What Seth Godin Doesn’t Understand about Gifted People : Goes the other way? I think not!


When Seth Godin writes something people take notice. He is an entrepreneur, founder of ventures such as Yoyodyne and Squidoo and the author of bestsellers such as Linchpin and Purple cow. He has 184,000+ likes on his Facebook page and 246,500+ followers on Twitter.

So when he wrote this blog post at http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/02/goestheotherway.html it caused consternation to many parents, teachers, service providers and advocates in the field of gifted education.

Here is the post in its entirety:

Actually, it goes the other way

Wouldn’t it be great to be gifted? In fact…
It turns out that choices lead to habits.
Habits become talents.
Talents are labeled gifts.
You’re not born this way, you get this way.

It also caused consternation among the characters at Sprite’s Site.

I found Intellectual Dabrowski setting up experiments to test Seth Godin’s assertion.
He had called in the Psych-owl-ogist https://spritessite.wordpress.com/tag/psych-owl-ogist/  to provide background information and Myth Buster Columbus Cheetah to help sort facts from common misunderstandings.

“I have explained various aspects of giftedness” said the Psych-owl-ogist.
Here  https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/the-psych-owl-ogist-2/

Here https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/the-psych-owl-ogist-3/

And here https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/the-psych-owl-ogist-6/

I have discussed Prof Francoys Gagne’s DMGT model and how the various catalysts influence the development of innate giftedness into fully developed talent.
But you need to note that the talents are being developed from already existing giftedness.
Note that the arrow in the diagram points only in one direction!


There is much emphasis today on talent development and that is good.
But talent must not be confused with giftedness.
Giftedness as the Columbus Group definition says is ‘asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm’.
Yes, there is evidence of plasticity of the brain and renewing or changing of neural pathways but becoming proficient at something will not by itself create that initial state of asynchronous development and heightened intensity.
Making good choices, developing good habits, practice and persistence are great character attributes for mastering a talent and should be encouraged.

But the problem I have is with the linking of giftedness to achievement and also the assertion that everyone is/can be gifted. Yes, everyone has areas of ability. Yes, everyone has talents which should be developed and encouraged. Yes everyone is of equal worth as a human being!!!

But no, everyone is not naturally academically gifted. As the film The Incredibles points out “If everyone is special – then no-one is” And if nobody is gifted then we do not need to make any special provisions for their education.
And as Columbus Cheetah says “All cheetahs are animals but very few animals are cheetahs!”

“So Columbus Cheetah and I have designed an experiment” said Intellectual Dabrowski “We know cheetahs are perfectly designed to run fast. They have the long legs, flexible arched spine and enlarged chest, nostrils and lungs.
If Seth Godin is correct we can give Caramel Cat and the Tortoise all the attributes of a cheetah through choice, habits and talent development.
Choices lead to habits.
Habits become talents.
Talents are labeled gifts.
Columbus Cheetah has painted cheetah spots on Caramel Cat and the Tortoise and will be conducting a rigorous regime of training (including concentrated flash carding) and practice, practice, practice in an attempt to produce a cheetah performance and thereby cause an alteration in the very anatomy and physiology of Caramel Cat and the Tortoise.”

“And why are the Pair O’Noids  here?” I asked

“Probably because they recognise Seth Godin as someone with much power to influence public opinion and are concerned that he may add to the myths surrounding giftedness that advocates are already trying to counter.
Also the phrase ‘Talents are labeled gifts’ probably reminds them of the Newspeak of Orwell’s 1984 and the changing chants in Animal Farm
They probably wonder whether Seth was testing public reaction and the reactions of various groups or trying to change opinion when he posted” said Intellectual

Seth Godin’s post was discussed on the Twitter Irish gifted  #gtie chat The transcript can be read here http://www.tweetdoc.org/View/65121/Gifted-vs-High-Achiever

Other blog posts written in reply to Seth’s post can be read here

Pamela Price Red, White & GrewTM

Susanne Thomas Building Wing Span

Sara Wilson Watch Out for Gifted People

Mona Eby Chicks Life with intensity

Peter Lydon Gifted and Talented Ireland

Kate Arms-Roberts

Jen Torbeck Merrill Laughing at Chaos

Jeff Shoemaker Ramblings of a Gifted Teacher

Kim Modolfsky The Maker Mom

Lisa Rivero writing a post for Psychology Today

This post has been nominated as one of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Rapid Responses to the topic “All children are gifted” To read more responses to this topic see


Fine Focus Webinar Part 2

Jo Hart has posted on her E-verything! Blog http://johart1.edublogs.org/2012/11/15/edublogs-webinar-overviews-pt-2-de-bono-action-shoes-for-2e-students-a-serendipity-shared-tools/  an overview of the second part of my Fine Focus session ‘Which de Bono Action Shoes are best for a 2E student on Gagne’s DMGT Road?’

