Archive for the ‘Equally Shared Parenting’ Category

Eminence Front

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em·i·nence

/ˈemənəns/

Noun
  1. Fame or recognized superiority, esp. within a particular sphere or profession: “her eminence in cinematography”.
  2. An important or distinguished person: “the Attorney General canvassed the views of various legal eminences”.

Eminence is everywhere in articles on giftedness of late. It’s arrived hand-in-glove with the Talentists, that group that seeks to broaden the definition of giftedness to include just about anything a human being can possibly do differently than other human beings1. The new way of thinking centers on the idea that gifted education should foster and encourage those most capable of – and I quote – “path breaking, field-altering discoveries and creative contributions by their products, innovations, and performances.” Thus, by the strictest definition of the term, noted above, gifted people are to be famous people. Important people. Superior people.

Look, I’m not offended by the idea that an intelligent person can work hard and be recognized for excellence in his or her chosen field. Far from it. What I do find disturbing is the expectation that everyone is a prodigy in a specific and defined field. Eminence suggests that we all somehow sharpen to a single point of brilliance, one which efficiently yields up the fruits of our giftedness to society in a quantifiable way. It all sounds very pleasant and logical, and at the same time, it makes me think I’m being rendered down for my mineral salts. More disturbingly, literature in the field is starting to suggest that giftedness + diligence = eminence, as a rigidly defined equation. It might; there’s certainly no shortage of examples out there. But it also feeds the gifted-as-output engine, and that can end up with terrible results – even for those that do become eminent. After all, if I rearrange that equation algebraically, I can also produce giftedness – eminence = – diligence; “if I’m smart but not famous, I clearly didn’t work hard enough.”2  That’s a horrific message to send to gifted children. Eminence is a delightful concept for those of us who single-mindedly pursue fields that offer the possibility of large-scale acknowledgment and the possibility of ‘recognized superiority.’ What are the rest of us? Failed experiments? Intellectual detritus? Cautionary tales?

This logic also doesn’t necessarily work for polymaths. I have terrible news for the Eminence Front; I’m not eminent. Not by the strictest definition of the word. I’m not technically a famous author; there’s a pretty tightly-defined slice of the gifted young adult population that likes my work, but they’re not New York Times bestsellers, and it’s unlikely that my books are going to be turned into godawful movies anytime soon. I’m not technically a famous guitarist, either, although there are those who will shout requests for songs I’ve written. I’m not technically a famous archaeologist, but one of my finds is on display in a cultural museum in Cortez, Colorado. I’m not technically a famous entrepreneur – but there are people who rely on the services my company provides every day to make the right decisions for their companies. I’m a better author than most entrepreneurs I know, and a better guitarist than most archaeologists. But the ideologues of the Eminence Front don’t value polymathic output; only prodigious output.

More importantly, though, these are the activities for which I’m even able to measure that output – the activities I’d have a chance of becoming eminent in. I’m not even really considering the things I can’t technically be famous for. Am I a famous father? (I do have a very, um, distinguished ‘Dad of the Year’ plaque on my desk.) Has my husband-ing ever been recognized for its superiority? Is it possible to be distinguished while I’m plunging a toilet or grilling hamburgers or taking the trash to the curb? Then there’s homeschooling, which – by definition – is an act that runs directly counter to the concept of eminence. Kathy and I have both made the very conscious decision to limit our career workload so that we can focus more closely on the education of our children. If eminence was ever camped out in my cul-de-sac, it likely packed its bags the day we made that decision. I’m OK with that, and so is she, but what are we telling our own kids when we tell them that eminence is everything?

That. in turn, raises the following question: where, in this equation, is the word happiness? How about fulfillment? Self-actualization? And which component of the definition of eminence are we supposed to be following? Is it more crucial to the essence of eminence to be important or famous? Famous or superior? Superior or distinguished? Ke$ha’s a famous person, but she’s not important. Zoe Keating is probably the anti-Ke$ha – important, but not famous. She’s got a lot of company. Miguel Alcubierre might end up becoming the most important man in scientific history – but he’s not famous. (Yet.) Brian Greene and Rodolfo Gambini are important, but not famous, and neither can yet demonstrate superiority over the other; in fact, one is likely to be dead wrong, and his error is going to prove to be immensely valuable to physicists. We can’t all be Neil deGrasse Tyson3.

