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Becoming exceptional with three simple things+ #44

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It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. -Dumbledore, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Hi, this is the GenWise team– we bring out this newsletter to help parents and educators to complement the work of formal schools and associated systems. We can help our children thrive in these complex times only by exchanging ideas and insights and working together. We are also a founder-member of the Gifted India Network– if you are interested in issues related to gifted education and talent development, an easy way to keep updated about talks, programs and resources is to join the Gifted India Network telegram channel (https://t.me/GiftedIndia).

In this week’s main post ‘Becoming exceptional with three simple things’, Aakash Chowkase who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Gifted, Creative, and Talented Studies at Purdue University, argues that to be deemed exceptional, individuals must combine high levels of competence, commitment to task and concern for others.

Join this conversation on learning, by commenting on our posts or writing to us.

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Becoming exceptional with three simple things


Upcoming Events

Becoming exceptional with three simple things

This week’s post is written by Aakash Chowkase who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Gifted, Creative, and Talented Studies at Purdue University. More about him at the end of the post.

Many of us aspire to be exceptional, don’t we? Some use words like gifted and talented to describe exceptionality in humans. I ask YOU what makes a person exceptional?

Almost certainly, many of you may have immediately thought of outstanding abilities and skills that make a person exceptional. Let’s call this competence. One can easily recall the examples of extraordinarily flexible gymnasts and timeless poets who mesmerize us with their special abilities and skills that almost look like magic to us. Certainly, one needs such remarkable competence to become exceptional.

But is competence enough for a person to become exceptional?  We can certainly think of many competent people who did not have a focus in life and thus failed to become exceptional. Sometimes we encounter children who have immense potential to achieve amazing things but fail to do so because they do not work hard enough. Thus, one needs remarkable dedication to stick to a task to achieve anything great. Let’s call this commitment to task. Can a scientist meet with any discovery without patiently trying out hundreds of experiments? Can a brilliant student excel in a high-stakes test such as an Olympiad without any devoted efforts? I believe the answer is pretty clear. No! The point being one needs a strong commitment in addition to competence to reach exceptionality.

But imagine a competent and committed leader who treats their colleagues unfairly. Imagine a successful businessperson who cares not about the environmental impact of their business. What these individuals lack is a concern for others’ wellbeing. Having a concern for others becomes extremely important for one to become exceptional in a world that is hyperconnected where the smallest of one’s actions can have an astronomical impact on others. For example, when one’s plastic ends up in someone else’s food, it can threaten their existence. A conflict between two nuclear powers threatens world peace. Excessive share in power by one group marginalizes other groups for generations. Then, can we continue to allow the indifferent experts, people who are competent and committed but not concerned, to run the world? That is disastrous, Isn’t it?

To sum up, I believe true exceptionality lies in developing high competence, remarkable commitment to task, and a deep concern for others.


Competence makes one efficient.


Commitment makes one an expert.


Concern for others makes one empathetic.


But collectively, all three make one exceptional!

Where do we stand as teachers and parents on this path toward developing true exceptionality? How much of our effort is geared toward making our children become not just competent and committed but concerned? How often do we model empathy and compassion through our behavior? How deeply do we care about others? If at all we want to make this world a better place, I believe we need to work more on the third C, that is, developing a concern for others in ourselves and our children. That is when we can live the dream of a sustainable, equitable, just, and most importantly, humane world.

I recently published a paper on this 3C conception, that is, competence, commitment, and concern, in Gifted Education International, a free copy of which is located here (Hyperlink: https://aakashchowkasedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2022/01/pre-print-chowkase-2022.docx). See the table below for a quick summary of this paper.

How to read the table?

People around us are usually good at one or more of the three things we discussed in this article—competence, commitment, and concern. Using combinations of these three, I created seven different profiles of exceptional people. I argue that as educators or parents, we may start with one of the first three profiles (the competent, the committed, the concerned) and move toward becoming one of the next three profiles (the indifferent expert, the amateur altruist, the committed thinker). However, all of us should aspire to become the person in the seventh profile—one who is developing their full talent by combining competence, commitment, and concern for others!

Please share your comments and questions in the comments section below, or write to the author at chowkase.aakash@gmail.com.

About the author:

Aakash Chowkase is pursuing a Ph.D. in Gifted, Creative, and Talented Studies at Purdue University. He is the former coordinator of Purdue’s Gifted Education Research and Resource Institute’s Summer Residential Programs. Before his Ph.D., Aakash worked with Pune’s renowned Jnana Prabodhini educational institutes for 11 years. He holds a Bachelor’s in Engineering, a Bachelor’s in Education, and a Master of Arts degree in Education. He is a passionate teacher and loves to work with students of all ages, especially adolescents. 

Upcoming Events

All events listed below are free unless indicated otherwise. However, registration may be required for the free events too.


James Webb Space Telescope: Unfolding the Mysteries of the Universe is part of the highly popular Chai and Why series from the cool TIFR outreach team and is scheduled on Sunday, Feb 6, 2022 at 11 AM. Zoom, YouTube & FBLive links available here. Here’s what the session blurb says-

The James Webb Space Telescope, JWST, is the largest and most sensitive telescope ever flown into space. With the sensitivity 100 times that of the Hubble Space Telescope, JWST will provide us with an unprecedented view of the Universe, allowing us to peer into the cosmos to observe the first galaxies that formed, looking back at almost the beginning of the universe; it will also search for signs of life on other planets and try to answer questions regarding dark energy and dark matter. With JWST now launched, join us to find out why, when, where and how about this amazing mission.

