Author Archive for Jonathan – Page 2

How to Turn Your Family Into a Hotbed of Talent

How am I turning my family into a hotbed of talent for all of my children?

Here’s how:

I talk the talent language every day with my children: have you done some talent building today? what did you learn? what was hard? what was fun? Can you do it differently? Have you asked an expert about how to better get around the problem? Don’t give up,  you can do it. Tell me more. Try it a different way. Do it again. I’m proud of you for not stopping. You did good work today.

– But most adults will never talk like that to a young person.

I behave in a way that my children are convinced that I want them to have a real talent to carry into adulthood more than I want them to simply sound smart and educated.

– But most adults do not believe it is possible for their children to develop real talent, so they settle for being generally educated.

I re-arrange the school schedule so that it supports time for building talent. I say ‘no’ frequently to activities that are otherwise good, but not helpful to making progress.

– But most adults will never allow the pursuit of excellence to override a formal school schedule.

I watch how others succeed in one area or another with their children. I borrow the pieces of their methods and techniques that were good and apply them so that it fits my household. I’m always alert and receptive to someone else’s great idea.

– But most adults never ask questions of how it is done from those who are already very successful.

I make note of how others fail to launch their children and study the details of their failures. I then work it backwards until I find a different path so the same problems do not crop up in my household.

– But most adults will assume that if the hand of fate has failed their friends then they are convinced they are also meant to also fail rather than to do things differently.

I believe that almost every educational method can be improved. So everywhere I look I see possibilities for new and better ways for learning and teaching. I keep trying new things with the expectation that it gets better with time, not worse.

– But most adults hope that their children will repeat the same educational experience they had, down to eagerly discussing how they will repeat the same painful social experiences.

Can You Locate the Sweet Spot on the Edge of Your Student’s Ability?

“Coaching is a long, intimate conversation, a series of signals and responses that move toward a shared goal. A coach’s true skill consists not in some universally applicable wisdom that he can communicate to all, but rather in the supple ability to locate the sweet spot on the edge of each individual student’s ability, and to send the right signals to help the student reach toward the right goal, over and over.”

Coyle, Daniel (2009-04-16). The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. (p. 178). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

When we speak of coaching, it is normally referring to someone who is helping your young person get good at one or more of the particular skills that make up his talent. He’s the man on the sidelines who gives encouragement and direction. He’s also the one that knows how to blow that whistle when there is too much playing around and not enough focus. But with the idea of the traditional coaching, I think we should include the parent who has a conscious desire to act on behalf of his child.

The “coach” parent acts on behalf of his child to create the strategy and the conditions in his life that makes the pursuit of talent possible. That parent may not how to teach a particular skill, but he knows to find the coach who does. That would be you, dear reader. That parent coaches his son or daughter to appropriately manage all the other important aspects of his life in a balanced way. He’s also there to make sure the talent doesn’t inadvertently destroy the rest of the child’s life outside of his talent pursuit (health, marriage, etc.). The coach parent recognizes the edge where the sweet spot is.

The alternative to being a “coach” parent is to simply let a boxed curriculum tell you what your son or daughter will doing on a daily basis, in the same way as it is telling a thousand other children to do on the same day for the same age. As the coach in your child’s life, you can avoid his fate of looking like those thousand other children. As the coach you tell the curriculum when and how much of it can be used. As the coach, you can and should use your whistle on any curriculum that oversteps its bounds.

Years of Bonding Conversations

Father and Son Taking a Break Together

Driving your child to and from locations is an opportunity to talk on regular basis with your child away from the hubbub of family life at home. This tip is given to me by another homeschooling Dad, Will G., as an additional benefit of engaging in the to-and-fro of mini-talent mentoring relationships with people outside of your household. Your child is going to be relaxed and will enjoy your transportation company as a way to converse with you about all sorts of topics at his own rhythm and pace.

If you start early, at age 12 for example, you will have  several solid years of pleasant, edifying, and bonding conversations before he reaches the age of 18. Instead of growing apart, you will be growing closer together in the teenage years.

(updated on 2015)

Be Steadfast for Them Until They Are Ready

Personal interests are good to have and they will bring great added-value by incorporating them into your child’s talent. However a young person’s personal interests are not enough to provide him with all the direction he needs to create something amazing.

What he also needs is the strength of character from his parents to support him as he works through his short attention span in his adolescent years. He needs your strength to navigate the highs and lows of short-term failures and successes in the pursuit of real talent. Very often, parents will be frustrated by their offspring’s desire one day to pursue one interest and then another day to completely change their enthusiastic focus to another interest. Today it is collecting coins. Tomorrow it is scuba diving at the local YMCA. You must stay engaged to help him interpret whether it is an opportunity or just a distraction to his real goals.