What I’m going to tell my children is the following: follow your passion in life. It might be looping the cello, or developing warp-drive engines, or painting with oils in a sunny back yard. Following your passions might ensure you fame, or – ahem – “importance”(whatever that means), or being ‘recognized for your superiority.’ Or it might not. What it will bring you is meaning, and joy, and a direct conduit between the fire in your soul and the work beneath your hands. There is no more “important” goal than that in this life. They might find themselves famous, or “important,” as a result of their passions – but the converse is unlikely to be true.

As for the ‘Eminence Front?’ Someone fairly famous in his own right once informed me that it’s a put-on.

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1 You’re welcome.

2 giftedness = eminence – diligence somehow falls out of this, too. Go figure.

3 Yes, I’m counting the vests in the ‘distinguished’ column.

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My Daily Dose of Vitamin P

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One of the wonderful things about being an internist in a geriatric practice is the continual, daily perspective on what matters in life. I work part-time, rounding on patients who are residing at a skilled nursing facility or in long term care. Often, I will only be caring for a patient for a few weeks, one in a line of physicians from the emergency department to the hospital to myself. I will then hand them back to their regular physician when they are ready to discharge.  Even though I may not know them for long, I do have the luxury of being able to spend more time with them, seeing them several times a week if needed, and focusing on what’s really important to them. I am supported, thankfully, by fabulous teams of nurse practitioners, nurses, and nurses’s aides; physical, occupational, and speech therapists; nutritionists and case managers that keep things running smoothly for these patients at the various facilities I round at.

When I first meet a patient, I have already read their prior chart, looked through their medication lists, and retrieved the details of their recent medical history from our electronic medical record.  I let them know that I’ve already looked through this material, so they don’t have to repeat their story for the umpteenth time (unless they’d like to).  I’m mainly there to find out more about them, how they are feeling that day, and elicit whatever medical concerns they have.  We can then focus more on how recent events have affected them and their loved ones.  Many of the patients I see are over age 75, with quite a number over 90, and so discussions of end-of-life planning are common.

One of the first questions I ask is, “tell me about yourself.” It’s an open-ended question that allows them to tell me what is most important about themselves from their frame of reference, not anyone else’s. Even in patients with significant dementia, they are able to answer this question with details about childhood events; they are not living in the present, but perpetually in the past. Others, whose cognitive status is more intact, can tell me about their current life. I hear details about children, grandchildren, pets, faith, volunteer work, and travel. I also listen to descriptions of grieving, loss of hearing and eyesight, medical illness, fear, and pain.

Interestingly, the one thing patients don’t tell me is what they did for work. They might be happy to tell me proudly what their children and grandchildren (and sometimes great-grandchildren) do for work; their family members are business owners, military service members, homemakers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and everything in between.  I often prompt patients to find out what they did daily for the better part of their life. Most have been retired for 20 years or more, and that part of their life has become less important to them over time, fading into the distance like so many memories. For many years since retirement, their life has been filled up with family, new babies, friends, pets, hobbies, books, and much more.  Even the patients who didn’t have children are involved as great-aunts, or run the local pet shelter. It doesn’t matter if they worked as a contractor, researcher, dancer, professor, engineer, author, or dentist.  It doesn’t matter where they went to high school, college, or graduate school, or what grades they got along the way. It doesn’t matter how devoted they were to their work, what awards they won, or whether they achieved notoriety in their field.  None of this matters as much to them at this point in their lives. While they have regrets, what matters to them the most are the personal connections they have been able to sustain throughout their lifetimes.

These daily encounters often leave me thinking about how to guide my current life. Meaning, if I had their perspective – vitamin P – how would I live my life right now? I find I have more initiative to help my kids find their passions in life, and less tolerance for continuing in negative situations. I seek the company of those who understand and celebrate me for who I am, not those who want me to be something I am not. I celebrate exploration and discussion more than achievement, and I place a higher value on snuggling and long walks.

When I am done rounding and go home to my family, it is a joy to walk through the door. I have usually picked up our kids from school, after homeschooling in the morning. Dave has been working from home, or we switched times that day so he could attend a client meeting. The house is busting with multiple intensities of every type, and learning, work, love, and laughter are all mixed together in one crazy bundle of energy. I will be always grateful that I became a physician, not as much for the patients I helped, but for how they helped me. And I hope, towards the end of my life, to have lived in a way that would make them proud, too.

