Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Age and Accomplisment

I don't know. Maybe I'm just sensitive because I'm going to reach a milestone age tomorrow, but I'm sick to death of headlines like the one on the current Special Issue of Smithsonian magazine. (Fall 2007) It is . . .

37 Under 36: America's Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences

I don't know about you, but the vaunting of the spectacular achievements of our youth make me feel completely inadequate. It always has, even when I was considered young, mostly because the tone is that if you haven't made it by a particular youthful age, the implication is that you'll never make it. As if all of us must achieve something noteworthy enough to make it into a magazine. As if those of us who don't simply aren't worth breathing the air on this earth. I do not begrudge people their accomplishments, au contraire! Amen and hallelujah to them for what they've done. And, amen and hallelujah to those who plug away at tasks that aren't deemed noteworthy by society, but that are crucial nonetheless. (You go, Mike Rowe!) But, quit attaching an age to the accomplishment, as though somehow we're all supposed to be so impressed by the wunderkind, merely because of the age, without factoring in all of the support the kid has had in getting to where he's gotten.

Because we can't seem to help ourselves on the whole age vs. achievement issue, I'd like to point out my favorite article on the subject, published by Wired Magazine in July 2006. (Yes, I still have the print version.) It's called "What Kind of Genius Are You?" and looks at the research of David Galenson, who studied age and achievement and found that those who blossomed early tended to peak early, but that there were plenty of genius types who didn't hit their creative strides until much later in life. There's still hope for those of us over 36.

P.S. I forgot a link that came through The Rake's Secrets of the Day email today. Apparently, I'm not to only one interested in the accomplishments of older folks. Lizz Winstead, who co-created The Daily Show, is looking for guys over 40 who've always wanted to be in a rock band, but life got in their way, for a reality show called "Ready 2 Rock." Here's a link to a video of Winstead describing the project.

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