The fact that there are so many things that grab their attention is not wrong in itself at all. Their curiosity is high and their desire to make friends is high. This is partly what makes it possible for our young people be so fresh and open to the new things that need to get done. But if they keep switching their minds and their focus to many times, they will never gain enough traction to find joy in performing beyond the beginner’s level in any field of human endeavor. That is where you come in as a parent and where they depend on you to not be caving in on every new change of heart. By strength of character, I mean you must sometimes say ‘no’ to the request for participating in a new youth group activity or in starting up a new hobby. Some tears, some pouting, some sullenness, some confused looks might come your way, but so be it. Your son or daughter might resent you at first that you do not agree to their changing emotions, but you must be steadfast on their behalf until they are able to grow into their own complete vision for themselves.

Can She Sew Her Food?

When trying to look at what can be used in a family’s environment, very often a skill asset is completely overlooked that could be one of the pieces of the puzzle to creating a unique and exciting talent for your child. Let us say for example that your daughter has a strong interest in cooking and also a strong interest in sewing. The normal reaction is to look down on one or the other skill because it is not clear how focusing on one or the other will add much value beyond knowing how to do the basics in the household. Remember that with the pursuit of inordinate talent we are also talking about talent that brings great value to others, so the initial reaction, as far as to how to judge it with bringing great value to others, is correct. There is not much value as stand-alone skill between those two. However, once you think of creative ways to dovetail skills already existing in your household, then the possible value starts becoming more apparent.

Back to the example: so does this mean I recommend you try to get her to sew her food? No, of course not. But what I do mean is you could encourage your daughter to sew specifically for clothing ware that fits the professional female chef or that fits the advanced home baker and cook. Having a strong, first-hand experience with the functionality needed to meet a kitchen environment, she can continually create and test better clothing options. She can even start testing and then reviewing on a blog various clothing ware offered on the market and demonstrate by video the pros and the cons as she bakes in the kitchen while modeling the work clothes. See what happened there at the end of this example? I managed to slip in a third skill, a writing skill, when I only wanted to talk about two skills! Now there are three skills working together, each giving strength to the other. Finding a venue to writing with a purpose and developing the voice of confidence comes natural. That’s because she is writing from the first-person point about two interests she both cares and knows about. The more skills that come together to support each other with purpose, the easier it gets to create something glorious for your child to pursue as an adult.

Your mission: find that one skill you are proud to see your child develop and then find a way to create a deeper value proposition by dovetailing it with a completely different interest in your child’s life.

Saying No To Learning Opportunities

Stop sign in the United States

Not all STOP signals are as obvious as a street sign. If you are an alert parent, you will be able to discern when the time is right to stop something. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Say “no” to learning opportunities when the effort can not be counted as deliberate practice hours of some kind. This means the parent stays alert to changing conditions so that his child can gracefully bow out of what previously may have been helpful, but no longer is.

In one situation, for example, my 12 year old son spent time cultivating a relationship with an older gentleman who had a lot of talent in a specialized area that he was eager to pass on to a younger person. As a consequence, I encouraged my son to read up on some topics and buy some protective gear that this same man had recommended so he could let him wield some torch bearing equipment. However, as the months rolled by, this same gentleman started showing a growing lack of confidence in his own abilities due to his increasing old age. I stepped in and helped my son bow out of such teaching sessions.

My experience has been that if there is someone whom you think your son or daughter would benefit from their teaching, but for some inexplicable reason your younger teenage is not wanting to be around that person, it is probably because the adult no longer has the social skills necessary to be helpful. If your child is an otherwise respectful child, then the problem is probably not with your child. We all know that some adults behave very differently around young people than when they interact with you as the adult. But it is not up to your child to have to have to explain the subtle differences to you. It is your job to be on the alert and help your child find a way to gracefully bow out.

Start Focusing on Passion and Talent Building at Age Twelve


Start at age 12 to begin a talent focus. Don’t over-worry about missing opportunities before then as each season has its glory.

The age of twelve is a good age to start focusing on building a passion and talent. It’s at this age when the emotional desire and drive to be and do something great in their future begins. I find that if I do not help my boys feed and fuel themselves on a daily basis with the basic building blocks of a growing passion, that they become restless. The young eagles are yearning to fly up powerfully and I am happy as their father to be part of that guided and encouraging environment. And what about the younger children? They still enjoy living in the moment and so I let them run free after their basic school work and chores are complete.