Hands On With Intensity

My day started out with an overabundance of pomegranate seeds. Specifically, too many of them to reasonably eat. We use a service in our area called “Door-to-Door Organics;” they deliver fruits and veggies to us once a week. Between last week and this week’s orders, we ended up with 4 pomegranates, producing about 4 cups of pomegranate seeds. And, though my kids love to eat the seeds, even they can’t eat that much before the next delivery.

I was sipping my coffee and decided to Google what I might be able to make with the seeds, and found a recipe online for oatmeal pomegranate muffins. The kids and I measured the ingredients, mixed up the batter and topping, and baked the muffins. We then sat down to a family breakfast to sample our work. The muffins were delicious, and a great way to use up a lot of the seeds. My kids talked excitedly about the flavor and texture of the muffins, and discussed whether or not they would like to make this recipe again (a resounding yes.)

Next we moved onto the cardboard box which arrived yesterday in the mail. Inside said box: one frog dissection kit. E and A had asked if they could do more science at home, and after a discussion about options, we ordered a dissection kit to try it out. The kit comes with most of the items you need to perform a dissection, including the preserved frog. Being a doctor who rounds at different facilities, I luckily always have a box of latex gloves in the back of my car; we all donned the gloves and got to work. Over the next hour, we observed, poked, prodded, and dissected the frog with the instructions provided (and some assistance from our iPad app.) H even joined in on the fun for a while, before deciding that the smell (not to mention the sight of a dead frog) was a bit overwhelming for her emotional and sensory intensity. E, meanwhile, meticulously separated and labeled the organs, while A kept commenting on how interesting it was to see the inside of a frog. The most unexpected find for them? Observing the delicacy of the webbing on the frog’s hands and feet. Once we were done, we said a quiet thank you to the frog for giving his life so we could learn.

Next up for the day: sewing machine lessons. My grandmother taught me how to sew, knit, and crochet when I was a kid, and my mom does quite a bit of sewing herself. I personally haven’t done much sewing since med school, but had bought a new sewing machine a few years back so I could hem the kids’ pants and sew on scout patches. Mostly, though, the machine sits unused.  H has developed an interest in fashion design, and I mentioned to her that she could start by designing clothing for her American Girl doll (the look-alike kind.) She ordered a book of patterns , and we all trekked to the fabric store. Two very intense hours later (seemingly infinite colors, textures, and ideas), we left with our fabrics, and a multitude of possible projects.  H decided on a pink animal print dress to start.

While Dave helped E clean up the frog dissection, I worked with H on cutting out the fabric according to the pattern, and we pinned the pieces to get ready to sew. E had expressed an interest in learning, too,  so I taught them both the basics of running the machine.  Together, we sewed the dress, (which frankly looked adorable on her doll – she did a fine job picking out the material,) and H was so excited that she decided to make a miniature pillow and rug on her own. E embarked on making a Kindle case – using her soft purple fabric – with a velcro closure.

I sat down and relaxed after an awesome morning. I reflected on moving through math, science, project sequencing, and life skills within the space of a few hours. The kids all stayed intensely interested and inquisitive, and I very much enjoyed myself, too. Not only did I get to spend time with them, I had the privilege of teaching them new skills, and watching their amazement at their new knowledge and ability to use it.  Learning, the way it was meant to be.

Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road

This post was originally posted on the blog, An Intense Life, as “Back to School?” on August 20th, 2012. Dave and Kathy are guest bloggers on the site.

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For the past few years, our preparations for the school year begin by having a discussion with our kids about whether they want to go to school at all. Our default is to discuss full-time homeschooling, since we could get learning done in less time, and not be constrained by the school calendar. We both have flexible jobs where we could make it work. But the kids have their own ideas.

Our kids all still really, really want to attend school – for at least part of the day. Of course,  our kids really, really want to have ice cream for breakfast, but we don’t let them. So I suppose I’d have to clarify that they really, really want to go to school, and we have researched this option and think that it’s a good idea.

To be fair, we have a good situation as these things go. The public elementary school they attend has a full-time gifted program, and all of them are accelerated an additional year within the program. The district and the school have been very flexible with allowing E (profoundly gifted) and H (highly gifted/2e) to both homeschool part-time. The teachers, kids and parents in the program are great, too.

