjustment problem faced by the gifted, however, is their tendency to become isolated from the rest of humanity. This problem is especially acute among the exceptionally gifted. Hollingworth says:

This tendency to become isolated is one of the most important factors to be considered in guiding the development of personality in highly intelligent children, but it does not become a serious problem except at the very extreme degrees of intelligence. The majority of children between 130 and 150 find fairly easy adjustment, because neighborhoods and schools are selective, so that like-minded children tend to be located in the same schools and districts. Furthermore, the gifted child, being large and strong for his age, is acceptable to playmates a year or two older. Great difficulty arises only when a young child is above 160 IQ. At the extremely high levels of 180 or 190 IQ, the problem of friendships is difficult indeed, and the younger the person the more difficult it is. The trouble decreases with age because as persons become adult, they naturally seek and find on their own initiative groups who are like-minded, such as learned societies [3, p. 264].

Hollingworth points out that the exceptionally gifted do not deliberately choose isolation, but are forced into it against their wills.

These superior children are not unfriendly or ungregarious by nature. Typically they strive to play with others but their efforts are defeated by the difficulties of the case… Other children do not share their interests, their vocabulary, or their desire to organize activities. They try to reform their contemporaries but finally give up the struggle and play alone, since older children regard them as “babies,” and adults seldom play during hours when children are awake. As a result, forms of solitary play develop, and these, becoming fixed as habits, may explain the fact that many highly intellectual adults are shy, ungregarious, and unmindful of human relationships, or even misanthropic and uncomfortable in ordinary social intercourse [3, p. 262].

But if the exceptionally gifted is isolated from his contemporaries, the gulf between him and the adult authorities in his life is even deeper.

The very gifted child or adolescent, perceiving the illogical conduct of those in charge of his affairs, may turn rebellious against all authority and fall into a condition of negative suggestibility–a most unfortunate trend of personality, since the person is then unable to take a cooperative attitude toward authority. A person who is highly suggestible in a negative direction is as much in bondage to others around him as is the person who is positively suggestible. The social value of the person is seriously impaired in either case. The gifted are not likely to fall victims to positive suggestion but many of them develop negativism to a conspicuous degree [3, p 260].

Anyone reading the super high IQ journals is aware of the truth of this statement. Negative individuals abound in every high IQ society.

Hollingworth distilled her observations into two ideas that are among the most important ever discovered for the understanding of gifted behavior. The first is the concept of an optimum adjustment range. She says:

All things considered, the psychologist who has observed the development of gifted children over a long period of time from early childhood to maturity, evolves the idea that there is a certain restricted portion of the total range of intelligence which is most favorable to the development of successful and well-rounded personality in the world as it now exists. This limited range appears to be somewhere between 125 and 155 IQ. Children and adolescents in this area are enough more intelligent than the average to win the confidence of large numbers of their fellows, which brings about leadership, and to manage their own lives with superior efficiency. Moreover, there are enough of them to afford mutual esteem and understanding. But those of 170 IQ and beyond are too intelligent to be understood by the general run of persons with whom they make contact. They are too infrequent to find congenial companions. They have to contend with loneliness and personal isolation from their contemporaries throughout the period of their immaturity. To what extent these patterns become fixed, we cannot yet tell [3, p. 264].

Hollingworth’s second seminal idea is that of a “communication range.” She does not state this explicitly, but it can be inferred from some of her comments on leadership.

Observation shows that there is a direct ratio between the intelligence of the leader and that of the led. To be a leader of his contemporaries a child must be more intelligent but not too much more intelligent than those to be led… But generally speaking, a leadership pattern will not form–or it will break up–when a discrepancy of more than about 30 points of IQ comes to exist between leader and led [3, p. 287].

The implication is that there is a limit beyond which genuine communication between different levels of intelligence becomes impossible. To say that a child or an adult is intellectually isolated from his contemporaries is to say that everyone in his environment has an IQ at least 30 points different from his own. Knowing only a person’s IQ, then, is not enough to tell how well he’s likely to cope with his environment. Some knowledge of the intellectual level of his environment is also necessary.

