What sets apart a genius from an Average Joe? The simple answer to this question would be intelligence. According to society, this quality is something you are simply born with- a “hit or miss” kind of trait that only a few people are lucky enough to possess. For a portion of my life, I believed this too. The word intelligence is largely misused and misunderstood, but I will attempt to shed some light on how I believe it is achieved.
For as long as I can remember, my ultimate goal in life was to become valedictorian and receive a full-ride scholarship to an Ivy League university. I have dreamed of getting all A’s on my transcript to the point where the very thought of receiving anything lower shatters my heart. Even as a young girl, I hoped that one day I would become a brilliant doctor that could cure even the incurable. While other girls had dolls and princess dresses at the top of their Christmas list, I asked for a doctor’s kit. I played for hours on end pretending to be a doctor caring for my stuffed animals that were under the weather. My teddy bears had frequent check-ups where I would listen to their inaudible heartbeat and give them a flu shot. I imitated my own pediatrician by writing symptoms of my sick stuffed bunny on a clipboard. However, I doubted my ability to achieve my dreams because I thought I was not “smart” enough. After constantly comparing myself to my peers, I came to the realization that my goals were unachievable. As I have grown wiser, I now understand the true meaning of intelligence.
Society has shaped the world to believe that intelligence is an innate characteristic that few are lucky to possess. This is not true. Intelligence must be acquired through hard work and dedication. According to Malcolm Gladwell in his famous book, The Outliers, ten-thousand hours of practice is needed for perfection of a skill (Gladwell). Intelligence is no exception. A student is not simply born knowing how to do trigonometry. An athlete cannot rely on natural ability to become the best in their sport. The athlete must train endlessly to produce the desired results. The reason that Kobe Bryant became an incredible basketball player was due to his work ethic. His determination and millions of hours spent practicing are what allowed him to climb the ladder of success (McCarney). It is true that some may “catch on” to certain subjects faster than others. The same advantage would occur for a six-foot tall kid learning to play basketball. However, everyone has the potential to achieve their prospective intelligence. My chemistry teacher once said that grades have a correlation. If one runs the extra mile by studying for hours and paying attention during lessons, he or she will be successful on the test. However, if one does not study and is deceived by the belief of their own “innate” intelligence, he or she is more likely to fail. There is no limit to what someone can achieve with effort and dedication.
In the fifth grade, my elementary school began to divide students into higher level classes. In previous years, all students learned the same material regardless of academic ability. I was recommended to be in the sixth grade level math class along with others who had shown the potential to succeed in a more rigorous level of curriculum. On the first day of being in the class, the teacher administered a pretest to ensure that the students had met the level of intensity of the class. After taking this test, I specifically remember my teacher pulling me aside and asking me if I would be ready for such a difficult course. She suggested that I go into the regular level math class where I could easily thrive. As a ten year old, I believed that my teacher was unquestionably correct and I was moved back into the typical path a fifth grader would embark upon. Throughout the year, I received A’s on all of my tests and felt very unchallenged. In the following year, I was again suggested to be in a higher level math course. In this math class, I felt insecure of my ability due to the doubts of my previous teacher, but my new math teacher reassured me that I belonged in the class. In this course, I worked incredibly hard and attended tutoring regularly to match the level of the other kids in the class. By the end of the year, I received an A in both semesters of the course. I realized something from this experience. My intelligence was based on the amount of effort I put into it. My fifth grade teacher determined my intelligence based on one pretest. However, she failed to recognize my potential and work ethic that would help me to succeed in a challenging course. My sixth grade teacher taught me one of the most important lessons in life: the foundation of intelligence is effort.
Throughout the course of my life, I have learned that intelligence requires more than just an innate ability. The prerequisite for intelligence is curiosity. It is a longing to understand the world and its various mysteries.
Curious people are the ones who ask a million questions in class and even resort to staying after to gain an understanding that is beyond the necessary curriculum. It is impossible to gain knowledge without wanting to understand the information in the first place. For many people, the unknown is a dark room that they would rather keeped locked than explore. However, it is the curious who venture into the dark and their wonder sparks the light of understanding. If one never ceases to question and seek the answers, the sky's the limit to what they can discover. According to Albert Einstein, who was considered to be the smartest man to have ever lived, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” (Rubin). Einstein’s crave to learn is what set him apart from others and molded him into the genius that he is known for being. Isaac Newton, who was born in the mid-seventeenth century, was a key figure in the Scientific Revolution. He is attributed to discovering important principles of physics and calculus. Many people know the story of Isaac Newton wondering why an apple plummeted off of a tree like a skydiver would off a plane which led to him discovering the theory of gravity (Biography.com Editors). Without his curiosity and his inclination to understand why the apple fell, Newton would have never become the intelligent man he was.
As I have matured, I have developed a concise definition of what it means to be intelligent and how it is achieved. Everyone is born innocent of knowledge until the moment they become curious. To grasp the information around oneself is not easy; it requires a little elbow grease and inquisitiveness to obtain the knowledge. It is immensely important to understand the real meanings of words that are widely misunderstood within language to prevent the loss of dreams. With my new understanding of the word, I feel determined to achieve my goal of one day becoming a doctor.
Biography.com Editors. “Isaac Newton”. Biography.com. A&E Television Networks. 4 Sept. 2017.
Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. 2008. Print.
McCarney, Dan. “Quote History of Kobe: Work Ethic”. NBA. NBA Media Ventures. 4 Sept. 2017.
Rubin, Gretchen. “The Happiness Project”. Psychology Today. Susex Publishers. 4 Sept. 2017.