In his critically acclaimed book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell shared how a growing lineage of research on greatness largely debunked the myth of talent or a God-given gift, in favor of what’s come to be known as the “10-year rule.”
What really makes people world class great, said the data, was not some genetic anomaly, talent or gift, but rather the accumulation of 10,000 hours (approximately 10 years) of intensive, deliberate, focused practice.
But, new research into the genetics of learning may have just obliterated that claim.
In the May issue of Scientific American Mind, neurologist Janine Reis, who led a study at the National Institutes of Health revealed the following stunning bit of information:
Now researchers are starting to show a direct, quantifiable effect on learning traceable to…genetic influences: single-nucleotide polymorphisms. A difference in just one amino acid in a protein might explain why some people learn new motor skills faster and reach higher levels of performance.
This is revolutionary on two levels.
One, it demonstrates the potential existence of a genetic basis for a “gift…”
It presents a strong argument that greatness is not just about deliberate practice, as suggested by the research shared in Outliers. DNA, it seems, may well play a very real role in just how good you can get at a particular pursuit and how quickly it’ll take to get great.
But, there’s a second, huge potential implication…
Which is that, if a gene for greatness can actually be isolated…
It may be possible to eventually develop a gene-therapy that could literally install or turn-on genetic talent, where none existed before.
Does that excite you? Does that scare you?
For me, the answer is both.
Sure, it could be used for good, accelerating recovery of muscle strength, agility and coordination after injury or illness. But, it could also be used to literally inject an unfair advantage in many other battlefields, driven by the quest for substantial ego and commercial gains.
Granted the research is still in it’s very early stages, but…think of the potential.
So…what do you think?
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