THE BLOG
06/24/2014 02:31 pm ET Updated Aug 24, 2014

Who's to Blame for Your So-Called Career? Surprise!

Writers like Malcolm Gladwell have been pushing the notion that all you need to become a genius or even an expert at just about anything is work. Do I hear RuPaul?

They've been so persuasive psychologist Ellen Winner says it's now widely believed that if parents put in enough work, "it may not be all that difficult to produce a child prodigy."

Whoa. Think about it: Butt-kicking parents can churn out kids whose books could rival Zadie Smith, whose music would crush Queen Bey, whose -- hell, fill in your own blank. The list is endless because juggernaut parents can get their kids to do anything. It's all about work, and wanting it enough. Them. Us. Boom.

I come from a mathematically gifted family. My mother's father was a statistician; my mother tutored her peers in mathematics; my older brother aced every math class he ever took. But from kindergarten on, the simplest computations were torture for me.

I was a good little student in most every other subject, yet when it came to math I was like a hamster in a cage: going nowhere fast. Nothing made sense to me. Didn't matter how much anyone tutored me or how hard I tried. Math might as well have been Klingon.

And it didn't help that one year in elementary school, whenever math rolled around, I had to switch my seat with other students and move to the Doofus Row for the hour. That same teacher would terrorize all of us by pointing her finger around the room and yelling "seven times seven" and so on at lightning speed to see who remembered the multiplication tables. Even if I had magically absorbed my homework, her nasty finger pressed my delete key.

That finger humiliated me and anyone else who didn't spit out an answer fast enough. So does this new thinking that hard work outweighs talent. Because the insidious smiley-face propaganda cruelly spreads shame. Are you that hamster now? Well, it's not bad luck, it's not lack of talent, it's not too much competition. Nope, your career's in the crapper because nobody tried hard enough. Not you, and most definitely not your loser parents. Plain and simple.

If only Mom and Dad had believed in us more; worked us harder; pushed us to the max, we wouldn't spend so much time in therapy. Which we probably suck at, too.

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