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About the book…
A gifted coach provides insights into brilliance…
The world is getting smarter. Children born today are more intelligent, more sensitive, more capable, and accomplish far more than in the past…
But this high capacity doesn’t guarantee high performance. What can we do–as parents, professionals, and educators—to see these superstars, listen to their worlds, and move out of the way of brilliance?
Alan answers these questions through professional and personal experience, fresh insights from the latest research, and boldness in moving toward a brighter future.
Foreword by Brian Castles-Onion (The Juilliard School, The Met, Australian television’s Play School).
Featuring artwork by Carl Sagan’s principal artist, Jon Lomberg (NASA).
Part 1: Growing up bright
What brightness looks like, Traits of brightness, The world is getting smarter, The source of brightness, Embracing boredom, Behavioural issues…
Part 2: Ingredients for high performance
Seen and heard, Persistence, Resilience, Confidence, Play, Playing full out, Moving out of the way, Personalised learning, Teachers, Music, Personal power, Mentors, Technology, Coaching…
Part 3: Tips for raising brilliance: 100 practical tips for bringing high performance to life…
Praise for Bright
“Bright is a breath of fresh air. Many books have been written on the topic of brightness, giftedness, and talent, but Alan brings something unique to the conversation. A pioneer in his field, Alan brings a deep and sensitive insight into the worlds of bright children. A rare breed himself, he has the gift of anticipating the very next question that the reader has. It is as though he is reading your mind in the best possible way! He expertly handles the subject matter with humour, confidence, pragmatism, and compassion, with a writing style that is accessible, intelligent, and mature. As the parent of an exceptionally gifted child, and director of a school for gifted children, I consider Bright essential reading for any parent or teacher of bright children.”
— Dr Kirsten Baulch MBBS FRACGP GCBA. Parent of a gifted child. Director of Extension Education. www.ExtensionEducation.com.au
“Alan presents profound concepts with a simplicity and clarity that makes powerful and passionate ideas available to readers of all ages and backgrounds. Bright encourages parents and families to realise they have the capacity to become ‘experts’ and to make a real difference in the lives of their highly able children. This is a book I will read more than once!”.
— Dr Gail Byrne MAPS MCEDP MACE. Educational Psychologist. Exceptional Children. www.ExceptionalChildren.com.au
“Bright is a delight. This book is filled with useful information and practical strategies for parents and teachers who want to nurture talents and help children develop their abilities.”
— Michele Juratowitch. Counsellor. Director of Clearing Skies. www.ClearingSkies.com.au
“Bright is a ‘must-read’ for every parent, teacher, or manager who interacts with bright people every day. Alan Thompson writes from his own experience as a bright person and combines extensive research with powerful practical tips. Authentic, passionate, engaging, and innovative—this book will touch your heart and inspire you to the core. Enjoy every page!”.
— Otto Siegel MCC MEd. Founder and CEO of Genius Coaching USA. www.GeniusCoaching.com
“What a delight to experience a book that moves beyond the metric of high IQ towards empowering bright kids to find their passion, persist in the face of adversity, and achieve true joy in life. Alan Thompson’s latest work titled Bright inspires parents and educators to nurture emotionally secure, resilient, confident gifted children who have the skills to find a path towards brilliance.”
— Karen King MAPS. Counselling Psychologist. Brainbox Psychology Clinic. www.BrainboxClinic.com.au
“In his book, Alan Thompson reminds us to trust bright learners: to trust that high ability is like an underground stream that will always find its outlet, if we get out of its way and don’t block its path. He reminds us that adults do not have to push children to achieve, but simply follow their passions. We must not commit soul murder by doubting bright children with the question, ‘Who do you think you are?’ but must listen to and honour who they are. And he reminds us that play = learning.”
— Dr Louise Porter. Child Psychologist.
“What can I say… I LOVED THE BOOK! Bright is a refreshing and informative book that captures the reader’s attention from start to finish. Alan Thompson uses a blend of research and anecdotal information to create a substantive, yet easy to read, text. His use of powerful coaching questions throughout the book provides an opportunity for insight and answers.”
— Jodi Sleeper-Triplett MCC SCAC BCC. CEO and Founder, JST Coaching & Training. Author of Empowering Youth with ADHD. www.JSTCoaching.com
“Alan D. Thompson uses wide ranging and eclectic sources in this clear and coherent primer for parents of gifted children. Using a readily accessible format he leads us through the identification, potential issues, nurturing mental strength, self-control, minimising self-sabotage and how to actively support our gifted children. It’s not about ‘doing it for them’, it’s about ‘letting them do it’. The joy inherent in every page of this book is infectious and invigorating. Bright infuses its readers with confidence and enthusiasm, giving loads of practical advice, resources to investigate, and a set of new viewpoints. An invaluable read for anyone who has taken that first step in identification. Set them up… and step back!”.
