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Have you ever met someone and thought, "Wow. He/she is Human 2.0"? There are some individuals who aren't just a little smarter than other people, they are playing in a whole different arena. My first experience with a person like this was a class I took from professor Moshe Lazar at USC. He spoke a dozen languages and had incredible insight on topics ranging from comparative theology and linguistics to mathematics and physics. Moshe was also an inspirational educator, the kind of guy who made you want to rush to the library after class. I think he may be partly responsible for my Wikipedia addiction :-) A few years ago I ran into another educator, Meheroo Jussawalla, who reminded me a great deal of Dr. Lazar. When Meheroo, who is 85, first walked into my lecture on managing distributed software teams, I didn't expect her to start asking me about IPv6 adoption in Japan. I had the opportunity to chat with her briefly after my talk. She gave me what I can only describe as a brain buzz.

During my time at USC I had the pleasure of taking a master class from musical genius Branford Marsalis. It was a truly humbling and inspirational experience. My favorite part was his answer to the inquiry, "Where do you look for inspiration?" Answer: These days, mostly ancient Chinese music. He proceeded to show us how he was integrating riffs from ancient Chinese songs into his jazz work, and it sounded fantastic. Branford simply breaths music.

I often wonder what combination of genetics and environmental factors conflate to create such an individual. How much of it is random? How much of it is hard work? How much of it is good genes?

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Comment by Nate Sanders on March 15, 2009 at 12:45pm
If you haven't already (and you likely have, as his stuff is so hyped these days), you may want to check out Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. I sometimes end up shaking my head at some of Gladwell's methodology (often unscientific), but it's tough to deny what a good storyteller he is and how provocative his research topics are.


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