Cautionary Tales Protect From Danger

scare straight.jpg

In every field of human endeavor there are real dangers, physical, emotional, and moral. It is better to learn about those specific dangers early on to avoid experiencing the painful consequences of wrong decisions. Cautionary Tales are a good way for your child to hear and assimilate the consequences of such dangers.

An excellent source for Cautionary Tales can be found in the biographies of famous talented people that are in your child’s field of interest. Another excellent source is from older and very experienced talented individuals who can scare you with stories of colleagues who lost an arm to a saw after failing to get enough sleep or of a friend who lost a lifetime of savings because they signed a contract without first getting advice. It can also be hearing about social boundaries that were not respected, such as about the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who even though was immensely successful in his talent, had completely failed morally with his wife and children. His friends testified to his tragic failings, even while acknowledging his immense architectural talent.

Another place for your son or daughter to hear about cautionary tales is in the online forums or meetups where people of a similar talent congregate. Recently, my son who has an interest in bladesmithing, heard of a tragic ending to someone who disregarded the direction of the wheel turning during the final phase of buffing a blade. The knife then got accidentally caught in the high-velocity upward motion of the wheel and fatally impaled the worker. Result of taking shortcuts: immediate death. Having heard that, my son is now always making sure the wheel is working in the right direction. The cautionary tale served its purpose.

Scare them straight.



Updated May 2014

Prepping: Do You Have Your Questions Ready?

how to engage experts.jpg


In the book “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell, he has a chapter entitled “The Problem With Geniuses, Part II.” In that chapter, he discusses what seems to be quite a big missing social skill in children who are otherwise academically well taught, but can’t seem to socially climb the talent ladder within their talent field. He boils it down to one basic reason: those children do not know how to engage and question authority figures in a way that helps them make progress. And this lack of social intelligence hurts them later in their adult life. They tend to just sit passively and let authority figures drone on and on without ever knowing how to interrupt to redirect the conversation in a way that is more helpful to the child.

A typical example of that type of behavior is that when the child, with that lacking social skill, goes to the doctor’s office, he just sits there quietly with very little verbal feedback to the doctor, who in turn just gives instructions. But here is the most interesting part: this type of child is actually mirroring his parent’s behavior. It has been observed that when the parents of that same child visit the doctor for their own needs, they also sit very quietly with eyes lowered as the doctor engages in a monologue.

Compare now the very different behavior of the child who respectfully, but assertively, interrupts the doctor to provide him more accurate information about his personal medical condition. In response to the child’s questions, the doctor modifies or clarifies his original information for the benefit of the young person’s understanding. Where does that social intelligence from the child come from? This intelligent social behavior seems to be learned from the parents and not from an innate personality trait. In this medical example, the child has usually been prepped by his mother beforehand as to what kind of questions might be asked of him by the doctor. He’s also instructed by his mother to make sure to ask that authority figure to provide better information if he doesn’t fully understand to his satisfaction.

That is the key: parents, whether mother or father, are key to teaching their children by patterning and by explicit verbal instruction on how to vigorously engage themselves with experts. This is important. Because with that ability to question, they can make progress in their understanding that is applicable to their situation. Children do NOT naturally learn that skill on their own. Parents who believe that it can be learned and passed on, act on this belief and take time to instruct on how to address authority figures and on how to extract information from them.

This is why I frequently run through a little informal prep session with my own sons. I check with them to hear if they are ready to answer questions with an expert they are about to meet for the first time. I check to see if they are also ready with their own list of questions to ask. I also prep them with how to respectfully, but assertively, redirect adults off of inappropriate topics when the adults have social difficulty staying to the topic of their expertise. Sometimes we will also run through possible scenarios where we discuss how to handle an adult who is extremely introverted. We also talk about scenarios of the other extreme: how to handle an adult who is so enjoying the rapt attention of my respectful child that he forgets to actually “teach” to the situation at hand.  All this respectful and balanced social engagement, instead of turning off adult experts, actually draws them in more into wanting to help a young person.

This teaching our children on how to respectfully engage authorities is one of the building blocks to talent success. This parental input makes a significant difference in the lives of our offspring. I encourage you to harness this social skill to teach your sons and daughters how to use in the context of the their talent growth. If you have an interesting story on how your child was able to use that social skill to win over an expert to helping them out, I would love for you to share it with me.



(updated: 1/17/2015)

IQ Matters Only in the Classroom


English: Classroom in SIM University.