— Lise Harper. Educator. Treasurer for Mensa New Zealand.
“In this well-researched and easy-to-read book Alan addresses key issues that bright children struggle with like self-sabotage and lack of focus. The book uses examples to develop reader awareness of the challenges that both parents and their bright children face, and it builds to a stunning conclusion with 100 practical advice tips. While this book is excellent for parents of bright children it should also be read by bright adults!”.
— Diane Spencer-Scarr. Managed Evolution through Digital Engagement. www.Spencer-Scarr.com
“As a teacher who places the utmost importance on the social and emotional wellbeing of the young people I teach, and as a musician with a passionate belief in the power of music, Bright was a heartening read. Although bright and brilliant children are the focus of this book the content is relevant to anyone who nurtures children, regardless of IQ.”
— Gillian Binks. Special Education Teacher.
“I really love Alan’s book, because in addition to helpful advice to parents, teachers, and bright children about how to let brightness flourish, it reminds us of the most important thing we all keep forgetting about: brightness is something to be celebrated!”.
— Marianna Rusche. Psychologist. Mensa Germany.
“Parenting gifted children is hard and it is easy to focus on the negatives. Alan’s book is refreshingly upbeat with a ton of practical advice for families of gifted children. Based on extensive research, this modern handbook is a handy reference for the day-to-day challenges we face.”
— Rebecca Evans. Parent of a gifted child. Director of SWISH Education Australia. www.SwishEducation.edu.au
“A common sense approach to understanding giftedness—a topic that is often misunderstood by parents and teachers. More importantly, this book provides practical down-to-earth yet research-based ideas to maximise the potential of gifted children. It skips the technical jargon and yet summarises relevant research for everyone who wants to understand and support their gifted children and students more.”
— Delia Nicholas. Parent of a gifted child and a registered and practising teacher.
“Thompson’s excitement about the potential of young exceptional minds is infectious. You will marvel at the intellectual capacity of the young people he has worked with. You will reflect on bright people you have come across in your life and understand them just that little bit more. You will want the super bright to be given every chance to become their ‘best selves’, for their own good and for the good of us all. You will relax in the knowledge that this is entirely possible, the toolbox is right here in your hand. A must-read for teachers, parents, and anyone who wants practical, real life guidance in giving bright individuals the environment and space to thrive.”
— Natalie Peterson. Parent. Business Manager for Totally Sound.
“Such an amazing book! It is a real treasure-trove of valuable experiences, expertise, and knowledge. If only we’d had it earlier! Now I can feel the real value of play for bright children and the importance of bringing playfulness, support, acceptance, and optimism to life!”.
— Sonja Kitak. Parent of bright twins. Teacher. Coach.
“I really loved the book… the format encouraged learning, inquisition, and curiosity (the very definition of good teaching and learning). I wanted to shout about how important it was—in this terrifying, rapidly changing world—to have a voice like Alan’s encouraging and celebrating the brilliant minds (and their parents!) that will save us. But I don’t know that I can find a precise and succinct way of expressing this. So, if I was to say anything it is the following: ‘My only regret in reading this book was that I allowed my busy life to get in the way of my reading it earlier!’ ”.
— Neville Talbot. Parent. Music educator. Musician. Conductor. Manager Tetrafide Percussion. Artistic Director Albany Sinfonia.
“Each child has a unique innate claim to live their best life. Bright by Alan D. Thompson vividly illuminates what it means to have a bright child, how to uncover your child’s brilliance, and how to nurture bright children to give their best gifts to the world. An amazing read with many practical applications for everyday life.”
— Travis Bergsgaard. Parent. Writer. Entrepreneur. www.TravisEric.com
Read the Foreword and Introduction
Foreword by Brian Castles-Onion
Right at the “coalface” of brilliance, Australian icon Brian Castles-Onion both works with high performers and is a high performer himself. Whether conducting for megastars like Placido Domingo, José Carreras, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, or for a young international rising star, Brian has a colourful and playful way of being. He has taught at The Juilliard School of Music in New York and worked at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. He is also a regular pianist and presenter on ABC television’s Play School.
Recently, whilst sitting for my umpteenth portrait, the artist was attempting to engage me in a casual conversation to inspire her on-canvas representation of my personality. I am open and honest about most things in life—except my age. That subject came around quite quickly and, when I refused to admit an exact figure or year of birth, she asked, “How old would you like to be?”. That was far more suitable. Being the eternal Peter Pan, I responded with: “Seven… but I loved being four.”
