Back in 2008, I wrote an “anonymized” story about meeting up with a very high potential and our conversation. Although I wrote it a long time ago, it recently had two interesting comments from Alex and Ken Shepard. Alex I don’t know but Ken is the leader of the GO Society and has been a long-time proponent in my life. It’s always great when people of his caliber and prestige read my stuff. They both wrote with some advice for this guy, but years too late. I wrote in 2009 about the death of this high-mode individual, being a bit more honest than I had been.
I thought that I would address some of their points.
I believe that intelligence above a certain point is not only not helpful to you, it’s maladaptive. “Tim’s” experience is illustrative of what I have learned about high mode individuals, people who have an excessive capacity for work.Like most of the high-mode / high-potential individuals in his birth cohort, Tim was not blessed with being singled out and tapped as the next best thing. The testing center had his IQ around 178 as a student, which was sufficient for him to be mainstreamed in the classroom at a school system that was losing funding as older voters decided that paying for education did not benefit them. He graduated from college in the big downturn of the early 1990s, the effects of which was almost entirely born by his birth cohort. He scrambled to find whatever work he could, like most of them. Because these jobs were not the best, he was viewed as suspect, that something most be wrong with him.
We see similar dynamics at play today. If you are unemployed, you are likely to stay that way because U.S. employers see unemployment during a recession with real unemployment rates higher than those of the Great Depression as being a sign that something is wrong with the applicant. If you start working in a recession and get a lousy job, you will earn less than people who came out in a boom even ten years later. The research is pretty good here.
Being Stratum 7 in his early 40s, he had Stratum 4 capacity when he started working after university. He didn’t have Stratum 4 capability, just capacity: his bucket was a Stratum 4 size but he only had Stratum 2 amount of water in it, so to speak. He just didn’t have the experience that a 50 year old stratum 4 worker would have.
He started working for Stratum 2 bosses who were in their 40s, so estimate Mode 2 or Mode 3. Tim’s capacity for work at 23 was higher than these managers’ would ever be. He was already two stratum bigger than his bosses. And due to having a regular personality (not a charmer) and having been told that he was boring most of his life (“too academic” is what they would say later) he didn’t have the requisite skills to navigate a boss who cannot even see the value that he brings to work.
A boss who finds this high-moder’s very existence threatening. He doesn’t have to do anything.
So Tim got kicked in the teeth a lot, and bounced from one job to another. He was good in a crisis and went from overachieving at one job and another, all to get shoved out or fired.
Because, as Douglas Adams has taught us, “what they really didn’t like was a smartass.”
It turns out that unless you have a very peculiar set of personality traits, when you suffer underemployment in Western societies for several years, you do not somehow exercise your full capacity after you get off. When you are working 2-5 stratum below your capacity, you start to go mad.
Nor does your community want what you have to offer. In white America, you are judged by the jobs you hold, even in spiritual communities. (African-American communities may have a different dynamic because of the US history of persistent racism, but I’m not sure.) They here him and roll their eyes. They bring him out when it is useful to them but see everything that he does as a threat. He has to constantly walk on eggshells to avoid being shunned. And even then, he is never considered as someone who should be invited to the party.
The high-moder’s development is also wildly different than normals, or even normally gifted people. The extraordinarily high potential came to understand things in life much too early, way before he could process them emotionally. He has no real peers as he grew up, for he is too old mentally for his age peers and too young emotionally for his mental peers. He is a 8 year old reading at a 15-year old’s level but he doesn’t have the hormones to understand the sexual tensions of 15 year old’s books. He sees problems that he cannot change. Worse, he sees problems and threats that he knows
People who identify with Requisite Organization (as opposed to it’s early moniker, Stratified Systems Theory) seem to believe strongly that people who do not fully utilize their capacity at work put it to use in the community. I have rarely seen this for people above mode 6.Yes, I’ve seen it, but it’s rare. It’s why I spent time trying to provide something in The Secret Rules.