Having high IQ in the classroom predicts little about how talented your child will be in adult life. Something else predicts his success. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Quote by Geoffrey Colvin in chapter 3 of his book “Talent is Overrated: What really separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“:

The toll it was taking on him was large. “All right, all right, all right,” he muttered after Ericsson read him the list. “All right! All right. Oh . . . geez!” He clapped his hands loudly three times, then grew quiet and seemed to focus further. “Okay. Okay. . . . Four-thirteen-point-one!” he yelled. He was breathing heavily. “Seventy-seven eighty-four!” He was nearly screaming. “Oh six oh three!” Now he was screaming. “Four-nine-four, eight-seven-oh!” Pause. “Nine-forty-six!” Screeching now. Only one digit left. But it isn’t there. “Nine-forty-six-point . . . Oh, nine-forty-six-point . . .” He was screaming and sounding desperate. Finally, hoarse and strangled: “TWO!”

Above is an excerpt from a humorous section of the book on talent. Geoffrey Colvin relays the true story of a young man of average intelligence who was the first to break the human barrier of being able to memorize more than 7 given random digits. What was astonishing about this story is that within a short time of crossing the previous limit of about 7 data points (maybe 9 points at the outer limits), this young college student quickly increased his ability to such a point that he could memorize hundreds of digits at a time, randomly read to him. It was thought impossible for humans to do that. Not only that, once they had understood how he was memorizing differently, the researchers were then able to transfer this new ability to other college students who were just as average as the one first who creatively found a different way of memorizing. The point is this: ground breaking advancements in human abilities does not depend on high-IQ. This example of getting humans to go to the next level with regards to memory also showed that having or not-having a high IQ had little to do with finding the way to the next level of performance.

Emphasized in Geoffrey Colvin’s narration in this chapter is that this student was of average IQ level. This new ability to memorize did not come about because the individual had a high IQ. He explained that previous studies had confirmed that a high IQ only predicted that an individual would be able to do very well in classroom assigned work…but it ONLY predicted he would do well in the context of a classroom. It did not predict any special outcome in abilities or performance outside of the strict limits of the classroom. In short, high IQ’s had NO predictive power to single out who was actually going to be able to do well in a particular field of human talent.

There was one small acknowledged advantage outside of the classroom for those with high IQ: if you had a high IQ it did seem to predict that you would perform better than others at the beginning stages of a newly introduced skill. But that early stage advantage disappeared quickly if the average IQ individuals stayed focused on learning the new skills beyond the early stages of learning. After the initial stages, other factors that contribute to success completely take over and drown out any differences in IQ levels (note: that is, as long as the person wasn’t significantly below average intelligence or had a clear impediment).

So why is there is no correlation between amazing talent and high IQ? Because IQ measures only a certain type of intelligence, a type of classroom cleverness if-you-will, but outside of the classroom, any specific real-life talent only uses a very small proportion of that type of intelligence in order for it to be effective in the real world. It turns out that other skills and types of intelligences merging together in the right combination and proportions is much more important than having just a high-IQ. This would mean that unless you intend for your child to become a professional test taker, you should not rely on your child’s IQ levels to carry him to the high levels of success to be found outside of his formal schooling days.

Conclusion: a high IQ can help you on the classroom portions of formal learning, but you can not depend on it for success outside of the classroom. Both high and average IQ individuals had the same advantage as regards to extraordinary potential for talent achievement.

(updated 1/17/2015)

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Interview by Radical Personal Finance Joshua Sheats

radical finance

Listen to a podcast interview by Joshua Sheats of Radical Personal Finance on my explanation of how you can go about discovering and developing talent in your child while your son or daughter is still young.

If you are the kind of person that likes to learn by listening in on a focused conversation between two people, then you are going to enjoy this type of podcast.

Joshua is a financial expert and likes to interview people with unusual insights on how to implement life-hacks that can dramatically change the quality of  your lifestyle and that of  your finance book. In this case, he was intrigued about how parents can put their children onto an amazing talent development path that will change their lives, without a big up-front investment in money. That’s why “yours truly” came on as a guest for his “radical personal finance” show.

During his interview with me he made the interesting point that if you take the talent approach seriously, then you are passing on the skills for your child to be able to be successful on his own merits. If you are a smart, intelligent kind of parent, you can create the conditions in your child’s environment that will reap enormous rewards in adulthood. The opposite approach would be for an otherwise smart parent to make it big with his own wealth creating abilities, but leave the responsibility of his child’s education to others. Such a scenario will likely have little impact on the behavior of the children according to Joshua, as the patterns of the adult descendants will already have been firmly entrenched by the time they get the inheritance windfall.