It was an easy question to answer because those formative years are when one’s mind knows no bounds. The world has yet to be discovered and every quest is achievable. When I was that age, my quest was to learn to play the piano. My parents—my father descended from a long line of coal miners, and my mother a dressmaker—had no idea what sparked my interest in music. They didn’t expect it to be more than a passing phase, but I had a determination, a dream, that wasn’t going away. All these years later, I’m still up there doing it, and the passion remains.
I’ve remained in touch with my inner child, and this has allowed me to maintain a career in music over several decades. The Peter Pan in me keeps on seeking the sparkle: that intangible thing that connects me directly to each member of the audience. I get to stand on the Maestro’s podium surrounded by incredibly talented musicians in the orchestra pit, live my emotional life through the singers on stage, joke and gossip with the stage managers, mechanics and backstage staff, and be mentally transported by the music of the great composers.
Part of what keeps me connected to my inner child is working with and around children. On a long-running children’s television programme in Australia I spoke to my young audience through music in many forms and styles—but always simple and fun. On one episode, two of the show’s stars—a teddy bear named Big Ted and a doll named Jemima, both dressed in Ancient Egyptian finery for this scene—seamlessly segued Verdi’s Grand March into Walk Like an Egyptian. I loved it—as did the children.
With a few on-screen appearances as “Brian”, I have been recognised by my small fans on buses and trains, as well as in the Sydney Opera House! During a long run of The Pirates Of Penzance, children would frequently be seated in the front row, just a few inches behind the conductor’s podium. As I’d take my entrance bow I’d hear, “There’s Brian!” whispered excitedly to a parent. At interval I’d chat with the children, let them hold the baton and ask their thoughts on Act One. I’d gain new perspectives and new appreciations as they shared their impressions.
When an opera includes a children’s chorus, I have sometimes been their Chorus Master. I am always amazed by the children’s eagerness to absorb a foreign language, along with difficult music—and perform it at the highest level. It’s not them “showing off”. It’s a hunger to experience everything available in life. There really is nothing more rewarding than embracing your passions, and sharing them with the world. It’s an addiction.
We are all Peter Pan. It’s just that some of us are permitted—encouraged—to follow through with our dreams, reveal our brilliance, and continue being superstars.
I am sometimes asked how I got into coaching high performers (with a focus on helping bright families reveal their brilliance). My life, like yours, has been filled with many twists and turns. For whatever role “luck” has to play, I do consider myself very lucky for having the background that I’ve had, and for the path I’m now on.
Philanthropist William Clement Stone talked about a process called “inspirational dissatisfaction”. It happened to the creator of Netflix, who was sick of paying overdue fees at Blockbuster. It happened to the inventor of the telegraph (and joint developer of Morse Code), after he received a letter informing him of his wife’s death—far too late.
For me, this process of inspirational dissatisfaction also started far too late (or perhaps right on time). It was my first job out of university, and the requirements were strict. The company only accepted the “top 1%” of consultants, something I thought would exclude me. Following a battery of psychometric testing, the CEO pulled me aside, and told me to take further testing. So I did. At the age of 20.
What would have been possible had I known earlier? If I’d been given opportunities to explore myself, and the world? New languages, different courses, bolder directions.
And what would have been possible had I been offered coaching at a young age, perhaps at 10 or 11? Based on my experience, maybe I could encourage the parents of young people to have their children tested earlier and give them the encouragement and support that they deserve.
This feeling, this process of inspirational dissatisfaction, has driven my work with high performers in many industries. I feel I’ve been making up for lost time. In the 10 years between 2002 and 2012, I explored high performers in the world of strategy for Fortune 500 corporations, and at the intersection of creative and technical for the live events/performing arts arena. While the “corporate” side didn’t do much for me, the live events world opened my eyes to the aliveness that comes through revealing—and realising completely—personal passion.
After five years on the road with creative organisations like Opera Australia, Red Bull GmbH, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, I found a unique base and a deeper peripheral passion: life, and the concept of coaching brilliance.
The idea of designing life, architecting life, is something I have always loved. From my first foray into coaching (for myself) back in the early 2000s, to dressing room conversations with some of the world’s rising stars, revealing brilliance and uncovering insights is always exciting and powerful.
A stickler for professional standards and sustainable methods (and as a recovering scientist), I sought out training resources and research findings with the most accomplished coaches and leaders on the planet. Through several innovative methodologies from around the world, I’ve discovered an incredible and distinctive process for hearing your child’s brilliance, and revealing that brilliance for them and your family.