If the optimum range of intelligence lies between 125 and 155 IQ, as Hollingworth suggests, then it follows that 155 can be thought of as a threshold separating an optimum adjustment zone below it from a suboptimum range above it. Other psychologists have also noticed how this score tends to divide people into two naturally occurring categories. Among these is one of the doyens of psychometrics, David Wechsler. He comments:

The topics of genius and degeneration are only special cases of the more general problem involved in the evaluation of human capacities, namely the quantitative versus qualitative. There are those who insist that all differences are qualitative, and those who with equal conviction maintain that they are exclusively quantitative. The true answer is that they are both. General intelligence, for example, is undoubtedly quantitative in the sense that it consists of varying amounts of the same basic stuff (e.g., mental energy) which can be expressed by continuous numerical measures like intelligence Quotients or Mental-Age scores, and these are as real as any physical measurements are. But it is equally certain that our description of the difference between a genius and an average person by a statement to the effect that he has an IQ greater by this or that amount, does not describe the difference between them as completely or in the same way as when we say that a mile is much longer than an inch. The genius (as regards intellectual ability) not only has an IQ of say 50 points more than the average person, but in virtue of this difference acquires seemingly new aspects (potentialities) or characteristics. These seemingly new aspects or characteristics, in their totality, are what go to make up the “qualitative” difference between them [9, p. 134].

Wechsler is saying quite plainly that those with IQs above 150 are different in kind from those below that level. He is saying that they are a different kind of mind, a different kind of human being.

This subjective impression of a difference in kind also appears to be fairly common among members of the super high IQ societies themselves. When Prometheus and Triple Nine members were asked if they perceived a categorical difference between those above this level and others, most said that they did, although they also said that they were reluctant to call the difference genius. When asked what it should be called, they produced a number of suggestions, sometimes esoteric, sometimes witty, and often remarkably vulgar. But one term was suggested independently again and again. Many thought that the most appropriate term for people like themselves was Outsider.

The feeling of estrangement, or at least detachment, from society at large is not merely subjective illusion. Society is not geared to deal effectively with the exceptionally gifted adult because almost nothing objective is known about him. It is a commonplace observation that no psychometric instrument can be validly used to evaluate a person unless others like him were included in the test’s norming sample. Yet those with IQs above 150 are so rare that few if any were ever included in the norming sample of any of the most commonly used tests, tests like the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory, the Kuder Vocational Preference Record, the MMPI and so on. As a consequence, objective self-knowledge for the exceptionally gifted is nearly impossible to obtain. What he most needs to know is not how he differs from ordinary people–he is acutely aware of that–but how he is both like and unlike those of his own kind. The most commonly used tests can’t provide that knowledge, so he is forced to find out in more roundabout ways. It is his attempts to find answers to these questions that may explain the emergence of the super high IQ societies. Where else can he find peers against which to measure himself?

There appear to be three sorts of childhoods and three sorts of adult social adaptations made by the gifted. The first of these may be called the committed strategy. These individuals were born into upper middle class families, with gifted and well educated parents, and often with gifted siblings. They sometimes even had famous relatives. They attended prestigious colleges, became doctors, lawyers, professors, or joined some other prestigious occupation, and have friends with similar histories. They are the optimally adjusted. They are also the ones most likely to disbelieve that the exceptionally gifted can have serious adjustment problems.

The second kind of social adaptation may be called the marginal strategy. These individuals were typically born into a lower socio-economic class, without gifted parents, gifted siblings, or gifted friends. Often they did not go to college at all, but instead went right to work immediately after high school, or even before. And although they may superficially appear to have made a good adjustment to their work and friends, neither work nor friends can completely engage their attention. They hunger for more intellectual challenge and more real companionship than their social environment can supply. So they resort to leading a double life. They compartmentalize their life into a public sphere and a private sphere. In public they go through the motions of fulfilling their social roles, whatever they are, but in private they pursue goals of their own. They are often omnivorous readers, and sometimes unusually expert amateurs in specialized subjects. The double life strategy might even be called the genius ploy, as many geniuses in history have worked at menial tasks in order to free themselves for more important work. Socrates, you will remember was a stone mason, Spinoza was a lens grinder, and even Jesus was a carpenter. The exceptionally gifted adult who works as a parking lot attendant while creating new mathematics has adopted an honored way of life and deserves respect for his courage, not criticism for failing to live up to his abilities. Those conformists who adopt the committed strategy may be pillars of their community and make the world go around, but historically, those with truly original minds have more often adopted the double life tactic. They are ones among the gifted who are most likely to make the world go forward.

