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Falling Short of Our Potential

After physicist Richard Feynman won a Nobel prize for his work, he visited his old high school. While there, he decided to look up his records. He was surprised to find that his grades were not as good as he had remembered them. And he go a kick out of the fact that his IQ was 124, not much above average. Dr. Feynman saw that winning the Nobel prize was one thing, but to win it with an IQ of only 124 was really something. Most of us would agree because we all assume that the winners of Nobel prizes have exceptionally high IQs. Feynman confided that he always assumed that he had. If Feynman had known he was really just a bit above average in the IQ department, we wonder if he would have had the audacity to launch the unique and creative research experiments that would eventually win him the greatest recognition the scientific community can give. Perhaps not. Maybe the knowledge that he was a cut above average, but not in the genius category, would have influenced what he tried to achieve. After all, from childhood most of us have been led to believe that ordinary people don’t accomplish extraordinary feats. Most of us fall short of our potential because of little things we know or assume about ourselves. And the most self-defeating assumption of all is that we are just like everyone else.

Bits & Pieces, September 17, 1992, pp. 7-8