But, we’ve learned from our mistakes and discoveries. E’s learning speed is so fast that we have to reevaluate every 3 months where she is at. (Dave describes it as running full-speed from a train and throwing furniture back to try – unsuccessfully – and slow it down.) Last year, she homeschooled in the morning instead of attending for literacy and math, and she and Dave covered an incredible number of topics and projects, all fueled by her desire to learn. I taught her some basic science, too. When we sat down to document what she had covered over the nine month period, we discovered that she had completed most of a freshman year of high school – at age 9. We were stunned.

As I said, it would actually be easier for us to homeschool full-time, but we would like our kids to attend school for as long as they want. I don’t want to pull them out unless it’s something they really, really want. Which so far they don’t. So, we live between two worlds for now, and it’s doable. (Our only rule: no whining about school.)

So, we’ve decided – based on the above- that it’s a good idea to send them to school at all. The next question we discuss is: what do we all want to get out of the time spent at school?

The school has its own goals: to have our children perform well in class and on their standardized exams. To socialize them, and to teach them gym, music, art, science and social studies. To have them eat lunch and get exercise. It’s also to keep the kids stimulated and occupied for the better part of the day until their parents can come and pick them up.

What are our goals and our children’s goals for school? They are usually not the same. There is some overlap, certainly. Our kids want to see their friends, play at recess, read, learn some interesting math, do some cool art, and bond with their teachers. Dave and I want our kids to discover passions, learn from teachers and classmates, and be as social as they’d prefer to be. We try to communicate that our expectation is for them to be respectful at school, but also allow that we, as a family, have different priorities. Off the yellow brick road, so to speak.

In addition, we continue to work with all of them on nurturing and managing their multiple intensities. E is managing how to relate to other highly gifted kids who may not share her exact level of intellectual intensity about a subject. At the same time, teaching H not to take on emotional water during the day at school is a huge challenge. She’s like a gigantic sponge taking it all in as the day goes on, and it makes it challenging for her to get anything done at school. A, meanwhile, is learning to balance his need to be social, active and imaginative while at school with his desire to learn subjects they don’t teach much – like science and robotics.

The outcome of the discussion is how we get ready for the school year. E is starting some high school classes in earnest this year, and she wants this to be her priority. So we’ll probably skip some elementary school days when she’s focused and wanting to complete a project. H is trying a creative writing class for gifted kids more at her level, and a math class specifically for kids with a math LD. She’d like to feel more comfortable with her talents. A is excited to have one of the girls’ favorite teachers this coming year, who thankfully also likes to teach lots of math. He also knows he’s going to have to work hard to keep his intensities under control at school.

So far, our kids have responded in a positive way to the discussions. It helps that we are supporting them in something they would like to continue, as opposed to forcing them into a decision. We plan to keep wandering along in the grass, keeping the yellow brick road in sight for now, but not taking it.

Oh, and we still have to get school supplies, clothes, shoes and haircuts. Because, highly gifted or not, they’re still kids.

The “On” Switch : Intellectual Intensity

I wrote recently about seeing my son on, and thought I’d follow up with a post of what I meant. How can I tell when my gifted child is on? And why do I care?

Here are some telltale signs: my child  intensely talking about a particular subject, with attention to every detail, and continually wanting to discuss a specific issue, or idea. Pacing around the family room as s/he talks about it (we have a well-worn carpet area around our coffee table.) The excitement that comes with realizing that they’ve found something that speaks to them, that sings to them, a brilliant light that pours dark chocolate over their soul (OK, maybe the chocolate part is just me.)

It’s a thing of pure beauty to witness, a gifted person being on. It’s pure intellectual intensity.

I know these moments come around maybe once a day if we’re lucky. The rest of life is a bran muffin, a tofu salad, or an apple. Necessary, to be sure – and what doctor doesn’t love a good apple – but not the spark and ignition of the “on” switch.

It’s also demoralizing for me to see them NOT on for several days – or even more sadly – months. It sort of creeps up on me if I’m not careful, thinking back to the last time I saw them really excited, with that sparkle in their eye, talking as fast as they can to me about their idea, or realization, or what they just learned.  Initially, I start to make excuses in my mind: they’ve got a lot going on; it’s the middle of winter; or they’ve been fighting with their siblings.

Eventually, though, I have to accept that fact that they are, indeed, off.

Why do I care?

E had a year of school a few years back where she turned off about 4 months into the school year. She was happy on the surface, not complaining, and going to school. She was already in a full-time gifted program, plus a year of additional acceleration, so we thought we had a great plan for the year. She was probably where she needed to be at the beginning of the school year, but we missed the change partway through. She started to disengage and eventually tuned out. By the time we met with the teacher later in the year, the damage was done. E wasn’t interested in her schoolwork or learning new things. She still performed well in school, but she didn’t grow. She was content to read the same books over and over, and play video games.