And finally there are the dropouts. These sometimes bizarre individuals were often born into families in which one or more of the parents were not only exceptionally gifted, but exceptionally maladjusted themselves. This is the worst possible social environment that a gifted child can be thrust into. His parents, often driven by egocentric ambitions of their own, may use him to gratify their own needs for accomplishment. He is, to all intents and purposes, not a living human being to them, but a performing animal, or even an experiment. That is what happened to Sidis, and may be the explanation for all those gifted who “burn out” as he did. (Readers familiar with the Terman study will recognize the committed strategy and the marginal strategy as roughly similar to the adjustment patterns of Terman’s A and C groups.)

If the exceptionally gifted adult with an IQ of 150, or 160, or 170 has problems in adapting to his world, what must it have been like for William James Sidis, whose IQ was 250 or more?

Aldous Huxley once wrote:

Perhaps men of genius are the only true men. In all the history of the race there have been only a few thousand real men. And the rest of us–what are we? Teachable animals. Without the help of the real man, we should have found out almost nothing at all. Almost all the ideas with which we are familiar could never have occurred to minds like ours. Plant the seeds there and they will grow; but our minds could never spontaneously have generated them [4, p. 2242].

And so we see that the explanation for the Sidis tragedy is simple. Sidis was a feral child; a true man born into a world filled with animals–a world filled with us.

o o o o
Some of those reading this paper may find the portrait painted here to be completely incredible. Their own experiences were nothing at all like those described, nor were those of most of their gifted friends. But the point of this article is not that there’s some special hazard in having an exceptional IQ: There’s not. The point is that the danger lies in having an exceptional IQ in an environment completely lacking in intellectual peers. It’s the isolation that does the damage, not the IQ itself.

It is the belief of this author that the super high IQ societies were created primarily by those who have adopted the marginal strategy, and by rights ought to be aimed at fulfilling the needs of this subdivision of the exceptionally gifted. It’s obvious from reading the journals that those who have followed the committed strategy rarely participate in society affairs, rarely write for the various journals, and indeed have little need to belong to such a group. They have far more productive outlets for their talents. It’s the exceptionally gifted adult who feels stifled that stands most in need of a high IQ society. The tragedy is that none of the super high IQ societies created thus far have been able to meet those needs, and the reason for this is simple. None of these groups is willing to acknowledge or come to terms with the fact that much of their membership belong to the psychological walking wounded. This alone is enough to explain the constant schisms that develop, the frequent vendettas, and the mediocre level of their publications. But those are not immutable facts; they can be changed. And the first step in doing so is to see ourselves as we are.

–Grady M. Towers

(From The Prometheus Society’s Journal, Gift of Fire Issue No. 22, April 1987. The article was re-issued in Issue 72, March 95. Robert Dick, the [former] Prometheus Society Membership Officer, recommends “The Outsiders” as a good view of the high-IQ condition.


Sorry about the footnotes; my source, the Prometheus Society, had numbers but no notes. I’ll try to track them down and restore them.

I reprint this article here by request. As many as one-tenth of the emails I get at the World Dream Bank are from the severely gifted–well above their incidence in its general readership (itself quite gifted), and vastly above their incidence in the population. They write me looking for advice on how to cope with the isolation that Grady Towers describes so frankly. I’ve done what I could by describing some of my own experiences as a child prodigy, but Towers makes a rigorous statistical case for what I knew empirically: the bright tend to be lonely.

And those who aren’t isolated are often co-opted, their genius channeled into acceptable paths. I agree with Towers: moderate maladjustment, bearable loneliness, what he calls “the marginal strategy”, may be as good as it gets. And often not good enough. While working a job as a security guard because it gave him time to write, Towers himself was murdered. And not randomly, but for what he had written. This blunt article is his chief legacy. Was it worth his life?

How many lives has it saved?

It’s not so easy to judge life-strategies, even your own. Did Blake or Dickinson or Van Gogh think they were successes? Mozart? Leonardo? Jesus, dead at 33?

Not to get dramatic on you, or anything.

–Chris Wayan


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