The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, June 08, 2007

Delayed gratification and achievement

We live in an impatient world. A world in which everyone wants everything done yesterday. Yet, is such a world a world in which greatness can thrive?

I would suggest not. Greatness comes from great effort over a long time. No significant project of human creativity happens without determined effort. Novels don't write themselves. Scientific revolutions don't just happen. Works of art don't just appear on the canvas. In all forms of creation there is the inescapable fact that someone must have put a lot of time into their art or science. This is the time it takes to learn the art, or science; the time it takes to find a worthy project; the time it takes to come to a solution to the problem or artistic expression - and the time it takes to make it happen, to make the art real, the science solid. None of this happens without a hidden factor: patience. This is the ability to simply endure while all this painstaking work takes place. There is too little of this ability in the modern world. Everyone expects everything to be immediate - and yet, without this ability to patiently endure while the slow process of creation unfolds, nothing worthwhile can ever be created. Only the trivial can happen in an instant.

So, does the modern love of instant results make for a shallow modern world? I believe so. Very few people of today have the quality of lifelong endurance that characterized most of the great geniuses of the past. People today want a life of instant luxury founded on the least effort possible: they want, in brief, instant gratification. Yet, it is a truism, that if the pleasure is immediate, the reward is slight. The greatest rewards come to those able to wait.

Yet, all is not lost. Some children show this nascent quality of delayed gratification - and its consequent possibility of great achievement - in their earliest years. One example is my son, Fintan. I can't help but note his ability to buy some chocolates - and simply hold them, without eating them, for several hours, until his older brother Ainan has returned home, so that he might share them with him. That shows the quality of delayed gratification most clearly - but also the quality of selflessness - for Ainan would never know if Fintan had simply eaten the sweets without a thought for him.

I look therefore at Fintan and note two things about him. He likes to draw - and has a gift for it. He also shows the ability to delay gratification. Putting these two attributes together one could conclude that he has the basic dispositions of an artist.

We will see what he eventually turns out to be and to do - but, at only three years old, it is quite straightforward to see foundational psychological attributes at work, in him, that could give rise to an interesting life to come.

(If you would like to read more of Fintan, three, or his gifted brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and six months, or Tiarnan, sixteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:43 PM 


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