My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, please visit:

and update your bookmarks.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Living with Brilliance

I have this idea...

(Oh, shh, no eye rolling, it always starts this way for me!)

I want to write about people who live with Brilliant people.

I currently work with some Brilliant people, and I've met a few others over the years. I have some friends who have over-the-top brilliant "TAG" kids (Talented and Gifted, a club I did not get into when we were all tested in junior high, and I'm not bitter, not at all...) and from my observations, it's tricky to be Brilliant, and it's tricky to live with Brilliant people.

I know many Smart people, and most of them are able to have happy families and interesting jobs they enjoy. I think it may be easier to be Smart than to be Brilliant.

Disclaimer: I do not consider myself Brilliant. And, dear friends and relatives, I know you love me, but I'm not looking for compliments here. I think I am clever and smart about certain things, and woefully pathetic at other things, and usually quite confident about my self-esteem (I'm the youngest of four, so of course I assume I'm wonderful and fun to be around!) So please, humor me, and my idea here for a moment, I don't need comments about how you think I'm Brilliant.

When I say Brilliant, I mean those select few top, top brains that are able to think of things that are way outside of the box, like ideas that start before the box is even made. Ideas that are hidden in the trees before they're chopped down to make cardboard. People like Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein, Doris Lessing, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, Maya Angelou, you know the type.

Brilliant people often have to navigate life differently than the rest of us. Many of the Brilliant artists and poets and musicians and super geeks have a hard time in this world. Sometimes they sink into depression, self-destruction or madness.

Many stories have been written about the Brilliant people, because these people are so out of the ordinary, they fascinate us. But I want to hear the stories about the people who lived with and raised the Brilliant people. I want to know how they navigate life with and for their Brilliant person. I think these people must be quite gifted in their own way.

I'm interested in what it takes to help a Brilliant person be a person in this world. Not all of the Brilliant people move into Brilliant careers. Many of them must navigate a world that doesn't understand them, and never has.

In his new book "The Outliers" Malcolm Gladwell talks about Christopher Langan, the man with the highest IQ in the world. Einstein's IQ was 150. Langan's is 195. Clearly, he's Brilliant. But his life has not been easy. He has an interesting story, of course, but I'm curious about his wife's story.

So, if you know some Brilliant people and people who live with them, I'd be thrilled to talk to them. As always, you can email me directly at

Maybe I'll share some stories here, or who knows, maybe I'll start a Brilliant blog somewhere else. What's another blog between friends?

"Let your light so shine upon a weary world."
---Willy Wonka


Anonymous said...

Don't you live with a brilliant one now, or is he just really, really smart?

I know that you would have gotten into TAG if they had taken into consideration that you began school a whole year earlier than everybody else.

Love ya,


juliejulie said...

Can anyone tell that Anonymous is related to me? Anyone? And now you know why I have such a high opinion of family made me this way!


Anonymous said...

Her husband is dumb as a post.

Kathy @ Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

The second Anonymous has to be Nosrenda.


Deby said...

The only truely brilliant person I know is my daugther, Katya. The rest of us are smart, but she is in a league of her own.

It seems like there isn't anything she can't do: sports, straight A's forever, poetry on the fly, plays the flute, great artist... I have to wait another ten years to see how she flourishes before I can really contribute to your article. :)

Heidi said...

I told my husband, "I think you're smart, not brilliant. You OK with that?" His appropriate reply, "Yep, it's better that way."

I agree that it's easier to be smart than brilliant, especially if that tag is applied at a young age. Label someone with an ill-defined sense of self "brilliant" and you may stick them in a deep box hemmed in with high expectations.

Check out The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun. There's a nice section on the myth of the lone inventor (not quite the same as what you mean by brilliant, but there's overlap.)

Maybe brilliance is the confluence of smarts + finding flow easily + curiosity about connections + non distracted by mundane things like what to have for dinner or whether to even have dinner.

Perhaps brilliance is just high-functioning pig-headedness. (Apologies to the brilliant people I know.)

juliejulie said...

For the record, my husband is as dumb as a post.