Jacob Barnett has been given a lot of labels. Brilliant. Genius. Autistic.
I loved learning about Jacob’s story. How his mother fought against a deficit mentality and instead developed her own “philosophy of muchness”.
That attitude of fueling passion is carried on by the Director of the Perimeter Institute (where 15 year old Jacob is now studying graduate-level physics), Neil Turok. I love his attitude in this interview:
“My main job with Jacob is, where possible, to take the pressure off him,” Turok said. “I tell him, ‘You’re here to play and have fun. We don’t have any expectations. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Your enthusiasm is your biggest asset; just protect that.’ We’ll see where it goes. But he seems to be an amazingly well-balanced young man. And I hope he will be a pioneer for many more to come.”
Enthusiasm. Passion. Fire.
That’s what fuels real greatness. Great homes. Great classrooms. Great learners. Great teachers. Great people.
That’s what we have to preserve in ourselves and in our children. That’s what we have to carefully nurture. That’s where real growth begins.
(If you haven’t heard Jacob’s story yet, you have to read it here. His mom has also written a book about their experience The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism (affiliate link). You can also hear Jacob give a TEDxTeen talk here.)
What do you do to protect enthusiasm?
I needed to read this today!! Thanks for this post!
Chris Eastvedt says
I wish I had a champion like Jacob’s mom to keep me focused on things I love to do. Being passive about anything (work, family, entertainment…) really eats away at enthusiasm because you tend to forget about it when you’re busy dealing with distractions. I think just asking yourself, “What do I really want?” periodically will help bring you back in line. Most answers wouldn’t include things watching more TV, missing family dinners or spending time with people you really don’t like, yet for many of us, these are our habits. Adopting an “if it isn’t fun, I’m not going to do it,” attitude would definitely be a good start to re-kindling your enthusiasm.