The Questions of Success



Previously I wrote about a book called Outliers and the “The 10,000 Hour Rule” that the author suggests is needed to achieve a high level of success.

In the same book, author Malcolm Gladwell writes about “The Trouble with Geniuses.” He asks whether or not those with higher IQ’s (intelligence quotients) are more successful. His answers to this question are intriguing and perhaps counterintuitive.

Gladwell’s theories regarding IQ state that above a certain “threshold” level, a person’s IQ does not have a direct impact on how successful they are in life. To illustrate the idea of a threshold, he uses a basketball analogy. In the NBA once a person is a certain height, a threshold of sorts, the added height does not necessarily translate into a better basketball player. One of the greatest basketball players, Michael Jordan, was only 6’6” tall with hundreds of NBA players being taller than him. What made him perhaps the best ever was not his height but what else he brought to the basketball court.

To show that the threshold analogy is also true for IQ, Gladwell looked at the last 25 American Nobel prize winners in the area of medicine. Only a few came from Ivy League schools. The rest were from schools with less prestigious reputations with some of them being quite small. He found the exact same results with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

A final illustration to highlight from Gladwell’s book is about a group referred to as the “Termites.” In 1921 Lewis Terman identified and selected 1,470 students (out of 250,000) with IQ scores of 140 to 220. For the rest of his life Terman studied, tracked, and followed these 1,400+ students. Every aspect of what these children did or became was documented and analyzed to better understand the impact of intelligence. What was found through this extensive study was that there was not a higher level of “success” within this group of children. What was realized is that when someone has an IQ of around 120 that “having additional IQ points does not translate into any measurable real-world advantage.” ** In fact the IQ plays less of a role in the success of people than certain traits of personality and character.

At Dalat we believe in a high quality education that is challenging and prepares students academically. But we also believe that the key to success in life is not just your book knowledge, your test scores, or high grades, but who you are as a person. We challenge students to have the character and emotional maturity to use their educational opportunities to be a positive impact on those around them. We challenge them to work well with a team. We inspire them to lead with a servant’s heart, and to face ethical questions and answer them with integrity. These are the things that determine a person’s success, not their test scores or IQ.

** Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers. Boston: Little Brown & Company, 2008.

DB Admin April 25th, 2013 0 comments Blog

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Dalat Director

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people to make a positive impact on their world, walk with integrity, and follow Christ. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Dalat Director since 2006.

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