The session was recorded and can still be accessed using the link https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/jwsdetect/nativeplayback.jnlp?sid=vclass&psid=2012-10-25.1520.D.4C3548A84E624FA254CD6511B7CA09.vcr

I began with a brief recap of the first session – see Jo Hart’s post at http://johart1.edublogs.org/2012/10/23/webinar-overviews-edublogs-serendipity-de-bono-action-shoes-for-2e-students/

Topics covered in the recap were

  • Edward de Bono’s Six Action Shoes
  • Gagne’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent;
  • the Six Action Shoes in the context of the Feetspeak Quest Map;
  • a reminder of the six shoes and their relationship to the Gagne DMGT model.

The main focus of the second session was a consideration of combinations and variations in the shoes. We explored the possible combinations of two shoe types to produce modified action plans. I also shared some extra shoe types which I have added  that broaden the program possibilities including Sprite’s plaster cast that symbolizes the support that may be available through eligibility for funding!

We looked at the needs of 2E students and the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. methods of varying the program to make provisions for them

Fine Focus webinar

Last Friday I presented the first of two Fine Focus webinars ‘Which de Bono Action Shoes are best for a 2E student on Gagne’s DMGT Road?’
An overview and the recording of the presentation can be seen on Jo Hart’s E-verything blog at


In preparation the Feetspeak 2E shoes page on Gifted Resources website http://www.giftedresources.org/  has been updated to include links to the resources and websites used as references and here on Sprite’s Site blog we have included posts on de Bono’s 6 Action shoes

Orange gumboots https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/orange-gumboots/
Pink slippers https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/pink-slippers/
Grey sneakers https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/grey-sneakers/
Blue formal shoes https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/blue-formal-shoes/
Purple riding boots https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/purple-riding-boots/
Brown brogues https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/brown-brogues/
and also
More shoes https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/more-shoes/

I will give the second part of the presentation this week. Details about how to join the session and find the time for your part of the world can also be found in Jo Hart’s blog post.

Brown Brogues

“There should be K.I.S.S. Shoes programs!” said Imaginational Dabrowski in a dreamy tone of voice. “You know – Keep It Simple and Sensible – just do what needs to be done to help students find their own niche and succeed.”

“The Brown Brogues in the De Bono’s 6 Action Shoes fill that role” replied Columbus Cheetah.

The Brown Brogues are sensible, comfortable and flexible for practicality and pragmatism. Actions planned using the Brown Brogues would be based on doing what is the most sensible and practical thing.

The programs for gifted students formed by Brown Brogue action planning would be choosing the most suitable option for the individual student which could be participation in full time programs or could be subject acceleration, extension, participation in withdrawal or holiday programs etc.
The key would be tailoring the course to the individual student’s needs and doing ‘whatever it takes’ to create an Individual Education Plan

Individualized programs which could include acceleration, extension, differentiation or whatever it takes appear to work very well and may lead to formal qualifications.
Or they may be the introduction to the specific niche for the gifted student.
And for the twice exceptional student it would mean providing whatever additional support was necessary to address the problems at the same time as providing appropriate challenge.

“I really like these Brown Brogue Action Plans!” said Intellectual Dabrowski. “It means doing the most sensible thing. So that means choosing from the Smorgasbord of Options for Gifted Education (I’m sorry – I do not have the reference details to give proper accreditation for that – it was a handout Jo received at a conference). It means pretesting and knowing the appropriate level to start and identifying any gaps and problems and taking measures to fix them.
It means working at the appropriate level, pace and depth in every subject even if all the subjects are at different levels. It means not being afraid to let students work at a level six years ahead if that is their ability level and finding ways to make that happen by dual enrolment in school and university or working with a Purple Riding Boots mentor.

“And,” continued Intellectual “the Brown Brogues are such a sensible choice of footware for travelling the Gagne DMGT  Road from Natural Abilities (Gifts) through to Competencies (Talents)”

“It could lead to formal qualifications or it could lead to the student finding their own particular niche in some very unusual or specialized area of expertise.
And the world is your oyster if you find your role and your place in the puzzle!” added Imaginational.

“One thing I noticed,” chimed in Emotional Dabrowski is that Sprite has a number of styles of the brown brogues to choose from – some look quite firm (almost as firm as the Blue Formal Shoes) and some are soft suede like material and look as comfortable as the Pink Slippers.  Some of them are made from the same materials as the Investigative Grey Sneakers and coloured brown which shows how sensible the Grey Sneakers are too. One pair had a camouflage print – ideal for blending in naturally without a fuss; even though what she would be doing is the sensible thing for her and might be quite different from what the others are doing.
And I noticed her Can Do Velcro strap adjustable sandals sitting beside the Brown Brogues and thought that they are very much the same. They are not covered in shoes like the Brown Brogues but they are flexible and adjustable and Spite is able to wear them quite comfortably. It is always good to know that something you have been doing has been on the right track!

Purple Riding Boots

“What Sprite needs is a mentor” declared Columbus Cheetah “She needs a mentor who shares her passion for science especially astronomy and it would be even better if you could find her a mentor who has overcome the same difficulties that Sprite is experiencing!”
“You should look into some of the Purple Riding Boots Programs.”

