Friday, April 27, 2012

How far have you stretched you Rubber Band Brains?

There is a metaphor I really like. It is the rubber band of genetic potential. Imagine we have a rubber band of a certain length for any act. Basketball, for instance. Virtually anybody can play basketball. Some people are just better at it and some people are very tall. The more you play the better you will get. Lots of practice makes for a high level of performance. Does that mean that anybody can play in the NBA with enough practice? Well, no. Some of us are just too short. Simple as that. Sheer size (largely genetic) plays a huge roll at the higher levels of the game.

The metaphor says that we are born with a rubber band of a certain size and we stretch it through practice. Anybody who has stretched a rubber band knows that there is just so long that it will stretch. That means that if I stretch mine and you do not stretch yours I can be a better basketball player even if you are a foot taller than me. If you practice as much you will probably surpass me.

The same can be said for virtually everything we do. I have stubby fingers but could learn to play the piano. I will never be a concert pianist but I could learn to do a real nice job.

What about thinking? Do some people just think better naturally? I would say yes. Some of us are just born smarter than others. But through practice and work the worst thinkers among us can achieve great intellectual standing. But on the other side of that there are those among us who were born smart and never had a challenge so they never had to stretch that rubber band. They became stupider by standing still while those around them, with less potential, worked their asses off and became greater minds.

I am not talking about education either. I am talking about practiced thinking. This is something we can and should do every day. Question, wonder and contemplate. Scholastic education can make this easier but we all know there are easy ways to avoid this and get great grades.

I know a guy who has a scholastic background and a higher level of education than I do. Problem is he does not know how to think. Deductive and inductive leaps? Nope. Conclusions based upon even slightly imperfect evidence? He can't do it. I have been testing him and asking him questions and it seems to be a case of lazy mindedness. He has a reasonable level of basic intelligence but refuses to think more than one step. If the answer is not spoon fed he gives up, gets frustrated and assumes the need for him to think is a punishment.

Recently I have had opportunity to spend some time with a toddler and watch their thinking. I am making a plea for parents to ask their children questions. Give them the opportunity to figure things out. Put them into a position that teaches them that thinking and that reason can give you answers. That skill (along with kindness) will put your child 10 steps ahead of the other kids and hopefully give them the tools to thrive in life.


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