WHO ARE THE KIDS WHO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX?

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It’s twilight, soccer season, my older son,

my eight year old is on the field, and he’s the

goalie. It’s a practice game in the evening.

The score is tied. The field is well lit, almost

glowing, against the chilly November sky. This

is what it is all about. I’m a soccer mom; he’s

a soccer kid. Oh my gosh . . . the ball is coming

to him. I’m so glad I pushed him to all

those practices. I know it wasn’t easy for him,

he wasn’t that athletic, but I thought no pain,

no gain.

“Morgen, you can do it honey, look alive,

the ball is coming right to you,” I yelled in a

voice filled with support and hope for both

him and me. Whew! He’s in position, ready

to get that ball. “What’s going on,” I thought

to myself. He’s looking at the sky, not the ball.

Maybe at eight years old he has his own strategy.

“Morgen, look at the ball . . . look at the

ball . . . look at the ball.” I yelled as I clapped

my hands, cheering him on. The ball was moving

down the field, right toward my son the

goalie. Morgen again looked up to the sky and

not at the ball. Maybe at the age of eight he was

spiritual and was praying to God for a win.

With one last kick from the other team, the ball

was coming directly at him. “Easy recovery,” I

thought to myself. Then to my horror, while

my eight year old was engrossed in something

celestial, the ball went right through his legs

and the other side had scored a goal.

“What were you doing?” I yelled from the

sidelines. With a gleam in his eye, he turned

and looked at me as he pointed to the sky.

“Look Mom, I think I spotted a double star.” I

wanted to cry. Not because we lost the game

and not because he missed the goal. I wanted

to cry because I was trying to make my

wonderful, bright, scientific child something

he was not and never could be. Now it was

time for him to feel good about what he was

about. From that day on, we didn’t look back;

we located programs and activities that utilized

the intellect, insights, talents, and wisdom.

We didn’t stop at go, didn’t push him to

be something he was not, and once we knew

we had a “kid who thought outside the box,”

our family hit the ground running.

Is the “kid who thinks outside the box” primarily a science

whiz kid or math prodigy? Is he or she the kind of boy or girl

hidden behind a thick set of glasses? No way! This child may

or may not have a set of thick glasses, but this child has

limitless potential and an intense focus in areas that are of

interest to him or her. The “mainstream” kid is better

rounded—“jacks of all trades”—which tends to work for parents

and teachers, but, as you will see, mainstream kids also

have “out-of-the-box” qualities.

For a variety of reasons, even the best-intentioned and

most open-minded parent and teacher want their children to

fit in. First and foremost, they believe, it is easier for the

child, whom they dearly love, to have a “light-hearted” childhood

with easy relationships. Sometimes that happens with a

kid who thinks outside the box and sometimes it doesn’t.

While contacting Tori Murden McClure, the first woman

to cross the Atlantic Ocean by herself in a rowboat and the

first women to reach the South Pole, I spoke with her husband

briefly. I told him about the type of child I was writing

about, and he hit the nail on the head when he described the

kid who thinks outside the box as prefocused. I thought this

description was perfect because this kind of kid either knows

who she is and what his interests are at an early age, or,

at least, they definitely know who they are not—certainly a

unique attribute for a child, which clearly exhibits an innate

strong sense of self.

Who are these kids who think outside the box? According

to the 31 world eminent achievers, who contributed their

stories to this book, they are children who have strong determination,

love, and passion for their interests and relentlessly

pursue their goals until their own personal level of success

is reached.

The kid who thinks outside the box, can be Rod Gilbert,

the Hall of Fame hockey player who was temporarily paralyzed

and faced the possibility of having his legs amputated, yet

overcame this obstacle to achieve his lifelong dream and

became the all-time leading scorer on the New York Rangers

Hockey team. This uniquely exceptional child can be Vinton

Cerf, cofounder of the Internet, or Brian Martin, Olympic

medal bronze and silver medal Olympic medal winner for

luge in 1998 and 2002 (and going for the gold in 2006), or

Mario Molina, Nobel Prize winner, who discovered the hole

in the ozone layer of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Our kid who thinks outside the box is not only the scientific

child who will change the world through medical innovation,

she is the kid we think of as a “super” intellectual. The

out of the box child thinks uniquely when it comes to the

pursuit of his or her goals.

Eighteen-year-old Rachael Scdoris, the athlete who overcame

the many obstacles of blindness to become a top contender

for the Iditarod, a grueling 1100 mile dog sled race, is

a kid who thinks differently. Bob Hormats, vice-chairman of

Goldman Sachs international, a man who is as comfortable

and accomplished in the realm of public service as he is in the

private sector, thinks differently. Mr. Hormats’ current focus

is on the advancement of business and financial innovation,

worldwide, but before joining Goldman Sachs, he served as a

senior staff member for international economic affairs on the

National Security Council, and senior economic advisor to Dr.

