December’s Atlantic Monthly had a fascinating article about childhood development called The Science of Success http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200912/dobbs-orchid-gene. It was long, but the gist of it was that scientists, having long studied the negative effects of difficult children for the potential costs to society, have begun to ask why nature would continue to produce children with these genes. The study provides a fascinating perspective. It suggests that 80% of our society has a normal genetic makeup. These are the dandelions, who can grow pretty much anywhere, and who as a group create a stable society. Then, about 20% have a more fragile genetic constitution and are in the difficult child group. These are orchids. In a bad environment, they will grow up troubled and/or unstable. But in a good environment, they will thrive like an orchid in a hothouse. In fact, not only will they thrive but they can often be credited for a brilliance that leads to major innovation and positive forward change in our society.
What a wonderful light of hope for parents who have an ADD or otherwise difficult child? But, what does it mean for those of us who likely fall into the 80%? America is the land of the American Dream. The, “You can be anything you want to be!” and Rugged Individualist mythology. Here’s my perspective. What a relief. To me it means that we can stop spending so much time and energy trying to become the next Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Bruce Springstein and just be ourselves. But it also means a different kind of work. Really taking a look at yourself and being yourself every day is hard work when we’ve spent so much time just reacting to others’ agendas. Think about what this would mean in your life.