One of the greatest obstacles to the recognition of extra intelligent people is the mysterious qualities and extreme rarity that many people (including parents) associate with uncommon intelligence. Often it is either a kind of child-prodigy–assumption, like Mozart, or a comparison with other long-gone icons like Einstein and Madame Curie. The people that technically can live up to those expectations are indeed very, very rare. Perhaps 0.00003% of the population, 1 in 3.5 million, like the customary statistical benchmark for somebody who is officially called profoundly gifted (IQ>175).
But the group we want to discuss amounts to something like 2% of the population, that is, 1 in 50. (This is similar to the often-used benchmark for being labelled gifted; IQ>130.) Perhaps it amounts even up to 5% of the population, that is 1 in 20, if one would take the entire variety of multiple intelligences into account. Still rare – when considered within the specific domain of intelligence involved – but more common than most people are used expecting. However, the higher the degree of Xi, the better the characteristics of Xi will be recognizable.
All this means that many people will actually know one or more persons who are an XIP, without them being famous, notorious, or even conspicuous. However, often they are not recognized as XIPs. They lack these assumed mysterious “Einstein qualities,” like the majority of XIPs.
We remember talking to a manager of the civil service in a large city about our possible client, who we considered to be an XIP (incidentally, just like this manager we were talking to). He stated with certainty that there were no gifted people in his organization, and probably never would be either, since there would not be any adequate work for them.
We managed to stretch his conviction only very slightly, mainly because he considered we could somehow be of value for his staff member.
Uncommonness does not imply excellence
In every million people, one may expect at the least 20,000 XIPs. They may work for all kinds of organizations, they may be volunteers, or even without a regular job. They may be TV-presenters, writers, all kinds of competent artisans, civil servants or entrepreneurs, politicians, sports people, marketers, architects, scientists, secretaries, or even janitors.
Their performance may be excellent, average, or far below average. XIPs may or may not be high achievers.
We do not claim that all XIPs have the innate ability to become the excellent master of their trade, let alone that they will all be effective and most successful.
Special enough to make a difference to themselves
However, we do claim that all XIPs have some uncommon qualities that are special enough to make a noted difference to themselves. They will also make a difference to their environment, if all involved are aware and ready to acknowledge the true situation.
These statements may feel like trying to navigate safely between cliffs and a violent vortex: Claiming that there is this really notable difference that needs to be taken seriously into account, while at the same time moderating exalted expectations of it. This issue is, however, a daily reality to many XIPs, and one of the reasons to consider the theme of Enjoying the gift of being uncommon, as I do in my book.
More role models please!
On the previous page, I already mentioned how it seems to be an innate behaviour of XIPs to downsize their own qualities when comparing them to others. They always know many people who are far more intelligent or knowledgeable within a certain field of interest or proficiency than they are themselves. Ergo, they cannot be that special themselves, and by extension, they typically cannot be an XIP.
Typically, however, that same argument is also heard from these “far more intelligent people” they tend to refer to.
As a consequence, there are very few contemporary XIP role models who are allowed (and willing) to take on that role. Instead, we tend to get stuck with deceased, preferably undisputed, role models from various fields of science. The scientists who have won Nobel prizes, or generally speaking, discovered something most people have some difficulty understanding.
This will not help us very much with identifying that 2-5% of the population.
The tragic waste of overlooking uncommon talents close by
The defining characteristics of an XIP, and the associated body of knowledge about uncommon intelligence, offer practical and down-to-earth tools to help discern these uncommon intelligent people more readily in everyday life. One of the reasons for this: It is far easier to discover their typical qualities without having unrealistic expectations. Is it not a tragic waste of assets to gaze in the distance in search of mythical talents, and overlook valuable uncommon talents right under one’s nose, or in one’s mirror?
If we accept XIPs to be a human variety, instead of being super humans, we can far more effectively enjoy their wealth of qualities. Neither do we have to be surprised about their number and their proximity to us.
Additionally, XIPs themselves will more readily acknowledge their being an XIP. It will help them to concentrate on exploring and applying their talents, instead of restraining them. Comments like “Who do you think you are, you’re no Einstein, you know?” are not very helpful.
XIPs are definitely among us; let us welcome them!