Some writers write to hear themselves talk. Of course, most of the literature available for bright families is heavy with PhDs, MEds, and old people in grey pant suits. Interestingly, many of them sound tired and angry; maybe from fighting the system for too long. Their papers are littered with graphs, bell curves, and clinical numbers.
The content is rich in theory and statistics, but often lacking in humanness. They are almost always light in “lightness”.
This book changes all that.
Written for you, it covers what you need to know, rather than what is available in the millions of dry science journal articles (feel free to browse them at your leisure—they make great bedtime reading!).
Although I understand the science, and I’ve read a lot of the research, most of the theory is meaningless unless it is used with and applied to children in real life. It’s not possible to graph your child’s “passion for counting absolutely everything including nutritional information on food packaging”, or their “motivation to learn to read the newspaper at the age of two”. Those things are tangible, words don’t do them justice. Comic book artist and creator of Calvin and Hobbes Bill Watterson puts it like this:
That’s the whole problem with science. You’ve got a bunch of empiricists trying to describe things of unimaginable wonder.
A handful of the questions in this book are extremely personal. Others dive deeply into the ocean of parents’ and educators’ “need to know” questions. They come from real people—my own clients, members of high IQ (intelligence quotient) societies, curious parents, interested educators—and they all combine a common thirst for more knowledge, more solutions, more results.
I have changed the names of all coaching clients (adults and children) appearing in this book. Some of them are composites based on conversations of coaching sessions. I have also edited and consolidated some questions for readability, and removed the questioners’ names.
My responses have a solid foundation of research and “best practice”—a product of my training as a scientist. They also leverage my time spent working directly with high performers for more than 15 years. Of course, I’ve also intertwined my experiences from the 18 years I spent as a bright child. But, just as in my first two books, there is an aspect of the words written on the page that have come through me.
I haven’t quite worked out where these come from. Experience? Or a more universal expression of support and acceptance?
I encourage you to examine the concepts here. Compare them with your own experience. Some of them seem universal, perhaps even basic. Some may prompt a response in you. That’s a good thing!
The format of this book is designed for different learning styles, with an integration of both science-based research, and practical applications. Each section—each question—includes:
- A frequently asked question.
- A distilled answer.
- A detailed and expanded answer.
- Further questions for both you and your child.
- External resources (including videos, articles, and books) that you can search for to bind everything together.
You’ll notice that I’ve taken a simple approach in uncovering the world of brightness. Research, yes. And stories. Real life.
No reference to medical dictionaries, no long-winded white papers that should have been kept as blank white papers, and no meaninglessly detailed percentages, line graphs, or extrapolations.
I don’t think they belong in this conversation. Famous billionaire Warren Buffett identified this many years ago:
There is a great desire of the priesthood [in this case, academics] to teach what they know vs. what you need. If you know the bible in four languages, your ego won’t allow you to teach the true essentials, which might be ‘follow the 10 commandments’.
This book could be summed up in just a paragraph:
Well done on raising your bright child, on your interest in and commitment to their continued development. A bright child needs ongoing love and support. Their valuable contribution will change the world.
Actually, a paragraph would be too long. I wouldn’t write at all. I would listen to you.
I’ve started many of my seminars with the following quote. It is from one of the founders of coaching, Bill Cumming:
Raising children is more important than any other leadership role on the planet… The way we’re operating with one another needs to shift; it’s not about the doing‑ness… focus on intentions.
Your work—as a parent, educator, or professional—is vastly more far-reaching than just “raising a child”. There is a reason I’ve jumped into coaching for bright families and high performers rather than executives. This is where the magic happens. This is where the groundwork is laid. This is where leaders are created. Not in the boardroom, but in the classroom, home, and neighbourhood.
You only need to remember two things about supporting a bright child. They are the same two things needed for every human being on this planet—including you. And they are not so much about doing as they are about being.
- Give your child absolute support and acceptance.
- Show your child that they are powerful enough to create something important.
Finally, I’m not offering you any advice in this book. Rather, I’m giving you some universal truths about working with high performers, and some reminders for helping uncover brilliance.
But, as a gifted and high performance coach, I can’t provide you with any wisdom you don’t already have. My job is to listen and highlight your own strengths.
Listen to the ingredients and truths here, and you’ll find that anything is possible for you, your bright child, and for the world. As you digest these pages, remember that despite the challenges and complexities involved in accessing a more advanced world—the world of brilliance—you’ve got it already. You are immensely powerful.
Alan D. Thompson
Perth, Western Australia
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