Henry Kissinger, General Brent Scowcroft, and Dr. Zbigniew

Brzezinski.

I read the narrative contributed by Mike Mullane, a NASA

astronaut, to my brother, who immediately commented that

he wished he were more like Mike Mullane. I was flabbergasted.

My brother, a plastic surgeon, was also a phenomenal

athlete. Upon his graduation from high school, he was written

up in one of the major newspapers in New York for his

unique combination of academic and athletic attributes. His

focus was always on becoming a doctor, and he worked hard

in pursuit of his goal. He seemed to have little use for most

kids. When you walked into his bedroom, the first thing you’d

spot was his homemade sign that read, “no pain . . . no gain!”

When I’d wake up a five o’clock in the morning, there he’d

be at his desk working at some task essential to reaching his

goals.

I said to my brother, “you are like that.” “Maybe,” he said

quietly, “but I think I’m more thin-skinned than Mullane.” I remembered

years ago reading an entry in my brother’s notebook

that talked about the difficulty he had fitting in with

other kids and not knowing what to do about it or how to

handle it. My heart sunk; I felt so sorry for him but helpless.

I immediately showed it to my mother, and she told me she’d

take care of it. Later, he became a star swimmer and with it

came much acclaim. I stopped worrying about him, but I realize

now that life still wasn’t easy for him.

When we need perspective raising our children, my mother

pulls out her famous family story of the day Mrs. Berkowitz,

my brother’s second grade teacher, called to tell her that my

brother was slow and needed special help. “I was going to

pull him out of school and find a special school for him,” she

continues the story. “But your father, said to me, ‘there is

nothing the matter with this kid . . . we’ll work with him,’ and

then the following year he had two fabulous teachers, and

that was the beginning for your brother.” Was it the teachers

that changed my brother’s experience? Was it that he was

maturing? Was it that my parents approached him differently?

Probably all of the above.

These kids may be prefocused, but they are still kids.

They are sensitive, they need guidance, they are vulnerable,

and they need to be accepted for who and what they are. As

a parent, that’s not always easy. We want the best for our kids

and sometimes what we think is best may be missing the

mark. A good teacher or role model can make a kid’s year; an

intuitive teacher, who can relate to an “out-of-the-box” kid,

can make a child’s life.

One of the more interesting phone calls I have received

came from Barbara Levine, a former educator and a mom

with a grown son who was an out-of-the-box kid. “He was different

than other children, more difficult, not what I expected.

I didn’t know how to deal with him. I’m not quite sure

if I was a good mother to him. I didn’t understand him and

you would think I would have and should have, I was a

teacher,” she continued in an emotional tone, “but I wanted a

child who was the same as everyone else’s child. If only had

I known,” she ended the call remorsefully. Michael is now an

accomplished and successful technology entrepreneur.

Why am I writing this book? I’m writing this book because I

am the mom of a son who thinks differently. I am the sister of

a brother who was prefocused and motivated. I am a person

who wishes that instead of working hard to be part of the

group, to be popular and well accepted, someone had made

me understand that there was true and unique value in identifying

my differences. I wish someone told me that the

process of appreciating my unique differences would inevitably

be the key to my ultimate personal and professional

success.

Do mainstream kids have out of the box potential? You

bet! We work so hard at making sure our children fit in. We

embrace our children’s similarities and smooth out their differences

when we should be accepting a child’s differences

and facilitating the expansion of these distinctive qualities

that will inevitably “broaden their horizons” and enhance

their futures. Raising a kid who thinks outside the box or

locating the out of the box qualities of a mainstream child is

hard work for a parent, but when all is said and done it’s

worth it.

This is evidenced by the stories told by our accomplished

group of contributors, who, for the most part, led prefocused

childhoods. Their passion and love for their talent or subject

most times came early. For the most part, they were not

“mainstream kids.” Their narratives are poignant, inspirational,

moving and enlightening.

Over the course of rearing my three children, I have focused

their attention on interesting individuals, who have accomplished

amazing things, as examples of what can be done.

What excites and inspires me daily—and what I try to pass on

to my children—is that there are so many groundbreaking

brilliant people in the world, These men and women are not

necessarily the people you read about in the press every day,

and yet, on some level, they have significantly changed our

lives and the world or met the challenges life has threw at

them with flying colors.