What matters most is the time spent now to mold your son or daughter while still in your household. Good news: That time spent does not necessarily depend on your finances as a parent. This means you can act on talent building now without having to wait for a future success date of your own . Chew on that insight for a while on the implications of what it means to pass on success to your children!

That was Joshua’s commentary during the interview, so if you want to hear more stuff like that, subscribe to his podcasts so you can hear his other interviews.


How to Fix Lack of Action

Do you have a son who does not take as much action as you would like? Here are one of three possible things that you can try as a parent to get him to start moving on his talent:

Option 1: Tie a minimum expectation of daily action he has to accomplish first every day for his talent before he can access his favorite privileges

Option 2: Change the focus of the talent to something more granular and accessible to his current skills so that he experiences easy wins in the beginning

Option 3: Do more hand-holding or be more of a physical presence so that he senses more of your immediate approval and encouragement

Of the above, I have had to exercise one or the other of those options to help keep them focused and motivated. Depending on age or personality, some need more negative encouragement (no computer time until…) and others need more supportive encouragement (I will sit next to you with my laptop and catch up on my emails, while you get started on…). I am not afraid in the beginning of the whole process to remove privileges if they are not at least trying to act on their talent on a consistent basis.

For example, if the expectation is that there is at least one blog post by every Tuesday on the documentation of their talent progress, then he can say goodbye to Minecraft or any other fun activities until that blog post is done. This is assuming of course that the underlying reason for delaying his blog post is that he is enjoying too many of the good things in life without first putting in the effort to be productive. Basically, it’s a variation of not letting your child eat his dessert until has eaten his vegetables first.

I was listening to an interview recently of very wealthy and successful businessman who was reminiscing that part of the secret of his success was due to the upbringing his parents gave him. He said he grew up in a very well-to-do family and enjoyed the comforts of such an environment…but that his father was very strict about not allowing him to enjoy those daily privileges without also demanding that he be daily productive in learning and practicing the tools of his father’s trade (in this case as a sales person). His father enforced that rule consistently in such a way that he grew very comfortable at a young age associating hard work as a condition to enjoying the fruits of it.

You can be the father or mother that gets the credit later in your child’s adult life for having laid the foundation of their good habits.

He Will Not Do Better, So Why Bother

Joshua Sheats Goals Example

Looking for a way to get started with a real goal-setting exercise with your wife for your children’s coming educational year? Borrow ideas from Joshua Sheats’ podcast on how to set and achieve your financial goals in 2015

Most parents do not expect their children to be able to do better than they themselves did in life. They almost say it out loud and they certainly reinforce it with their attitude.

This expectation drives parents to try and lower their progeny’s youthful enthusiasm. This is when you hear such statements as “high school is the best time of your life so make it last as long as you can.” But all parents are not like that. A smaller group of parents is more hopeful that the best is yet to come and so they make plans for their children to enter into adulthood more prepared than they were. It is my guess that 80% of parents fall into the low expectations category and the other 20% of parents have serious hopes and plans that their children will do better. (By the way, I’m not bothering here to define what “better” is as that is a subject whose details I leave to you.)

Likely you are falling into that 20% of parents who have hopes about improving the lives of your descendants. Otherwise you would not be bothered to follow a blog, such as this one, on how to develop massive, life-changing talent starting early in life. But have you thought about rising into that even smaller, super-hopeful category of parents? Are you in that category?

I’m not speaking of that category of people who believe that they can get their children just achieve a little more success than they did. I’m speaking of those parents who believe they can DRAMATICALLY improve the adult outcome of their children’s lives. The size of that category of parents who believe and act on that belief of dramatic improvement is probably in the order of 2 out of 100 parents (that would represent 20% of the already 20% hopeful people). That sounds about right, doesn’t it? Imagine you are at a social mix of about 100 parents in one room. You would expect that most are just expecting their kids to do “okay” after high-school, or maybe they are not really thinking about their future at all and relieved they made it through the teenage years. You would expect that about two of ten people mingling in a corner will seem pretty upbeat talking about future possibilities for their son or daughter.  Those are part of the hopeful twenty percenters and that is good. But in the entire group of 100 people, there would also be about two parents who have unusually high expectations for their children. Those two people would seem to truly believe they can pull off the kind of upbringing for their children that would have such dramatic ramifications.

