Being a gifted kid is hard. Don’t let anyone convince you that you’ve got it easy because you don’t. I’m writing this because if I could go back and do it all again knowing what I know now, I’d follow all of my own advice. I hope that it comes to you when you need it most.
1. Be Yourself.
You thrilling ballerina-scientist, you animal tamer-painter; be you. Yes, do it all. Prove them wrong. Know that when you are weak and thinking about giving up your dreams, you must not. You’ll be one of the rarities when you make it and all of those nay-sayers will be shocked and secretly delighted that they *inspired* you to prove them wrong. Because of you, they will know that it’s possible. We all need more heroes.
2. Ask questions.
Yes, some people will get upset that you ask so many questions. I’ll let you in on a secret: They think you might be smarter than them and it scares them. Yes, even the adults will be intimidated by you. No, many WON’T see you as an inspiration or a wonderfully curious kid like I do. They will often see you as annoying, a braggart, or narcissistic. Check yourself, support others in their dreams too, but don’t stop asking questions…with one caveat (below).
3. Use the 3 Question Rule.
I know you have a TON of questions! I still do and I’m almost 1/2 a century old! Some people will be confused and downright disturbed by your questions. Often, you’ll need to do your own research. I’ve been able to cut through much of the red tape by doing my own research, listing what I know, and THEN asking the question. Often, it will dead-end there. That’s okay. Move onto someone else, but limit yourself to your three best questions. If they return with a question, it’s a green light to ask another or try three more. If they start to get irritated- try another day, find someone new, ask an expert, or add them to your notebook. Wait, you don’t have a notebook?
4. Keep a notebook.
Whether it’s to jot down questions, draw diagrams of ideas for inventions, write that Broadway play, or just keep a journal of your experiences, you need a notebook. Gifted kids are habitual thinkers and imagineers! Find a cute or cool or inexpensive one because once you start, you probably won’t stop. Or, use Evernote, a blog (add me as an subscriber if you do), or some digital way to write and think and ponder and dream. Keep lists, write goals, cry over failures, and plan for successes. It will give you someone to talk to (after you’ve exhausted your 3 question limit) and become a historical narrative about the most interesting person in the world- you.
5. Get used to people telling you that you are too _____.
Excitabilities run rampant with gifted people. We don’t fit in. Get used to it. You don’t want to be someone else; do you? (Go re-read #1 if you’re unsure.) Tone it down, dial it back sometimes, but NEVER stop being you. Sometimes I still need to follow my own advice since I tend to go from one extreme to the other, but hopefully you will have time to figure it all out as a kid (when people are much more forgiving). When I forget, I eventually get bogged down in this alternate persona and have to find my way back to me. It’s not healthy. I want more for you. Yes, adults struggle too.
6. Find a mentor.
Believe it or not, it’s much easier while you’re a kid. Even though people can and will be intimidated by your brain, a mentor is not in direct competition with you….yet. Later, many more layers attached to social interactions may hinder your quest. Yes, many adults will resist or underestimate you, but learn what you can from anyone you find. When intelligent kids ask, people listen. Just make it succinct and you’ll do fine.
7. Follow your dreams.
When you’re a kid, people may be condescending, but they may also be supportive. In the meantime, you’re getting a jump on your people skills and on the rest of the adults out there in your field of interest. Get going. Go, in spite of them. When your dreams change, tell people that you’re “trying to broaden horizons” or “be more well-rounded”. They’ll smile and agree that it’s probably a good idea. When you obsess over the same subject and use your laser focus to dedicate yourself to one dream, tell them, “I’m studying to be an expert in my field.” They’ll admire your dedication.
8. Stay connected to people who understand you.
They will be few and far between. When someone supports you, add their name to your notebook and never let them go. Send them a postcard with your latest discoveries, shoot them an email and ask how you can help them, or just call to say, “hello”. Make mistakes and take chances. Start a business (yes, really), make contacts outside your friends (I found out very late that this is key), and learn…A LOT.
Best of luck! If you ever need to talk, I’m here. I get it.