1. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

    May 1, 2008
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    Puerto Rico

    What is innate vs what is chosen.

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Wreybies, Mar 16, 2010.

    Yesterday I was chatting with Cogito and mentioning to him that during my lunch break I was watching the movie Something the Lord Made which concerns the life of Vivien Thomas, one of the pioneers of cardiovascular surgery in America and a man who only ever formally finished high school. He was also a man of color accomplishing what he was accomplishing in the 1930s and 1940s. Not a period of time in America that would have been a friendly environment for a man of color trying to make his way in the profession of medicine. In 1976 he was finally recognized and given an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Laws) from Johns Hopkins University for the pioneering work he did there.

    A man of color living in a time of intense racism. A man who had only a high school education working along with and then instructing the surgeons who would go on to become chiefs of surgery in the most important hospitals in the U.S. An amazing story about a truly extraordinary man.

    My question to you is this:

    What sets these kinds of people apart from the rest? Is there an indefinable something extra that these individuals possess that allows them to surmount insurmountable odds stacked against them and succeed in ways that leave one agog?

    Are these people somehow actually different from the very start, or do you think that these people stand out from the rest because they chose to, because they made decisions others would not and took on what others would not take on and persevered through willpower?

    Is the extraordinary in each of us if we simply chose?
  2. hiddennovelist

    hiddennovelist Contributor Contributor

    Feb 25, 2009
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    Fabulous Sin City
    I definitely think each of us has the power to be someone amazing and impactful like Vivien Thomas was. However, at the same time, each of us are born with unique personality traits, which could mean that some of us are born with greater focus, greater drive, that sort of thing, which could help influence who actually achieves greatness and who just sits around fantasizing about it. Does that makes sense?
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England
    In Kurt Vonnegut's Timequakes this theme is dealt with very elegantly as an aside by Vonnegut's alterego author Kilgore Trout.

    Trout has a doctor character that rationalises that such people that truly stand out from the crowd literally do possess something extra. This doctor sets about dissecting the brains of those considered advanced, himself more and more convinced that genius has to be communicated from an external source, rather than innate. He dissects innumerable brains looking for a "genius receiver", until one day he does discover a nodule in those brains formally owned by those held in the highest regard - "normal" brains deficient in this nodule. His theory proved he sits back and waits for his Nobel prize.

    Moments later he realises that the only way he could have produced the theory was himself to have a receiver, thus not being the genius he thought. Unworthy therefore of the Nobel prize he kills himself.

    Now, this is intelligently witty sci-fi of the highest order, but doesn't much for responding fully to your question. Clearly, I do not have the answer, nor, I imagine, a nodule that will give me one. IMO, a mixture of scenarios produce these individuals. Some simply have a spongelike capacity to learn and better themselves, and crucially the drive to see it through. This can come from any walk of life. Intelligence can also be learnt through tutoring and targeted parenting, though capacity is probably more of a genetic issue. Luck is involved too, many people have fantasticly complex and intelligent theories without their being true, others have the fortune to hit the nail on the head. Some have the misfortune of suffering from limiting disorders such as Asperger's, but conversely this allows some sufferers to excel within narrow fields. To a degree, this supports and wrecks both sides of most arguments.

    A complex arena for sure, and there are some fascinating studies out there if one takes the time to look. As fascinating as they are though, never as fascinating as the individuals themselves. Here's to the mavericks.
  4. madhoca

    madhoca Contributor Contributor

    Dec 1, 2008
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    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    Various kinds of luck, such as being in the right place at the right time, come into it.

    We would probably never have heard of Amelia Earhart if her mother hadn't had the money for her aviation training. Some artists become the protege of someone, which really brings out their full talent e.g. Maria Callas. If Helen Keller hadn't met Annie Sullivan it's unlikely anyone would have realised how remarkable she was. If Douglas Bader hadn't lost his legs he would be known only in the annals of the RAF as an exceptional pilot, nothing else. The list goes on.

    There are many amazing people in this world that will never be known outside their immediate community. Sometimes a person isn't put sufficiently to the test to show what they are capable of, or they have such a protected or comfortable lifestyle that they aren't 'high flyers'.

    However, I think the world's really great people are the ones that are happy in themselves, and who know how to give and receive love. Some historical 'greats' must have been horribly unpleasant, driven people, and not that nice as friends or lovers, charismatic though they were...
  5. Pallas

    Pallas Contributor Contributor

    Aug 29, 2009
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    New York
    According to the author of Outliers, the ecology of renowned success is a melange of many things, from opportunity, intelligence, privilege, knowledge, family, environment, the time and season of your birth and at least 10,000 hours applied to a certain task to make it a formal and mastered skill. Rarely is it a case of individualism.

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