If you are ready to roll up your sleeves with your spouse to generate some great ideas for your child’s future, I recommend you listen to a recent podcast by Joshua Sheats on how to set goals. Find a way to get yourself into that 20% of 20% parents who have concrete hope and very high expectations. You can print out his list of great prompts for you to use in your goal setting session and substitute your son’s name, instead of yours, in the suggested exercises.

2015 is going to be a great year.


Life of Fred Interview by Dr. Melanie Wilson


Intrigued by a unique way of math learning for children?

Thanks to Dr. Melanie Wilson of the UltimateRadioShow, you can listen to a recent 2014 interview with the author of the quirky math series of books called the “Life of Fred.” Stan Schmidt explains how he got started with creating the books. You can listen to the impact he has had on children based on the fan mail he receives from both children and parents.

They are designed to be self-paced books where the children follow the quirky life of young Fred (who faces surreal situations where, for example, he gets accidentally recruited into the army at the age of 5!) and in the process the readers learn how help Fred solve his problems by using math.

You can also read Melanie’s written review of this very unusual math curriculum on her blog here and how it has worked for her sons:

Review excerpt: “My oldest, an advanced learner, loved it! I often found him chuckling while doing math. I found him motivated to get at least 9 of 10 problems correct so he could pass the “bridge” and not have to do a different set of ten problems. As a psychologist, I thought this approach was genius. Why should a homeschooled student want to complete a page of problems when he would just be faced with another?”

T is for Time for Your Talent

One of my favorite books on the subject of talent is by Geoffrey Colvin. He says with regards to observing the pattern of super-talented people:

“The work is so great that it seems no one can sustain it for very long.

A finding that is remarkably consistent across disciplines is that four or five hours a day seems to be the upper limit of deliberate practice,

and this is frequently accomplished in sessions lasting no more than an hour to ninety minutes.”

(The quote comes from “Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else” “(p. 71) in the US. Kindle Edition)

Parents: are you allowing your son to spend enough time with his talent? have you structured your daughter’s time so that she has ample, luxurious time to be emotionally engaged with the talent work she is doing?

One extreme is being able to find only enough time per week for a miserly one to two hours of talent development. The other extreme  is spending more than four hours every day in deliberate practice, to the point of spinning wheels through mental exhaustion. Very few fall into the latter category. Most fall into the first mistake because they are simply spending more time going to soccer practice or youth group events than actually working on improving their talent.

Finding time every day for your child to deliberately practice on some aspect of his long term talent can be a difficult task in itself. One way to lessen the time burden is to turn your school time into time that supports your student’s growth in his talent. Have you looked at how you can turn his English composition and writing time into an opportunity to write about an aspect of his talent? For some students this could represent several hours of writing time every week devoted to writing about his talent. Have you looked at her science curriculum and found a way to focus on a particular aspect of science that is more closely related to her talent? If your child has a drawing interest as part of her talent, perhaps a course on the science of light, instead of more biology, would help her understand her talent a deeper level. All of that school time has the potential to be time that can be turned into time being spent to push your student forward in his or her talent.

The alternative of being creative with how you use your child’s school materials is for your son or daughter to be forced to find left-over time slots at the end of very busy days. If such is the case, that means more often than not, that your student is not really making any significant progress in his growth. He won’t be able to achieve lift-off into his world of talent by the time he is eighteen years old and he will fall back down among the hurried and harried young adults looking for a calling in life. I urge you to make a mind-map of all the educational and extra-curricular activities in your young person’s life and brainstorm ideas on how you can make them serve your child’s talent potential.

How to Use Instagram for Talent Development

Are you still using your cellphone like a bat-phone? No idea how the features on it can start making a great impact on your student’s talent? Enter Instagram.

Instagram is perfect for the son or daughter who has a talent that has a photogenic or interesting visual appeal. Instagram is a great way to connect with other talented individuals in the same field of talent.

And all you need to use Instagram is a smart-phone.

With an Android or iPhone you just download the Instagram app like you would any other application. The application is designed to use your phone’s built-in camera. Before you can use it, you create your Instagram account by creating a profile with your real name and add an easy to remember stage name to help people identify you. For example, my 15 year old’s stage name is “BladesofBelaq” and under that name, you will see his real name displayed as “Caleb Harris.”

(Fun fact: Belaq is his name spelled backward and with the letter “c” replaced by the letter “q”. Blades is included in his Instagram name because his talent focus is around the making of knives and blades.)

