Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
What does it mean to be gifted?
We often come across children who display exceptional levels of aptitude or competence in one or more domains. While early analyses depended highly on standardized IQ (Intelligence Quotient) tests, the focus has since shifted to a broader spectrum of cognitive abilities. There has been growing recognition that having a high IQ is not the only indication of being exceptionally gifted and that abilities such as creativity, critical thinking, intuition and a high EQ (Emotional Quotient) are just as critical and precious.
Often with exceptional cognitive abilities come social and emotional challenges such as isolation, depression or a feeling of underachievement. Some people are what are known as twice-exceptional – meaning they are both gifted and have disabilities. These disabilities may include dyslexia, attention deficit and visual perceptual difficulties among others.
With these qualities being exceptionally rare, it is often difficult to identify a gifted child. Even more difficult for a child to find like-minded company or support and mentorship while growing up. With the internet bringing people closer across boundaries, there is a growing awareness about giftedness and several High-IQ societies now have global online forums and members can communicate online. Today, on OK, Intrnt, we speak to Nathaniel “Nth” Bar-Fields, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of the Elysian Trust – a non-governmental organization dedicated to identifying and supporting different cognitive abilities in adults and young people that may ordinarily be overlooked. Nth qualifies for the Prometheus Society (among others), a highly selective High IQ club with an entrance test designed to be passable by 1 in 30000 of the population. He is a self-employed data analyst–largely due to his dyslexia, which results in him seeing data in a nonlinear way that most other analysts cannot do.
What is the Elysian Trust? When and how did it come into being?
The Elysian Trust is an organization I created to help identify people with high-range and unusual cognitive abilities. Most people tend to think about only IQ but there’s been a lot of recent studies suggesting that there are plenty of other cognitive abilities besides IQ so I decided to create a whole bunch of societies where each targets a specific ability or aptitude. The Elysian Trust is the umbrella organization of all these societies.
What kind of abilities are we talking about and how rare are they?
The cognitive abilities include everything from IQ and Emotional Intelligence to Intuition, Creative Thinking and Critical Thinking. As soon as we get the right testing instruments for other cognitive abilities, we would be adding them as well. Each one, we try to assess at the 99.9th percentile. However, some cognitive abilities have testing instruments that go only up to the 99th percentile.
“Schools see a kid with ADHD – but don’t know what to do with this kid, even if the kid is crazy brilliant” – @NthBarFields
— OK, Intrnt (@OkIntrnt) April 22, 2015
What is the size of the organization and what are your members like? What are the demographics?
All together we have slightly over 500 members right now. We’re fairly new, we started in 2012. Most of our members are concentrated in the United States or Canada but we have members from Mexico, India, Kenya, a lot of members from Europe. I could go on!
I think our youngest members are about 19 and our oldest members are in their 70s. Gender-wise, it depends on the societies. Different societies seem to have a different gender breakdown. Some societies are overwhelmingly female and some are overwhelmingly male.
What are the societies that are members of the Elysian Trust?
Wavelength – the Emotional Intelligence society. SOLAR or the Society of Lady Reason is the critical thinking society. The high-IQ society is called Volant. The high intuition society is called Trishula. The creative thinking society is called Interrobang. We also have a collective intelligence society that we’re working on – that’s called the Hard-Problems Club.
Who is the Elysian Trust for? Is it to support people with different cognitive abilities or is it to channelize these abilities for a broader social impact?
Membership-wise, it’s to help identify people across the planet who have these really unusual skills and mental abilities. To help them figure out the best way to utilize these skills, to help them network with each other, to advance themselves as best as they can. There’s also an outreach element so it’s also about the society at large. We believe that these people are untapped resources for the world and once they’re in a position to do great things, they’ll also be in a position to do great things for the community.
Why do you think there is a need for such a society?
Unfortunately a lot of countries have a very narrow understanding of what it means to be gifted or talented. On top of that, even people who are recognized as being talented or gifted, they don’t have the easiest path in life. We’re just trying to help identify these folks and then help them get them to where they need to be. There’s no other organization that’s really tapping into such a wide-variety of abilities. They may focus on just one and may often overlook when a person has an ability but also has a challenge. A person may have a high IQ and have dyslexia. You can have high empathy and be bipolar. You could be poor or come from the wrong socio-economic background or from the wrong race, religion or sexual-orientation. We don’t care about any of that – we just see the talent and see the potential.
We are only just now getting used to the term twice-exceptional. Sometimes in schools, they only see a challenge. They see a kid with ADHD – they don’t know what to do with this kid, even if the kid is crazy brilliant. You may have a housewife who has done anything beyond high school. Now she has free time, she’s creative, she has great ideas but she doesn’t have any network to capitalize on. The Elysian Trust can help her with that.
How has the Internet enabled you to create the Elysian Trust?
I don’t know how we’d have been able create the Elysian Trust without the Internet. It has accelerated what would have otherwise taken several years for us to work together. We’re able to have group discussions across six different time-zones. We’re able to network on larger projects, able to orchestrate meetings. Though it still hasn’t replaced word-of-mouth that we still rely on to get almost 3 out of 10 of our members.
What kind of projects does the Elysian Trust take up?
So far we had done small projects, where companies approach us for some advice. A school project that we’re now working on is quite extensive. They’re basically trying to overhaul the school system in Oklahoma where the system would be able to adapt to each student. For them, we’re working on collaborating with Johns Hopkins University to help with online teaching for kids, we’re doing grant-writing for them and we’re helping them with their budget. It’s a little bit of everything – which is why it’s so nice! With members, you just don’t know what a member needs. One member was just accepted to Harvard. But she can’t afford to go – so we’re helping her raise funds. We’ve bought airline tickets for members so they can travel. Basically, we’re trying to do whatever that needs to be done in order for them to achieve their goals.
Have there been cases where a member had not identified the gift that they had and then they got help from one of your societies?
We had one member who dropped out of high-school. I admitted him to Volant after I saw him in a couple of other discussion groups. He networked with people within Volant once he joined and now he’s a software engineer with Microsoft! We have another member who is autistic. He was really bright but didn’t finish high school. He discovered that he is very intuitive. He realized he’s a pretty fast learner and he studied body language and it turns out that he’s actually very good this. Now he does consulting for a company to spot liars! We tested one member and found out that she’s pretty intuitive and we worked with her for a while to find out that she’s very good with binary intuition. If you give her a question that’s either/or she can solve it as long as she doesn’t think about it. She used that ability to make a lot of money at roulette! She donated quite a lot of that money to the Elysian Trust.
What kind of services do you offer to the members and the community?
We have an online discussion forum. We do planning for social events and meetups. I went to grant-writing school, so I’m a grant writer. We’re doing grant-writing for the school right now. We’re also able to do grant-writing for members. A lot of our members have an entrepreneurial spirit and need funding. That’s where we come in. We’re working on getting a marketing and patenting service. We also help people find jobs and we’re working on making a more structured service to offer to our members. All the member services are free.
There are some outreach services that we do for the rest of the community. We offer talent scouting and talent management services to businesses and organizations. We offer a free and accessible information resource to the general public about the various aspects of neurodiversity in the community. The various think-tanks run by the daughter societies perform advisory work in their area of cognitive specialty. Elysian also establishes local support chapters for neuroatypical students in brick-and-mortar schools. That’s all for now but we keep working on new things.
If there are organizations or institutions who want to identify special talent in their organization can you help them? Or if there is someone who seeks personal help too.
Sure! They can get in touch with me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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