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For years, creativity has been believed to be a personality trait or attribute that dwells within an individual. When I was a preparatory school boy, my fourth grade teacher once told me that a person may not have much control over his/her own intelligence. The same statement was repeated to us again by a biology teacher at high school. She said that one’s intelligence is determined by genetic factors and was established at birth. In my first year at college, our psychology professor admitted that a lot of researches have been done and it has now been approved that an individual’s intelligence solely depends on genetics. He further elucidated that various efforts made to raise the intelligence of children usually have very minimal impacts on their intelligence levels. He argued that in real sense, the success of such trainings usually slide back a few days after the trainings are stopped and the children could go back to their previous low intelligence levels. These three persons, the fourth grade teacher, biology teacher and psychology professor, concluded that intelligence, and more so creativity, cannot be improved or advanced. I assumed that perhaps they surely knew what they were talking about with regard to human creativity and brain capacity.
I was convinced to the level of agreeing with whatever they said, because after all they were superior to me. However, I did not completely agree with these postulations. Once I read in a book about the Darwin Evolution Theory that explained how animals would survive in harsh environments. Darwin believed that it is only the fit animals that would survive the changes of their environment hence the notion “survival for the fittest”. This made me believe that if an animal can change and adapt to the surroundings, then it must have increased its intelligence as well. It shows a certain level of being creative. This belief made me view the challenges that I have been facing in life very differently. I see challenges as openings, foundations and stepping stones for coming up with more creative ideas.
One of the most embarrassing problems I have ever faced was when I failed in a practical test at college. I was tasked with creating a Database system for our Information Technology class that would help in retrieving all relevant information about all the students in the class by a mere click of the mouse. In the database, data pertaining to all students would be fed into the computer systems and could be retrieved as per requests of the users. The task was really challenging because it entailed intensive programming using the C plus plus (C++) programming language. Various issues such as creation of user accounts, log-in passwords, protection of data from unauthorized manipulations, reliable performance of the database system, compatibility with other already installed programs and privacy and confidentially of the stored information were some of the crucial factors that I had to take into account.
In order to effectively succeed in accomplishing this task, I had to read lots of voluminous books, ranging from computer science and information technology to programming and systems management. Additionally, I had to frequently consult with my tutor, fellow students and employees of the college who were the potential users of the system to be developed. It was a highly challenging task, but I had enough confidence that I would succeed. I believed that I had the potential to achieve this goal successfully.
It took me 2 months to come up with the final database. When I finished, I handed over the database system to the tutor for testing, and possible implementation and incorporation into the college systems. Unfortunately, the program could run but with difficulties. Its speed was slow and could not prevent unauthorized users from accessing it. This meant that it had to be reprogrammed. According to my tutor, there were certain security measures that had to be improved in the system. This required another two weeks or more of programming and coding. I felt tired and bored, but whenever I recalled an advice that I was once given by my mother, that a person should keep on trying and trying until he/she succeeds in whatever he/she does, I felt encouraged and empowered to continue. I embarked on making the necessary corrections in the programs of the database system.
When I handed over the database to the tutor again for another trial, it worked. I felt lucky. I felt successful. I was thrilled from within and imagined of being next Steve Jobs of the world. Two of the biggest lessons I learned were the drive to thrive until one succeeds, and that challenges should never draw us back, but rather ignite the fire of working even harder in whatever one endeavors. I viewed creativity as a resulting factor from the challenges we encounter in our surroundings. It is the outcome of trying to solve our daily problems. As mankind searched for solutions to transport problems, motor vehicles and aero-planes were invented, when wars and conflicts rose between nations, guns and bombs were invented and when the cure for malaria was needed, Quinine was discovered.
I would conclude that intelligence and creativity are not only based on individual’s genetic characteristics, but it is something that can change depending on the environment or situation of that particular person. Situations thus make us more creative. The environment can change the way we think and act. Challenges and insight problems actually increase our creativity. We should thus pursue goals that are not easy to achieve, because this results into increased intelligence and creativity. It makes us smarter.