You can see what my son’s Instagram profile looks from any computer by clicking on this link:

Once your account is created, you are ready to use your cell phone camera to take pictures of what you are doing or seeing. Leave the pictures just as plain as you took them or enhance them with some quick photo filters. When you like what you see, you simply tap on the phone screen and up they go over the Internet onto Instagram’s big computers. This uploading to Instagram makes it possible for anyone in the world with another Instagram account to see your pictures.

If others want to see your pictures on Instagram, they can do it in the following ways.

The first way others can find your pictures is because the Instagram users already know you from reputation. You may have been specifically recommended by other Instagram users or someone may have seen your name recommended in a blog. In such as a case, these users will go straight to Instagram and search for you by your stage name (i.e. BladesofBelaq) or your real name (Caleb Harris). Then they will click the “follow” button that’s available under your name.

By clicking the “follow” button, this tells Instagram to automatically download your photos to your follower’s cell phone for viewing. Don’t worry. Your photos don’t pop onto their cell phone screen willy-nilly. All the pictures coming down are limited in size no matter how big and detailed the original photos were when they were taken. Instagram automatically reduces the pictures to a small footprint on your cell phone screen. This size limitation makes it easy to scroll through hundreds of photos at a time without causing your cell phone to lag. It is a very breezy experience completely different to the one when you try to open picture attachments in emails.

The second way people find your pictures is because the users are searching Instagram for any pictures containing a keyword. At this point others would not be specifically looking for you. The keyword search is one of the things that makes Instagram such a different tool than Facebook.

A keyword is a word in the caption of the picture to which the the photo-taker appends the sign #.  One would do this in the hopes that others would be able to come across that picture if they were to use that word in a search. So for example, someone who is coin collector may want to see all the pictures on Instagram containing the hashtag word “#silvereagle” (do not use spaces). This search will display a set of pictures of American coins known as Silver Eagles. If you had labeled your picture with the hashtag #silvereagle then that particular picture of yours will show up in a large set of pictures from all sorts of Instagram users who also used the hashtag #silvereagle. If viewers see a couple of the pictures they like and those pictures happen to be yours, they might then at that point go to your account and decide to click the “follow” button. Going forward they will automatically see all your photos without having to search for #silvereagle. 

If people want to let you know they appreciated your photo, they simple click the “Like” button and you will see a counter go up as the number of enthusiastic views goes up. This gives you feedback as to which ones impacted your viewers without having to leave complicated messages. In that way the like is used similarly to Facebook. They can also leave a short text comment under the caption of your picture to which you can have short back-and-forth comments with your viewers. But the primary focus of Instagram is to gather around pictures that portray a common interest. There are no re-posts of news articles or re-posts of 3rd party memes. This is why the Instagram experience is so clutter-free.

Parable of the Talents

The parable of the talents, as depicted in a 1...

The parable of the talents, as depicted in a 1712 woodcut. The lazy servant searches for his buried talent because he was too worried that it would be too risky to try and multiply it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christ’s Parable of the Talents

Matthew Chapter 25:


14. “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.
15. “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
16. “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.
17. “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.
18. “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19. “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.

20. “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, `Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’
21. “His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
22. “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, `Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’
23. “His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

24. “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, `Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.
25. `And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’

26. “But his master answered and said to him, `You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.
27. `Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
28. `Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’

29. “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.


(Translation version: New American Standard Bible)

Audio Books for Ages 5 to 8

Here are some audio books I recommend for the listening pleasure of children ages five to eight years old. It’s a great way to relax your children after a busy day’s work and they will soak in the sounds and rhythm of the English language. Bonus: you can feel virtuous enjoying some quiet catch up time with your spouse while your children are in their room mesmerized by the the classic storytelling.

This list of audiobooks would also be non-irritating for parents to listen to while on a long car ride with young children. In fact they would be more than tolerable:  it represents about 45 hours of delicious voice acting. If you consider that children will love to listen to them at least three times over, that’s about 135 hours of listening time!


A Bear Called Paddington” by Michael Bond

(over 2.5 hours long)


More About Paddington” by Michael Bond

(over 2.5 hours long)


Thumbelina and Other Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen

(over 2.5 hours long)


Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales” by Beatrix Potter

(almost 6 hours long)


Wind in the Willows” read by Jim Weiss

(over 6.5 hours long)


Andrew Lang Fairy Books (Blue, etc) by Andrew Lang

(over 14 hours long)


Winnie the Pooh (dramatized) by A.A. Milne

(2 hours long)


The Golden Key by George MacDonald:

(1 hour long)


The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald:

(almost 6 hours long)


Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

(1.5 hours long)


What Does a Standardized Test Measure?

