Today, Nicolas Martin Saint-Léon gives us his vision of giftedness through “The Gifted Interview”. Thanks Nicolas! He is a marketing director in an industrial company. He currently lives in Paris.
.IF I COULD CHOOSE, WOULD I STILL BE GIFTED?
Without hesitation. In fact, it’s so much a part of who I am that I can’t imagine “being” anything else.
.WHAT (MY OWN) GIFTEDNESS MEANS TO ME
Being faster, more attentive to the meanings and connections of things. To be more precise, sometimes to the point of obsession. Not to put up with flawed or dishonest reasoning. To think that the first enemies of ‘correct” thinking are our own cognitive biases. Thinking that if people stopped for two seconds and used their brains, the world would be less rotten… and thinking about it sometimes makes me sick in the morning. Being able to swallow masses of information and synthesize it in 2 sentences… Being able to look at the micro-details and the whole at the same time. To think that everything is effect and causality… and that we are all part of a great whole even if each of us is unique…
.IF I HAD TO CHOOSE AN IMAGE OR A KEYWORD THAT SUMS UP WHAT GIFTEDNESS MEANS
Giftedness is the size of the mental ‘engine’ and its performance. It doesn’t presume, however, whether you know how to drive the car, whether you are a nice ‘driver’, or whether you have a good GPS, or even whether you have any idea where you are going. And because we have a more powerful engine, we also have potentially more serious accidents, and we sometimes leave others in the dust of our wheels…
.HOW LONG HAVE I KNOWN ABOUT IT?
Intuition since I was 15… and I took the Mensa test at 30, so… 23 years ago.
I knew I wasn’t stupid, having gone through a big Parisian preparatory school, but I wasn’t making any sparks either. But at 21, I have taken a GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) to enter a business school after my engineering school… and I learned during the year that I was in the first few out of several hundred people, who were no dummies either… that made me think again…
.WHAT PHASES HAVE I GONE THROUGH SINCE MY DISCOVERY?
None in particular. It just confirmed what I thought I knew. I did a few Mensa meetings, but I didn’t see any point in it. It took me a while to talk about it with people other than my wife, though. I even did a “coming out” at work recently, as I am involved in an employee network on cognitive differences. Before, there was no reason.
.HOW DO I EXPLAIN IT TO SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER HEARD OF IT?
There are people who walk, people who jog, and people who run the 100 meters in less than 12 seconds… it’s not just training, it’s primarily a talent. Well, it’s the same with intelligence. It’s a talent among many others. And in the same way that not many people understand what it is to be a sports champion (see the problems of Naomi Osaka or Simone Biles), the same goes for the gifted, because in addition to “intelligence”, a certain number of other phenomena seem to go with it. Greater sensitivity, sensitiveness, etc… which are not easy to explain and sometimes to live with.
.WHAT I HAVE ALLOWED MYSELF TO DO EVER SINCE
Maybe a little more assertiveness in some cases, and a little more humility in others… not falling into the Dunning-Kruger effect… (Wikipedia: The Dunning-Kruger effect, also known as the overconfidence effect, is a cognitive bias with no scientific consensus by which the less qualified in a field may overestimate their competence).
.WHAT IRRITATES ME WITH GIFTEDNESS
The fact that the brain is never at rest. To be in divergent and fractal reasoning all the time and to sometimes “lose” others, or to “mentally” leave a conversation which is too slow to “talk to myself”… My wife often says to me “where have you been again?
.WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO EMPHASIZE ABOUT GIFTEDNESS
Contrary to what we see in the media (over-representation of the “not feeling good”), I find giftedness super cool… it is correlated with a whole lot of positive outcomes in life… (education, life expectancy, etc… see Frank Ramus’ conference). I’m well aware that some people have problems (heterogeneous IQ, etc.) or other disorders… but I have the impression that sometimes we blame disorders that are independent, or simply “amplified” by the giftedness, but for which giftedness is not the cause.
.WHAT I PERSONALLY FIND TO BE THE MOST DIFFICULT
Sometimes I want to speed up people like I speed up podcasts (x2). I hate it when I get that feeling with people I like. Or when others don’t see what I see (the connections between things, etc.), it’s super frustrating.
.WHAT I PERSONALLY LOVE
Being interested in almost everything and being able to quickly get a decent level in a subject (and being totally rubbish and assuming it on subjects that don’t interest me). My 2% theory: I’m within the top 2% of IQs, I should be able to be in the top 2% of any “intellectual” subject. My friends find it so amusing they sometimes throw micro-challenges at me… and this gets me running with them…
.MY WELLBEING TOOL OR PRACTICE THAT HELPS ME MOST
Not much. Stopping the thinking, probably. I should try the sensory isolation chamber. Listening to music too, as isolation from the world. I know silence is good for me, but I rarely sit still. So I isolate myself mentally, in a video game, music, an absorbing activity… To not ramble/drift, I have to keep on rowing…
.A MISREPRESENTATION THAT I WANT TO CALL INTO QUESTION
That giftedness is suffering. Gifted people suffer. Do they suffer more than others? I don’t think so. I sometimes have the impression that it is a way of apologizing or giving a reason to be accepted: “We’re intelligent, but it’s hard… don’t envy/dislike us”.