Her switch had turned off. And so had her intellectual intensity.

Dave and I poured an enormous amount of energy that summer into getting her reengaged. We pushed her intellectually to try things, learn about topics she was interested in, and nurtured her intensities. She loved it, especially having one-on-one time with Dave to discuss all of her intellectual questions. We were ultimately successful in getting her switched back on by mid-summer.  She was the E we knew again, intellectually intense, bright-eyed and curious, making balled fists and pacing around the coffee table more often when she was excited. Her other intensities were more heightened, too.

During our discussions with E, I realized that I had personally been off for a while, too,  in my professional position. I had been practicing as an outpatient physician for about 10 years, and things were enjoyable and routine. Intellectually, though, there wasn’t much challenge from day-to-day. I made a decision to move a practice with more complex patients – more intellectually interesting – and which also allowed for more flexibility.

Why do I care? Dave and I have both, as gifted children and adults, been off before, and we didn’t want that life for any of us. We both know how it feels: empty, hollow, and shallow. We wanted to create a life where intensities, including intellectual intensity, could be given space to grow.

So that’s how we came to where we are today. We’ve had to let go of some things that were honestly not that important to begin with in order to get to this place. We’re all happier as a result, and our basket of intensities is growing and blossoming. It’s an incredible amount of work, but it pales in comparison to the amount of energy it would take to hoist all those intellectual intensity switches from off to on every time.

The Diamond Age

I had a very interesting exchange with a friend on Facebook this week, who was – rightfully – bemoaning the high cost of good daycare, and irritated that more than half of her paycheck was gone just to take care of her child while she was at work. She made a comment regarding the fact that this seems to be just another cultural universal in the modern day, something everyone contends with, and as a long stream of her friends and acquaintances chimed in with their agreement, I felt like I owed a voice to the conversation.

“Not everyone,” I said, “uses daycare.”

The immediate response was a mass eyerolling – silence your mind, and you can practically hear the sclera rolling slickly in a million sockets with an unpopular post – and some rock-throwing, including questioning whether we had a nanny, or parental help, or simply had children old enough to be at home on their own.

“None of the above,” I replied. “We watch our own kids. Simple as that.”

When we fired our nanny for good in 2007, having experienced a string of nanny experiences that would turn your hair white, we decided – at that moment – that we were done with the concept of outsourcing our children’s care. From that point on, it would be us, with the attendant challenges that created. So we threw everything we had on the table, Apollo 13-style, and attempted to build a new life going forward.

First to go was the idea of two full-time careers outside the home. Home was to be the primary venue for raising our kids, so we weren’t interested in having our children grow up in full-day Accenture summer daycare, for example, or coloring listlessly in an office all summer, shushed at every ring of the desk phone.  So part-time and home-based work became the planks for this new life; I cut back my consulting practice to focus on distance work and local client on-site projects only, while Kath cut back her patient hours and switched to a flexible position. Together, we could just do it – with some expense-cutting and heightened fiscal scrutiny.

It started, though, with a very specific perspective: building from the family up to our careers, rather than building down from our careers to our family. It wasn’t a case of ‘this is what we do for a living; how can we accommodate three gifted and intense children within that framework?’ It was ‘these are our family realities; how can we make a living while respecting our kids’ needs?’

Something in our life, we decided, needed to be a diamond; it should cut all other things. And not everyone has options in choosing their diamond surface; for some of us, a Diamond Age is thrust upon us – we’ve got a serious illness of our own (or that of a parent) to contend with in our lives, or perhaps our kids have special needs (2E or not 2E, that would be the question). But for those of us lucky and blessed enough to have broad familial health intact, the next step is deciding what the diamond surface is in your life. For us, the growing level of intensities in our house, and the specific needs that each of our children was beginning to show us, made the choice an obvious one.