Living legends and eminent achievers have inspired me

throughout my career. Our culture and media tend to focus

on the famous actress, rock star, or athlete when they tell

“success stories.” To me there is no greater success story

than the creation of the Internet, there is not a more aweinspiring

story than Adam Riess’ discovery that our universe

is five billion years older than originally calculated and expanding,

not contracting, as initially thought.

Success comes in all shapes and sizes as the stories of our

“living legends” and “eminent achievers” amply illustrate.

They did not possess a “cookie-cutter” blueprint to success.

And just as there was not one winning road for them, there is

no one particular road for any of us. Each child is an original;

the only one of its kind on the planet with his or her own

exceptional journey. Individuality is the key to achieving their

personal best. I am hopeful that their stories will motivate

parents and kids alike. Each story is different, each contributor

is different, their writing styles are different, their visions

are different, but the one thing that is the same is that they

are all unique in thought, spirit, and personality.

Is there one or several similar factors that allowed our

“eminent achievers” in their accomplishments? What is the

key to the success of our contributors? Are there similarities

in their support systems? Did they have a strong mother and

a devoted father?

Each story is to be interpreted by you the reader, and you

should draw your own conclusions. At times you’ll recognize

your own child or a child you know in a story, and at times

you’ll find yourself. The one thing I am sure of is that our

contributors also had obstacles to overcome and that their

success was a product of hard work, determination, and tapping

in on their unique talent.

They participated in this book to pass along what they

learned from their life’s journey. They felt it important to

pass along to parents, teachers and educators that however

kids begin life, with support and acceptance, they can become

the next great surgeon, inventor, Nobel Prize winner,

police officer, Olympic champion, leader; that is, the best

“individual” they can be. It’s not easy. It never really is. But it

can be done.

This next part of the book contains their stories; they are

inspirational, tenacious, and, in some ways, they are just like

you and me, and like our children. The narratives are written

for both parents and children. The stories, which let us take

a look into their individual journeys, say so much about life,

determination, and commitment. Some are personal and revealing;

others give us an important glimpse into the way our

eminent achievers and living legends look at life. One thing

that shines through is that each of them is unique in thought,

spirit, and personality; each thinks outside the box and each

has dedicated his or her life to personal excellence. I look

up to each and every one of them. I have learned from all of

them.

Kids Who Think Outside the Box is meant to be a “point

of reference” for parents, teachers, and all who are fortunate

enough to have or to know the child who is unique in

thought, spirit, and personality. As much as I shy away from

the word “cool,” in this book I intend to demonstrate that

it is cool to be smart, it is cool to be unique, it is cool to be

an individual, it is cool to be different, and it is cool to see

the world through innovation-colored glasses. That’s the

way Bill Gates started; that was Steven Spielberg’s childhood

reality.

Yes, it is easier for a parent and teacher to have and teach

a mainstream kid. Although all kids are challenging, the mainstream

child better fits the mold and is easier to teach. They

fit into regular sized clothes, they follow the pack, the average

curriculum suits them, and they just make life easy. Their

intellectual parameters are predictable and defined. They are

the norm, the same, and require little additional or innovative

thought when teaching them. The kid who thinks outside the

box is exciting, because there is a wealth of possibility and

originality within that child. When that ability is tapped, you

may discover, living under your roof, a future scientist, leader,

or writer.

This book is for all of you who nurture a special child whose

world revolves around looking at the stars, the child whose

head and imagination is crammed with books about dinosaurs,

fossils, and archaeology. It provides program alternatives

for the child who is the observer of life and captures

the experiences of others in his diary, the kid who may be the

future writer or social commentator of our times, and the

child who falls in love with the luge and may one day achieve

the gold.

Through the personal accounts of dozens of such children,

today’s “living legends,” world-renowned individuals

who have made contributions in a variety of fields—from

the arts to the sciences, you will be inspired by their stories

of what motivated them to reach their personal pinnacles of

success. Their stories illustrate that a childhood is a moment

in time, leading to the path of limitless opportunities, achievements,

and adventures.

Kids Who Think Outside the Box is comprised of three

sections.

Part One identifies the characteristics of the kid who

thinks outside the box. It illustrates the importance of this

child within a group, commmunity, and family. This section

emphasizes to parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and

others the importance of acceptance and respect in regard to

this child who is not the “cookie-cutter” kid. It then provides

strategies and insights from experts to bring out your child’s

fullest potential—those magical qualities that are paramount

to a child achieving his or her personal best.

The second part of the book, “Living Legends and Eminent

Achievers,” consists of 31 personal contributions from individuals

who thought distinctively in their youth and because

of their awe-inspiring individuality significantly succeeded in

adulthood.

Almost every contribution in this section was specifically

written for this book. In some cases it took two years to reach

these notable persons because of their work commitments,