in the process of chastising linus about his lack of discipline, eric raymond makes some of the most lucid comments i’ve ever read regarding the “curse of the gifted” [it’s amazing to me that he just tore this off in an e.mail]. i certainly think the particulars of this e.mail can be generalized. i’ve got the bruises to prove it:

“When you were in college, did you ever meet bright kids who graduated
top of their class in high-school and then floundered freshman year
in college because they had never learned how to study? It’s a common
trap. A friend of mine calls it “the curse of the gifted” — a tendency
to lean on your native ability too much, because you’ve always been
rewarded for doing that and self-discipline would take actual work.

You are a brilliant implementor, more able than me and possibly (I say
this after consideration, and in all seriousness) the best one in the
Unix tradition since Ken Thompson himself. As a consequence, you
suffer the curse of the gifted programmer — you lean on your ability
so much that you’ve never learned to value certain kinds of coding
self-discipline and design craftsmanship that lesser mortals *must*
develop in order to handle the kind of problem complexity you eat for

“But you make some of your more senior colleagues nervous. See, we’ve
seen the curse of the gifted before. Some of us were those kids in
college. We learned the hard way that the bill always comes due —
the scale of the problems always increases to a point where your
native talent alone doesn’t cut it any more. The smarter you are, the
longer it takes to hit that crunch point — and the harder the
adjustment when you finally do. And we can see that *you*, poor damn
genius that you are, are cruising for a serious bruising.”

“I used to worry about what would happen if Linus got hit by a truck.
With all respect, I still worry about what will happen if the
complexity of the kernel exceeds the scope of your astonishing native
talent before you grow up.”

[via genehack]

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