I remember in early grade school, I excelled at all of my classes. Whether math, science, English or art, I felt confident in my abilities regardless of subject. Every year I was placed in the highest math class. Except in sixth grade I took the early fall math test and forgot how to do long division. Perhaps due to too much summer fun and no refresher courses, I completely blanked. For the first time I was put in the average level math class. I remember feeling like a failure and completely stupid. As time progressed and my outside influences began telling me what I was good or bad at, I felt my confidence dwindle. At that point, I decided I couldn’t do math. Even today I feel anxiety with math, despite knowing deep down that I’m perfectly capable.
So how much of our skills and capabilities are environmentally influenced versus a reflection of our true capability? Interestingly, many world renowned geniuses were labeled as below average or even stupid. According to the book, The Einstein Factor, by Win Wenger and Richard Poe, “Seldom do bona fide geniuses distinguish themselves early in life. Many are labeled ‘difficult,’ ‘slow,’ or even ‘stupid.’ The renowned mathematician Henri Poincare did so poorly on the Binet IQ test that he was judged an ‘imbecile.’ Thomas Edison, whose record 1,093 patents outstripped every inventor in history and transformed human life, was notoriously slow in school.”
Albert Einstein also had dyslexia causing him to do poorly in school and found himself accepting a life of mediocrity. Amazingly Einstein went on to develop the Theory of Relativity, earned a Nobel Peace Prize and achieved genius status. The Einstein Factor said, Einstein attributed his discovery of the Theory of Relativity not to any special gift but rather to what he called his ‘retarded’ development.” Einstein said:
A normal adult never stops to think about problems of space and time. These are things which he has thought of as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up.
Most people, including me, think that geniuses are not made but they are born that way. Interestingly, The Einstein Factor talks about research of our brain’s potential to help fully leverage our capabilities. “Neurons stop reproducing after infancy. But axons, dendrites, and glial cells – which provide electrochemical connections between neurons – keep growing as long as we keep learning. These interconnections are far more important to intelligence than the number of neurons in our brain.”
Our brains contain so much untapped capacity and potential. A first step in discovering your full potential is to work on overcoming your own self-accepted limitations. For example, when I hear myself think or say out loud that I suck at math, I need to work to release this limitation. Although I haven’t enjoyed math, it doesn’t mean I’m incapable. When we absorb and own external stereotypes, labels or limitations, we create those as part of our being. Negative labels do not serve us on our life journey and it’s time to set the negativity free.
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