Momentum Podcast: 16

Your Baby Is Brillant, Not Broken

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

Brilliance is under attack. It is alarming how many of my clients have shared they have been told something is wrong with their child. This isn't something people like to talk about and most of the time I am the only person they've told. There is a shame in having a child that has something wrong with them. We hide, don't discuss it, and may not even tell them. This is making the problem even worse, because it makes each parent who hears this feel like they are alone. The number of children being diagnosed with disorders, disabilities, and cognitive issues is growing at double digits per year. We are missing clear cause-and-effect. Over the past 40 years schools have limited or eliminated movement, done away with self-direction, and have created almost an exclusive focus on standardization. Children like us have a fraction of the awareness, understanding of the world, and perspective that adults have and we ask them to endure the constraint of sitting in a classroom all day without moving. We spent 18 years telling children to sit down, pay attention, and be quiet and we wonder why so many children are having trouble thriving.

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Full Audio Transcript

I'm Alex Charfen and this is the Entrepreneurial Personality Type podcast, the podcast for empire builders, game changers, shot takers, world makers. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and obsess on creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to the rules, but only so we can bend, break, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we defined it. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority. The few. Those willing to envision a better future, and instead of just daydreaming about what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real.

We've all heard, "Sit down, stop talking, quit going so fast and making everyone else uncomfortable." But we know we are hard-wired differently. We are the evolutionary hunters, the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution, and we always will be. This is episode 15. Your Baby is Brilliant, Not Broken.

Over the past 20 years, it's been alarming how many of my clients have shared with me that they've been told something is wrong with their children. When you look at the world in general today, we have this massive explosion of children being diagnosed with a disorder, a disability, or something wrong with them, and I think we're missing a clear cause and effect here. Let's go back to the attributes of the entrepreneurial personality type, because I'm sure you would agree with me, now that you understand them, they're also the attributes that throughout history, have created brilliance. High sensitivity and awareness, future-focused, that ability to go out into the future then come back to the present and make it real.

High-processing capacity, both thinking faster than most and being able to take on more information. Highly adaptable, being able to change, be the chameleon, do what you need to do. Intense focus on results, just like Thomas Edison, or on a single result, and then bias for improvement. The need to make things better, to improve. Experimental or experiential learning, the need to do or see, to actually make things happen, roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty. The ability to perceive unique connections, seeing what other people don't see is there, and then the drive for gained advantage. That voice in your head that says, "You need to get ahead." And last but not least, that innate motivation that we all know we have because you can't turn it off.

Those ten attributes that throughout history anyone who matters to be remembered has had, anyone who you remember has portrayed those, and I would bet if you're listening to me, on a scale of one to 10 on any one of those, you probably rank a nine or 10 out of 10. There might be one or two that you don't rank on, but on the rest, let's be honest, we are who we are. Those are the attributes we have, and here's the challenge for a small evolutionary hunter growing up in today's world, we no longer respect these attributes in adults, but in children, well in children, brilliance is under attack.

The numbers don't lie. We have a situation where the number of children being labeled as disordered or disabled or broken or some other thing is going up by double digits every year, and we are failing to see that there's a clear correlation there that over the past 40 years, schools have eliminated or discontinued movement, they've altogether thrown out student self-direction, and they've created an exclusive and I would say obsessive focus on standardizing human beings. Now, what's being labeled today has been there throughout history. Albert Einstein didn't talk until he was four. George Washington couldn't tell a lie. Thomas Jefferson had an inability to relate to others. Tesla had intense sensitivity to light and sound, and Sir Isaac Newton sitting under the apple tree was quiet, not good at small talk, had extreme focus, and he would even forget to eat when he did too much.

Today, Einstein would be called Asperger's, Washington maybe even autistic. Jefferson is suspected to have ADHD. Tesla had mania. Sir Isaac Newton, social anxiety disorder. We label the very qualities that throughout history have created brilliance. Here's the challenge for a child who is brilliant. Here's a challenge for I'm assuming your child, is that brilliance doesn't fit a standard. Today, that's what we are obsessively focused on. Brilliance, if you read about anyone I just shared or anyone in history who matters to be remembered, there's a pattern. Brilliant children learn asynchronously. They learn to read at a different time than everyone else, math at a different time. They might not be able to tie their shoes for years, yet they can write poetry, or sing, or dance, or play a musical instrument, or do mathematical calculations in their head.