Sprite had proved, when given the opportunity in the Grey Sneakers Investigation Programs, that she had the ability to comprehend material several years beyond her age grade level; but because of her learning differences and difficulties had not been able to fit into the Blue Formal Shoes programs which included most of the formal programs for gifted students.
The work she had completed in the Orange Gumboot Emergency Plans program had demonstrated that she had leadership potential.
She had felt comforted and supported in the Pink Slipper Compassionate Care Programs but her intellect had not been challenged by them.

The De Bono 6 Action Shoes Purple Riding Boots lead to action plans emphasising leadership, command and authority.

The De Bono 6 Action Shoes Purple Riding Boots lead to action plans emphasising leadership, command and authority
The programs formed by purple riding boot action planning would be Leadership skills programs, Mentoring, Biographical studies.
They could also be creativity and artistically based programs.

Programs for gifted education which focus on Leadership skills programs, Mentoring and Biographical studies can prove very effective in helping the student to determine their path and find a role model.

The program can be undermined if the mentor proves unsuitable but if successful these programs can be a powerful influence in the development from giftedness to talent and great assistance in travelling the Gagne DMGT Road from Natural Abilities (Gifts) through to Competencies (Talents).

“I love the idea of a mentor for Sprite!” said Imaginational Dabrowski “She could go and listen to her giving lectures and show her the things she has been working on and the mentor could suggest books for her to read and send her encouragement notes. And if the mentor has overcome difficulties too she could help Sprite not feel embarrassed about wearing one pink slipper. And she could come and visit and we could all look at the stars together”

“And” said Imaginational “If Sprite takes part in some Purple Riding Boot Leadership programs she might even become a role model herself!”

Blue Formal Shoes

Have you ever gone shopping for shoes and found that the style that you really, really liked was not available in your size?

That was what happened to Sprite when it came to the De Bono’s 6 Action Shoes Blue Formal shoes.

The Blue Formal shoes are rigid and solid and represent adherence to guidelines, formal routines, drills and procedures.
The gifted programs designed by using the Blue Formal Shoe Action Planning method would be full time dedicated gifted programs, withdrawal programs or select entry residential programs for gifted students.
They would be fast paced, accelerated, above grade level courses for highly motivated, high achieving students.
They would have stringent selection eligibility criteria and selection would usually be by scholarship examination or nomination by the teacher.
There would be no flexibility in regards to moving into and out of the course.

Sprite had demonstrated her exceptional giftedness by performing so well in the Grey Sneakers Investigations programs that it had been suggested that she could apply for Blue Formal Shoe programs.

This is how it was supposed to work

Intellectual Dabrowski and P’est pour Parfait, the perfectionist poodle thought that the Blue Formal Shoe programs represented the ideal solution for gifted education and were exerting pressure on Sprite to attempt to fit in. They considered that the Blue Formal Shoes would be the most suitable shoes for travelling Gagne DMGT Road from Natural Abilities (Gifts) through to Competencies (Talents).

Imaginational Dabrowski could foresee problems with the rigid structure which did not seem to allow for outside the box thinking and Sensual Dabrowski did not think the blue formal shoes would be a comfortable fit for Sprite.

Emotional Dabrowski was upset because she could see how much Sprite wanted the Blue Formal Shoes. She was concerned about how the Twice Exceptional Sprite would feel if she found that because of her learning difficulties she was not able to keep up with the fast pace and large amount of written work expected in the Blue Shoes programs.

Grey Sneakers

“I’m really optimistic about the De Bono 6 Action Shoes Grey Sneaker plan for Sprite’s education!” Columbus Cheetah told me.

“This plan has real potential for getting Sprite all the way along the Gagne DMGT Road  from Natural Abilities (Gifts) through to Competencies (Talents). As long as they let her work at the rate she can manage and are not too restrictive and formal Sprite will enjoy having the opportunity to research topics!”

Grey Sneaker plan programs are based on investigation, exploration and gathering evidence.
The possible Grey Sneaker plan programs for Sprite could include contract learning, project work, passion based projects, incursions and excursions, communities of inquiry, philosophy and metacognition programs, investigation of learning styles and brain research.
They may lead to formal qualifications and may be the introduction to a life-long love of learning.

And the beauty of the Grey Sneaker plan programs is that they are not only focused on Sprite learning by investigation, exploration and gathering evidence. They apply equally to the teachers; who will be finding out about Sprite’s abilities and challenges in order to help her achieve. They will be attending PD sessions and searching for information about learning styles and assistive technology. The best teachers are those who are life-long learners themselves.

The Grey Sneakers plan programs are flexible enough to allow for variations in the methods of teaching and researching and in the way in which the information gathered is presented and assessed.

I found Sprite in the garden happily investigating the night sky.
“I’m doing my homework!” she said. “I have to do a project about a topic I love, and I can use any assistive technology I need.”