About the speaker: Mr. Mayank Narang is a final year Research Scholar at the Dept. of Astronomy and Astrophysics at TIFR. He works on star and planet formation and exoplanets. He is also a part of two JWST proposals.

If you are in Mumbai, you can attend the session in person. Entry at Prithvi Theatre shall be in accordance with covid related guidelines applicable on date. Adults must be fully vaccinated (i.e. more than 15 days since second vaccine dose), please have the vaccination certificate ready to show. Wear proper mask all the time and maintain social distancing as per the theater seating norms.


Summer Programs from GenWise (Residential)- May 8- May 29 (Paid)

India’s premier talent search platform, Ei ASSET Talent Search (ATS) and GenWise are strategic partners. ATS identifies gifted students and GenWise delivers programs to nurture gifts. Watch Ei ATS Gold/ Silver/ Bronze scholars sharing their experience at GenWise programs here- 

Registrations are now open for 3 residential programs in May 2022, all running concurrently at the same campus- For Ei ATS Gold/ Silver/ Bronze scholars         -GenWise 2022 (entering Gr 8,9,10)         -GenWise Jr. 2022 (entering Gr 6,7) Open to all interested students          -Genesis 2022 (entering Gr 8,9,10) Please check this post- https://bit.ly/GenWise2022Substack and this presentation for more details- https://bit.ly/GenWise2022programsPPT The academic enrichment component of the program provides diverse opportunities to students to identify and pursue their interests- Artificial Intelligence, Mathematical Thinking, Leadership, Forensic Investigations, Urban Sustainability, Creative Writing and Engineering Design are just some of the options available. All the programs above are however much more than their academic enrichment component and the goal of the program is to help with the development of the whole child-read more about the benefits of GenWise programs at https://bit.ly/WhyGenWisePrograms Safety and comfort of students is ensured by a high quality team of Residential Counselors, trained and managed by the experienced Site Director and Residential Head. The adult:student ratio is 1:5 or greater. Call Vishnu @9342247734 or Rajesh@9840970514 or write to gifted@genwise.in.


Identifying and Nurturing Giftedness in the Early Years– this panel discussion on Sat, Feb 12 at 6 PM is part of a series of events from the Gifted India Network of which we are a founding member. You can view more details about the session and register for the same here.

This discussion would be most relevant to parents and teachers whose wards (in the age range 4-10) may be displaying unusual ability, though others will also find it useful. Our 3 expert panelists will share common issues, tips for parents, options available for enrichment, and address participant questions.

The panelists are-


Dr. Bhooshan Shukla, eminent child psychiatrist and parenting coach who has worked with several gifted children in his clinical practice. https://www.genwise.in/our-instructors/Bhooshan-Shukla


Dr. Devasena Desai, from the Kaveri Gifted Education Centre (KGERC). She has designed the teacher training programs at KGERC based on the work of Belin Blank Center, Iowa, USA, and also offers individual guidance to parents of gifted children. https://kaveri.edu.in/kgec/


Dr. Rhoda Rosen is Associate Director at Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development (CTD). She oversees CTD’s enrichment programs for young students, including summer, weekend, and online courses. Additionally, she leads parent education initiatives and is actively involved in professional learning and school outreach. 


Giftedness- Parent Perspectives– this panel discussion on Fri, Feb 18 at 6 PM is part of a series of events from the Gifted India Network of which we are a founding member. You can view more details about the session and register for the same here.

Being the parent of a gifted child can be both joyous and difficult. Keeping the child sufficiently challenged and engaged is a common issue. Sometimes fitting in socially and finding the right peer group can be a challenge. Often, parents do not even know whom to approach for guidance as gifted students are few and far apart, and schools are often not equipped to address the needs of such students.

In this panel discussion, 3 parents of middle/ high school children and one young adult will share their experiences and tips that will be useful to other parents and educators. The parents will talk about how they identified giftedness, whom they approached for help, mentors and out-of-school experiences they found useful, and other challenges they faced. Participants (both parents and educators) are also encouraged to share their experiences during this session. 

The session will be moderated by Vishnu Agnihotri, co-founder of GenWise, who has been working with gifted students since 2015. 


Present Data-based Insights as Comics, facilitated by Gramener, a leader is data-based storytelling

Most often, insights from data analysis get buried deep in traditional communication formats, never to see the light of day. Data comics, inspired by the visual language of comics, serve the important insights and information on a platter. They are simple, “catchy” and can evoke emotions, which makes them a powerful medium to engage audiences. We are all familiar with them, yet we’ve rarely used them for data storytelling. Join this workshop for students aged 13- 17 years, on Sat, Feb 26 from 6 PM to 7 PM, to know more about communicating data effectively through comics. This is a hands-on session where students will be given an exercise and will start working on it during the session and present it. Students will take the exercise home and submit it on Comicgen Friday, a regular event that students can continue to participate in on an ongoing basis.

Check out Gramener’s works on Data Comics, to know more. Seats are limited- register here to receive the link for the session.

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