When we positioned our family as the diamond surface in our life, other things got cut – literally and metaphorically. Vacations have a lot more laughing in the tent, and a lot less beachhouse rent – and the TV we bought five years ago seems to be holding up fine. Monopoly, it turns out, has an ageless quality of fun, and stroking your daughter’s hair while she reads pegs the happiness needle; no objects or debit cards required. What’s interesting is that the cuts are visible ones; I can see, in our bank account, every place that earning less and spending more time with my family impacts us. They’re easy cuts to see, and maybe that’s a dangerous thing. The fact that they are so obvious, so quantitative, makes me doubly sure that those cuts would be happening somewhere else if we’d made something else – career, self, hobbies or collections – our diamond surfaces. But those cuts, I fear, wouldn’t be nearly as easy to spot. Some of them, I’m confident, would have been made on my childrens’ hearts.

As the Diamond Age unfolds in our household, I find that I don’t have the life that society tells me I should have or want, and that feels strange sometimes. Things are just different for us, and I have to shrug that off occasionally. Our decision has been our own, and it doesn’t always lead to the easy, tangible reward or the societally-blessed lifestyle. I’ll probably post more about those feelings as they come up.

But right now, I’ve got to go. E’s got a hotel on Boardwalk that she just can’t wait for me to land on.

Making Our Own Path to Happiness

I’ve been reading all the the press recently about whether women can “have it all” and what that even means (see Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in the Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All“). My own perspective on this is, as usual, “off the grid,” so I thought I’d share. My reflexive answer was, “Why the hell would I want that?”

I spend quite a bit of time thinking about how to help my children find true happiness in life. Note that happiness does not equal achievement in my book. Why? Doesn’t every parent of a gifted child routinely say they want their child to grow up to be a doctor or a lawyer? Isn’t that why we all spend so much time on the “right” schooling –  thus getting into the “right” college? Once they’re working as a doctor or a lawyer, game “won”, right?

I’ll let you in on a secret: I am one of the only happy female doctors I know. I love being an internal medicine physician, and the years of medical school and residency, although tough (never mind paying the medical school loans), and now twelve years in practice, has not dimmed my love of my profession. I work part-time, in a very flexible position where I can set my hours day-t0-day, which obviously helps my happiness quotient. It’s hard work, rewarding, and intellectually interesting.

So, after all those years of school and training, what do my fellow female physicians want to do? Most of them, when asked, say that they would like to stay home with their kids.  Perhaps not full-time, but a lot of the time. That, they say, would make them happy.  Publicly, they will all deny they feel this way, because it’s not politically correct to be wishing to be a mommy when you’ve become a doctor. Privately, though, it’s what we all talk about: the elusive work-life balance. No less important: most of my male colleagues struggle with this, too.  I can’t speak for lawyers – although my sibling is one – but I would bet the same conversations come up.

It presents an interesting conundrum for the parent of a gifted child, especially a gifted daughter. We continually tell them they can be anything they want to be, and if they work hard and go after their dreams, they will be “fulfilling their amazing potential”. But what does that really mean? And what if they have fulfilled their potential, in highly educated professions, but are unhappy with their life? Haven’t we then failed them as gifted kids – because then what would be the point of being gifted in the first place?

As has been said many times, by many others before me, I wholeheartedly agree that the solution is to change the conversation. I have been reading some different ideas over the last year from people who are really, truly, changing the conversation.

A recent Equality Blog post from Equally Shared Parenting’s Amy Vachon really cuts to the chase :

“Many of us want all the nontangible, nonmonetary things that come with true equality. Not for the sake of equality but for so much more, including balanced lives for both partners that include all of what each considers important. And to choose equality (and balance), we often need to dethrone Money as the reason for all decisions. And dethrone its friend, Prestige. We have to decide how much money is enough, and exchange the neverending prestige quest for the joy of being an artisan worker in whatever career we choose. Then, the whole world opens up for both partners.”

The Center for a New American Dream continues the discussion. Their video, “Visualizing a Plenitude Economy,” gives a profound visual of what’s possible when we let go of what we’ve been told is the goal.

We need many more intelligent people to model and speak out about the fact that being gifted gives you more choices, and more potential, on your way to your own happiness path in life. Achievement by itself will not make you happy for the rest of your life. Working hard on something you love so you can have more real choices, however, just might. Teach them about working less, spending less, having less stuff, educating themselves for the sake of knowledge, doing what they love, and sharing their lives equally with each other and their children. Let’s have conversations with our gifted children about joy in work, balance, and the importance of designing a life where they can spend lots of time with their (likely gifted) kids. It will be more important than anything they learn in school.

My small pledge: next time I’m talking about my hopes for my children, I promise to not reflexively jump to any of them being a doctor or a lawyer. I will focus on happiness. In my own small way, I will start changing the conversation.