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How to discover your genius formula

Last updated on: September 17, 2012 06:17 IST

How to discover your genius formula


At the age of eight, Gillian Lynne's teacher suspected her of having a learning disorder. But a kind psychologist changed her life forever, says Prakash Iyer

It's always fascinating to hear stories of successful people -- and how they got there. These stories can be hugely inspiring, and often hold a lesson that can change the course of our lives.

Heard of Gillian Lynne, British ballerina and dancer, and one of the world's leading choreographers?

She has been associated with some of the biggest hits on Broadway, including Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.

Widely respected, she is a multi-millionaire, too.

Sir Ken Robinson, a leading authority on education and creativity -- and an outstanding speaker -- loves to tell the story of Gillian Lynne. It's a story you must hear.

When Gillian was eight, her mother received a letter from her school teacher, complaining about her daughter's behaviour in school.

The teacher said Gillian was fidgety, unable to sit in one place or concentrate, and distracting her classmates, too. She was late in submitting her homework, and her handwriting was terrible.

"I suspect she has a learning disorder," concluded the teacher, and advised the parents to move their daughter to a special school.

Worried, the mother decided to take Gillian to a psychologist to better understand the problem and the possible cure.

Little Gillian sat nervously in the psychologist's chamber as he spoke to her mother. He looked at her intermittently, watching the expression on her face, and her little legs dangling from the chair.

After about twenty minutes, he told Gillian he wanted to have a little personal chat with her mother, and they would both be back in just a bit. And as he was leaving, he turned on a radio that was on his desk.

As soon as the door shut, little Gillian jumped to her feet and began to dance to the music playing on the radio.

There was a look of pure joy on her face as she swayed gracefully.

Standing outside near a window, the psychologist asked Gillian's mother to look at what her daughter was doing. And they were both amazed to see little Gillian dancing away.

"She is not sick," said the psychologist. "She is a dancer. Send her to a dance school."

Lucky for Gillian, her mother heeded the advice. And the rest, as they say, is history. She went to dance school and from there to the Royal Ballet School in London.

She went on to become one of the world's greatest dancers and choreographers -- a woman who brought joy to audiences around the world.

Thanks, perhaps, to a kind psychologist, who could see the ballerina hidden inside the fidgety eight-year-old. He could have probably put her on a course of medicines to make her less fidgety, or sent her off to a special school. But he saw the genius trapped inside that little body and decided to help set it free.

We all get measured by identical, almost archaic academic yardsticks in school. A measure that only recognises our ability to read, add some numbers, learn by rote and score high marks.

Failing to do that marks little children out as failures. It marks them out as people who are well, not quite good enough. Which is both unfair, and incorrect.

What's the special talent you have that's uniquely yours? What would you like to do for the rest of your life? Finding those answers -- and then working hard following that dream -- can possibly ensure your best chance to achieve greatness. Maybe what we all need is someone like that psychologist.

We need a teacher, or a parent, who can spot the real talent inside us. Someone who turns on the radio and lets the music play. And unleashes the genius within!

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

The author is MD, Kimberly-Clark Lever and Executive Coach. For more inspiring life lessons, read Mr Iyer's new book The Habit of Winning.


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