There is no standardized test to guide you if your child is on the path to contributing something unique to the world. Instead, on the 10,000 hour talent journey, your child is on the path to creating something new, with a new direction of excellence or new combination of skills.

Re-evaluate what you are doing if you are using a standard battery of tests and exams to guide the focus of your child’s work. There is is a possibility that your child is sinking his time and hard effort into already very well served areas of life. Those tests and exams rose up in the context of making it easy to move lots of people down a path of identical expertise as efficiently as possible. Many times, the level of testing for a skill or knowledge base is increased far beyond what is necessary in order to perform the tasks they will be called on to do in their work life. This is to help the narrow the number of people needed because there are so many in that field already. Ponder this for a while.

However if you are focused on creating talent in your child’s life, then what you are trying to do with your son or daughter is different. By definition, unusual talent will not easily fit the existing standard measurement tools in school. Yet most of the time as parents we are trying to make our children fit into a standard mold so that it easily be reward by high grades in a standardized test. That standardized test is a mold designed to produce a specific well-established skill set and a well established performance level. It is not designed to create the new shape of service for the needs of the world. No one is  holding their breath as to whether or not one more person is professionally shaped by it.

What tests would one have used for example to measure the progress of a Julia Child or that of the creator, Scott Adams, of the Dilbert cartoon? If those two people had used standardized tests so as to guide them down a well established path, we probably would not have had the result of both those people’s unique and outstanding contributions to the world. Julia Child might have then become an A+ sous-chef by continuing on with formal training in France and the creator of Dilbert might have made a living designing art covers had he gone to graphic arts school – but we would have missed the talents for which they have become known.

To be clear: tests aren’t bad things in themselves and in fact are quite useful in being able to measure those skills that are held in common and are abundantly needed and provided. Some of those tests your talented child can use to help guide him on short treks through his journey, but he and you should not over-estimate their usefulness. I’m glad my plumber has followed a typical apprenticeship and testing path for his profession as I am expecting him to fix problems in my house that are within the realm of normal. But that is not what talent is about.

The pursuit of standardized tests can be disastrous for real a long-term talent strategy if it is not kept under control. In moderation standardized tests can be used as mini-goals to acquire certain skill packages. The trick is to not confuse them as the definitive signposts to lead your child toward his own amazing talent. Constantly trying to please future standardized tests can draw parents into producing look-alike children that can’t be differentiated from other children in the community. If your children are particularly studious then they wind up doing the common knowledge things very well. This is better than your child doing the average thing poorly, but a far cry from being able break new ground in a particular field of talent.

For example, your child chasing established standard tests could lead him to become so good at music that he is able to perfectly imitate Mozart and the Beatles on demand…but he still can’t bring anything of new and real value to the world. Everyone in the end would still rather just buy the Mozart CD than to listen to his interpretation of those composers. It would have been better for him to be less perfect on those technical skills (and give up on those corresponding exams that prove that technical competency) and spent more time being hyper creative in applying music to a new context.

On a quick recent drive through San Francisco, I saw so many young look-alike art students on the sidewalk taking a smoking break outside of an apparently big art school. They might has well have put a big neon sign in front of that school saying “losers, come this way if you have no idea what to do with your life”. I can only imagine they are being taught to learn to paint like Van Gogh (cool, but already been done) or learn how to carve sacrilegious cuss words into trendy stone benches (not at all cool – has that trend died out yet?!). And then they will end up working for those who are setting the yet-to-be new standards, while they remain obscure artists. What if instead your child could always be ahead of the trend? And maybe find a way at the same time to contribute something to the world that others of great added value and for which they will be financially rewarded?

Signs for Recognizing Good People

A word of encouragement for those of us parents trying to look for signs on how to recognize good people and whose advice you should listen to. These signs don’t need to be revealed in prayer or through fasting. They are good outward signs and sanctioned by God as how to recognize good people. They also reassure us that these outward signs are in fact worth working hard for. Good people need to hear this encouragement so they don’t let decision making in their personal lives be handed over to people with wild lives. Hang in there, Christian friends!

With regards to signs for finding the right kind of people to lead in the church, and by implication character traits by which we can recognize good people we can trust, this is what the Bible says below. This passage of holy scripture is found in the book of 1 Timothy Chapter 3:
“An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
3. not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.
4. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity
5. (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),
6. and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.
7. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
8. Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain,
9. but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
10. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.
11. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.
12. Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.
13. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
14. I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long;
15. but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God…”