Elliott Jaques agrees that under-employment wreaks havoc. In A General Theory of Bureaucracy, he wrote:
Long periods of under-employment — or indeed a career of under-employment — can lead to a chronic semi-depressed resignation in people and a lack of awareness of their true capacity. Somewhere inside something tells the individual that he is capable of greater things, but he hardly believes it.[Elliott Jaques, A General Theory of Bureaucracy, pp. 184]
Jaques understood that many people spend their entire lives without having right fitting work or being recognized for who they are and what they are capable of. And that you get lost, unmoored from the reality of yourself. You lose even the ability to remember who you were and what you are capable of. You listen to the others and their evaluations. You keep trying to do the work at Levels 1 & 2, because if you were really high-potential then doing “simple” work would be easy! You should be succeeding!
Absolute bullshit, that.
So you go through your adulthood getting farther and farther away from any path that would work for you. Even when I tell you the truth, you can’t believe it.
Because working so far below your capacity for work is not just boring: “this type of bonus earning [in roles too small] is soul-destroying.” [Jaques]
What’s really disappointing to me is that the RO consultants who spend so much of their time griping about how they can’t find Mode 7s to fill the leadership pipeline in their client companies and who have a genuine way of measuring what we mean by “intelligence”, refuse to accept that these people exist. Every time I have told them about that I have all these Mode 7+ under-employed, hidden high potentials that I have in my network and, hey, they could solve this leadership pipeline hole you have, they tell me point blank: “No, you don’t.”
Except that “Yes, I do.” I learned how to do these evaluations from Glenn Mehltretter and Michelle Carter and every time I coded one they had already done, I was within 1/3 of a stratum of their evaluation. My problems was never over-evaluating but under-evaluating. I tend to be conservative, because I know that getting a Mode 7 evaluation is damnatio ad metalla.
“You know what we do with these people? We kill ’em!” That’s what Mehltretter said about these super-high moders. Meaning, normals are so threatened by their very existence, or their very existence threatens the power structures of the world so much that we have to kill them.
People who study extremely high IQ individuals have bad news, too. (Tim’s IQ as a child was in the “profoundly gifted” range.) Profoundly gifted kids have more anxiety and agonies than normals. And much more than normally gifted kids, who are actually happier than normals.
Super-high IQ kids hate school, are so wildly bored that they don’t do anything and get barely passing grades. Yes, some do great, but even that is a coping mechanism because they aren’t really learning. For the most part, school kills their souls. And if the schoolwork doesn’t get the job done, the teachers and the other kids will ensure that the stake gets in there nice and deep.
Look, I’m not sure what IQ measures, but the thinking of those above 170 is fundamentally different from “fast normals”. They are different.
This is a maladaptation.
Because as the RO pipeline people taught me, no one wants them. Not even the people for whom they are the solution to a pressing problem.
They spend their lives trying to find a place at the table, but unless they are psychopaths and take things by force (Mao comes to mind) they will be beaten down, to lie with the dogs waiting for the scraps to fall. They spend their lives being told how wrong they are, in a basic sense. They are told they are “so smart” or “ever so clever” but then never allowed to live free with that. They don’t just rarely get opportunities to contribute to the world but are actively beaten down from doing so.
Nor do they get mentors in life. It has to do with the rarity of high-moders in life. GenX seems littered with them, but in the other generations they seem very rare. Jaques and Lord Wilfred Brown thought that they were so rare that they would always have employment because it was impossible to find them. So super high-moders have few if any people who are in their mode, their developmental trajectory. If they do find one, it is rare that the personalities match up well.
But frankly it’s so rare that they find someone that they never get seen. I call it modal recognition and I’m not going to talk about it more here. Kathryn Cason got me thinking in this way, and it’s accurate.
Far from being the great thing, being extraordinarily gifted or extremely high-mode or extraordinarily high potential is horrible. Once you have been given it you can never be normal, because even if you deaden your brain – which is a very popular coping mechanism, historically – you still had a wildly different developmental history than normals. “Fast normals”, those normally gifted people, are golden because their developmental path looks like normals, just earlier.
Poor, poor bastards.
If you are one of these folks, you have my pity. I’m truly, deeply sorry that you were given this curse. Maybe it has worked out well for you. I’m glad. Really. For most of you it hasn’t. And I wish that that wasn’t true.