.WHAT I WANT TO SAY TO GIFTED PEOPLE
It’s not because we’re very intelligent that we’re less fool than others, if we’re not careful, we’re sometimes much more so… And stop thinking that our intelligence gives us prerogatives… at best it gives us duties.
.WHAT I WANT TO SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT CONCERNED
Stop explaining to us that “Intelligence” doesn’t mean anything and that there are 50 forms of intelligence… meaning yours. Intelligence is a talent among others. No one annoys someone who runs the 100 meters in 10 seconds… please have the same attitude when talking about giftedness. Look for your own talent and let us express ours.
.WHAT I WOULD RECOMMEND TO SOMEONE WHO IS WONDERING
To ask yourself a few questions beforehand… Will the knowledge change your life? Would you be disappointed if you weren’t? And to take the test rather than be constantly “barnum’ised” by people who are trying to sell papers… (cf. Barnum Effect).
And stop thinking that if your child has problems at school, it’s because he or she is too intelligent… the statistics say that the problem has a 98% chance of being elsewhere.
.THE MISTAKE NOT TO MAKE FOR A GIFTED PERSON
Don’t stop listening to other people and don’t think that being intelligent is ‘enough’.
.MY PROFESSIONAL ADVICE FOR GIFTED
Keep it to yourself (although I have just done the opposite) unless you think you ‘master’ the context of your coming out. I hear a lot of gifted people changing jobs 20 times… I’ve been in my present company since before I was tested… ok, I’ve changed jobs 10 times and I’ve had a lot of jobs that I “invented” myself. The trick is to find bosses who “deserve” you and understand you… and I’ve been lucky enough. It’s true that I get bored quickly… but (the 2% theory again), when I put myself to it, I’m usually quickly as good or better at other people’s day job… so I try to help them “nicely” by pitching in… I see my job as the total contribution I make to my company, not just what’s in the job description. I’m lucky that my boss agrees or lets me do it.
.MY PERSONAL ADVICE FOR GIFTED
Find someone who supports you, stimulates you and doesn’t bore you. Easier said than done… but here again, I’ve been lucky, although I don’t believe my partner is gifted (and she doesn’t care), she’s a source of inspiration, calm and constant wonder (and she blows me off when I play “gifted”, which brings me back to earth). I know I’m not easy every day…
.A BOOK TO READ ON THE SUBJECT
Nothing really stood out (and I’ve read quite a few). Lots of problem and solution sellers, so I’ll talk about the one I haven’t read, but will probably buy: “Psychology of High Potential” by Nicolas Gauvrit and Nathalie Clobert.
And if not, a series of 8 videos on intelligence by Frank Ramus. It talks about intelligence, not giftedness, but for me it puts many things in their place.
.MY OPINION ABOUT THE IQ WAIS TEST
It is an instrument that gives a calibrated result. That’s it.
.IS IT A WASTE NOT TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE GIFTED?
What matters is to be comfortable with your own performance. The fact that you know you’re gifted or not, in absolute terms, doesn’t change what you can do with your life if you are or not.
.WHEN I MEET ANOTHER GIFTED PERSON, DO I RECOGNIZE HIM·HER? BY WHAT?
No. I had the experience recently, I spent 15 days of training with someone who I found out was on a LinkedIn group of Mensa where I am too. I don’t think I see it, because I don’t care.
.WHAT DO GIFTED PEOPLE HAVE IN COMMON?
Not much, there are as many differences between each gifted person as between each human being. I think these differences are greater than the few cognitive similarities we have.
.THE CRUCIAL STEPS NOT TO BE MISSED IN THE JOURNEY OF A GIFTED PERSON?
In absolute terms, the most critical time is childhood and adolescence… when you do everything in 15% of the time it takes the others, you either become a pain in the ass in class, or you become lazy (why work when I’m already in front of the others doing nothing… until it’s not the case anymore and then it’s a big surprise…). I think that my parents had been “alerted” by a kindergarten teacher and that afterward, they refused to let me “jump” classes… maybe if they had done so, I would have been less lazy because I would have been “fed” more… but it could also have gone wrong… and on the other hand, being bored allowed me to develop my imagination, my autonomy, and my creativity. And I’m rather happier to not have become (even more) a smart show dog.
But it also reminds me of a classmate from high school. I had good grades all the time, and he, if I remember correctly, was struggling. Ten years later I was meeting him again, at my first MENSA meeting… so everyone has his·her own path.
NB by Gloria: do not judge by academic success (or failure) whether or not you are (someone is) gifted. It’s like judging a gifted person by his or her professional career (this can be an indicator, but not an exclusive criterion in the sense of excluding). Having a high potential is different from being able (or having been able to) exploit it.
.A WISH FOR THE FUTURE
That instead of standardised education, each child is treated as an individual, and that in particular those who are more gifted than others be encouraged to help and understand those who are less so… it would do the good to both rather than keeping them in separate ghettos.
.THE QUESTION THAT I WAS MISSING BUT THAT I WOULD LIKE TO ANSWER?
Does being gifted help with dating?
Yes, I think so, but it limits the choice if you don’t want to get bored very quickly (unless you’re not there for long).