Thursday, December 24, 2015

What is Your Genius?

I’ve been closely watching the twins, my niece and nephew, grow. They are 10 months now. While one is mobile, exploring and stern, the other is laid-back, content and smiling. The divergence in their personalities is quite visible within their first year. It begs the question, what shapes our personality as humans - nature or nurture? Therein lie nested several sets of questions. Today, I’d like to explore the concept of “intelligence”.

The twins were born to the same set of parents, at the same time, ate the same food and exposed to similar “conditions”. But there seems to be a something fundamentally different emerging in their personalities. While some say one is more "intelligent" than the other, I feel each of them is displays a different form of intelligence. I’d argue that all humans are gifted with some form of intelligence. It may not be the type that the school system, the corporate world or society rears, recognizes or rewards.


Upon exploration, I stumbled upon Howard Gardner’s 1983 publication 'Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences', where he names nine types of intelligence. If we know what to look for in people, we would realize we are surrounded by geniuses. When we relate and connect to their “smart”, it would bring out the best in everyone. Here is the list and characteristics of each type of  “smart” to look for.

1. Nature Smart - Eg., Charles Darwin
Naturalist Intelligence designates the human ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) as well as sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations).

2. Musical Smart - Eg., Wolfgang Mozart
Musical intelligence is the capacity to recognize, create, reproduce, and reflect on music, as demonstrated by composers, conductors, musicians, vocalist, and sensitive listeners.  Interestingly, there is often an affective connection between music and the emotions; and mathematical and musical intelligences may share common thinking processes.  Young adults with this kind of intelligence are usually singing or drumming to themselves.

3. Number Smart - Eg., Alan Turing
Logical-mathematical intelligence is the ability to calculate, quantify, consider propositions and hypotheses, and carry out complete mathematical operations.  It enables us to perceive relationships and connections and to use abstract, symbolic thought; sequential reasoning skills; and inductive and deductive thinking patterns. Young adults with lots of logical intelligence are interested in strategy games, patterns, relationships and experiments.

4. Spiritual Smart - Eg., Thich Nhat Hahn
Existential Intelligence is a sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.

5. People Smart - Eg., Oprah Winfrey
Interpersonal intelligence involves effective verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to note distinctions among others, sensitivity to the moods and temperaments of others, and the ability to entertain multiple perspectives. Young adults with this kind of intelligence are leaders among their peers, are good at communicating, and seem to understand others’ feelings and motives.

6. Body Smart - Eg., Bruce Lee
Bodily kinesthetic intelligence is the capacity to manipulate objects and use a variety of physical skills.  This intelligence also involves a sense of timing and the perfection of skills through mind–body union.  Athletes, dancers, surgeons, and craftspeople exhibit well-developed bodily kinesthetic intelligence.

7. Word Smart - Eg., Rabindranath Tagore
Linguistic intelligence is the ability to think in words and to use language to express and appreciate complex meanings.  It allows us to understand the order and meaning of words and to apply meta-linguistic skills to reflect on our use of language. Young adults with this kind of intelligence enjoy writing, reading, telling stories or doing crossword puzzles.

8. Self Smart - Eg., Malala Yousafzai
Intra-personal intelligence is the capacity to understand oneself and one’s thoughts and feelings, and to use such knowledge in planning and directioning one’s life.  Intra-personal intelligence involves not only an appreciation of the self, but also of the human condition. These young adults may be shy.  They are very aware of their own feelings and are self-motivated.

9. Picture Smart - Eg., Leonardo da Vinci
Spatial intelligence is the ability to think in three dimensions.  Core capacities include mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation, graphic and artistic skills, and an active imagination.  Young adults with this kind of intelligence may be fascinated with mazes or jigsaw puzzles, or spend free time drawing or daydreaming.

Turns out, most of us are a combination two or more of these smarts. Exceptional examples are Michael Jackson with off-the-charts musical and body smarts, Mahatma Gandhi with interpersonal and intrapersonal and Maya Angelou with people and words. So, which combination of smart are you?

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” - Albert Einstein

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