They have asynchronous physical growth. I was one of these children. I went through four growth spurts where I was either this skinny tall kid or the short fat kid four times. This is common throughout history. Asynchronous psychological development. Brilliant children don't all develop the same. They don't all show up the same. They might seem childlike in one instance, and then talk like a complete adult in another. They have above average skills and abilities. You find a brilliant child and you see that one can memorize like nothing else. Another one can look at a sheet of paper and tell you what was there. Others can do calculations, others can figure things out that even adults can't see. My daughter's 10 years old, and she's helped one of my clients with a logo and another client rebrand her entire product line.

But see, brilliant children also have below average skills and abilities. They are challenged to follow direction. They have a hard time with things that other kids have an easy time with. They squirm, they're struggling to show their brilliance. What happens is, brilliance appears incongruent, because a brilliant child, when there excited about something, can do it all day long, but when they don't care, they have trouble even making it happen. It looks contradictory because the same child that speaks with a maturity level, that shocks the adults around them, 10 minutes later is laying on the floor kicking and screaming like an infant. Because brilliant children have higher sensitivities than most, and brilliance can appear like a lack of effort or a lack of application, because the poor brilliant student, see if you remember this, who sits in the reading group struggling to read as slow as the other students, is constantly caught off-guard and off-task, and is relegated to the lowest reading group. That happened to both me and my daughter Reagan.

When we look at what's happened in the past 40 years, let's be realistic about where some of these challenges are coming from. Phrases like ADD, ADHD, any of those things have become a code for, "This kid needs medication to sit through class," and there's a reason. When we look at the educational movements in the last 40 years, we have to understand what's been driving the amount of control, the amount of constraint that children today deal with. 40 years ago, we have outcome-based education. The summary of that is, "We must set standards and use them as outcomes." See, schools were originally created to condition human beings to work in factories. The bells, the whistles, the breaks, the work periods, everything was created around the time of the Industrial Revolution to help us get used to working in factories.

Only we don't have any factories anymore. The problem is we're still teaching kids the same way. Outcome-based education didn't really work. In fact, when they named outcomes, they consistently missed them so they had to change it. The next movement was Excellence in Education. This was when I was a child. Excellence in Education meant, "Let's start creating standards and chase them like crazy and we will produce excellence." In a moment I'll show you how these standards are created and you'll realize how the cards are stacked against your brilliant child.

After Excellence in Education, they had a movement called, and these are educational movements in history, Raising Standards and Accountability. What's the punchline there? The standards were too low, and it's the teachers' and students' fault. We can hold them accountable to higher standards. Didn't really work either. The next movement, and you might remember this one, was No Child Left Behind. The standards were too high, and by driving the standards through a focus on the lowest common denominator, no child will be left behind and no child, let's be honest, will get ahead. These are my interpretations of what they did.

The next movement in education was called Race to the Top. It was literally a lottery in the government for $4.3 billion for the school who showed the highest scores or schools who showed the highest scores on standardized testing to get increased funding. So what did we do there? We set the standards so low in No Child Left Behind that we had to pay $4.3 billion in a lottery to those involved in the educational system who could make the standard appear to work. Then the most recent educational movement, maybe the most ridiculous of all. Common Core, where now giving the right answer no longer matters, but how you actually thought about it is what a child is graded on. My interpretation? If we shift from standardized results to standardized thinking, we'll create more standardized results through more standardized thinking and eventually, a standardized human being.

Well, here's the problem. Brilliance doesn't fit a standard. In fact, the very definition of brilliance is that you do not fit a standard or you would be just the same as average. So why aren't we seeing the fact that and someone is different than everyone else, there's brilliance hidden there, hidden in plain sight? Here's why. Today, in the educational system and in the world in general, we hunt for deficit and we set standards. We set a standard and then we look for people to be off of the standard, to be deficient, to be defective, to be disordered, disabled in some way. And when we look at most of the systems in the world, this is how we evaluate human beings, but when we look at the current educational system, it seems determined to hunt out any child who isn't exactly like the standard.

