When Jacob Barnett was age two, his parents were told that he was autistic and would never talk, think, tie his shoes or learn. Now, a highly accomplished 13-year-old in the areas of physics and mathematics, with a masters degree in astrophysics, Jacob articulately explains to an audience of kids at a TedX conference that they should “forget everything they know.” He counsels them to find their passions and “make the transition from learning to thinking to creating.” Sound familiar? Watch:
Jacob explains, “In order to succeed, you have to look at everything with your own unique perspective…. That means that when you think, you must think in your own creative way, not accepting everything that is already out there. Your perspective might be the only way you can see art or history or music or whatever.”
At age ten, Jacob learned high school math and college-level calculus in order to pursue his passions of physics, astrophysics and mathematics at a university. At his entrance interview he accidentally spilled a pile of coins all over the counselor’s floor. The counselor saw him as scattered and (no he didn’t pull a Rain Man scenario.) The counselor rejected his application. So instead, Jacob said, he “stopped learning and starting thinking about a specific problem in astrophysics.” He thought about the problem for about two weeks and explained, “ after drawing hundreds of multi-dimensional shapes and putting in my own perspective, I solved the problem and created an original theory in astrophysics.”
He now challenges kids to take 24 hours and not learn anything. In place of studying, he asks them to think about their passions and “instead of being a student of that field, be that field, whether it is music or architecture or whatever, and maybe you can create something.”
Jacob’s parents did not stop when they saw that Jacob was not interested in finger-painting or other preschool activities like the other kids. They obviously looked past the behaviors they initially saw to find the greater Jacob. Jacob remembers that what might have looked like blank stares to others, was really his process of looking at and thinking about things with great details.
Jacob’s passion is driven by a naturalistic intelligence in combination with a logical/mathematical intelligence. He uses his linguistic intelligence to articulately express his findings.
You can reach Jacob though his website at http://www.jacobbarnett.com/jacob-barnett.html He loves to get mail and may not answer everything due to time restraints, but he does read everything.