So what happens? The process for determining a standard is simple. We test everyone, we determine the average, then we focus on manipulating the average and we create a new standard. How are those created? There's a four-way tie here. When you look at the processes for determining a standard, they involve an educator committee, an administrative committee, a political committee, and a bureaucratic committee. I've got a question for you. How many committees have you voluntarily joined? That's part of the problem here, see people like us don't show up to these committees, and the rest of the world judges who we are. Those four committees end up in a four-way tug of war for who your child is and how they will be graded, and you tell me, do you want committees of administrators, politicians, bureaucrats, and educators judging your child? Because that's what's happening every day.

Here's what happens to brilliant children who feel the judgment of labels of disorders of disabilities, of being told that they are less than, being told that they are not as valuable as the kid next to them, because they might have something wrong with them. When brilliance is suppressed, children feel a physiological constraint. They feel held in place. The symptoms for children and, let's be honest, for you and I as adults, when we're held in place we're fidgety, we're restless, we're more prone to outbursts and easily triggered. We have trouble sitting still, we have difficulty making eye contact, we feel hyperactive or overactive. We might even get twitchy, tics, exaggerated facial expressions and more. This happens to me, and I know it happens to the small evolutionary hunter sitting in a classroom today. Being told to sit still, stop talking, and pay attention.

When brilliance is suppressed, it's not just physiological symptoms we see. We see cognitive issues, difficulty concentrating or absorbing information. Difficulty with comprehension, unable to remember recent discussions, unable to discuss known subjects, and children experience the feeling of freezing or panicking when asked for information whether it's known or unknown. This is why brilliance looks so contradictory, so incongruent, like a lack of caring, like apathy. Because when a child is held in place, when they feel cognitive constraint, this is how they show up. And depending on the level of constraint, that's the level of the aggressiveness of the label and the meeting you may have at school where a committee will sit in front of you and tell you everything that's wrong with your child.

When brilliance is suppressed, brilliant children, just like you and I, experience chemical constraint. They feel unmotivated or unhappy. Skepticism or a lack of trust. Frustration and irritation with simple requests. They have a hair trigger. They have a lack of or far too much movement, and they have an inability to move forward, which can appear to be a disassociation or disconnection from the present using any tool necessary. Ignoring you, having a tantrum, obsessing over electronics, or just pulling back, pulling away, and deciding they won't talk to you. See, brilliant children need three simple things. Self-direction, self-determination, and they need to be heard.

When you look at the symptoms today that these disorders, disabilities make up, it's amazing how many people throughout history have been projected to have these same issues. Einstein is seen as autistic. Isaac Newton, disordered. When we start looking throughout history and we find the people who are being labeled, you tell me if we are getting it wrong. See, society today has this very simple equation. If you don't look like everyone else, be like everyone else, show up like everyone else, talk, walk, and act like everyone else, you're a broken person that should be medicated, diagnosed, and standardized. But the fact is that history has proven, and all the research I've done of successful people shows, that if you don't walk like everyone else, talk like everyone else, show up like everyone else, and learn at the same rate of everyone else, that is exactly the symptoms of brilliance of a human being that is going to go on and change the world.

So I want you to know something. There is nothing wrong with you or your baby, and you are not alone. In episode 16 of the Entrepreneurial Personality Type podcast, I'm going to share some tactics for supporting your brilliant child and understanding them better. Helping them get into momentum and show up as the human being they are meant to be, because we're getting it wrong. I want you to do me a favor. If you know someone who is a parent of a brilliant child who should hear this, please share this podcast with them. And just as importantly, if you know someone who suffered through school like I did, who needs to heal their inner child, please share this with them. And if you'd like to get more information on the entrepreneurial personality type and your brilliant child, download my blog, The Entrepreneurial Personality Type, at

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With gratitude,


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