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Interviews with Monika Orski, Chairman of Mensa Sweden


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): WIN ONE/Phenomenon (World Intelligence Network)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/05/04

An Interview with Monika Orski

Monika Orski is the Ordförande/Chairwoman, Mensa Sverige/Mensa Sweden. She discusses: family background; development in early life; learning of giftedness; nurturance of giftedness; investment in the gifted and talented; families and friends and guidance for the gifted, and a myth about gifted peoples’ social skills; precision in the definition of Western Europe and the provisions for gifted peoples in it; geniuses in the more precisely defined geography of “Western Europe”; high-IQ as never being a detriment; and feeling connection with one’s cultural heritage. 

Keywords: Chairwoman, Mensa Sverige, Mensa Sweden, Monika Orski, Ordförande.

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In terms of geography, culture, language, and religion/irreligion, what is personal family background?

Monika Orski: I was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. My parents had immigrated from Poland just over a year before my birth, the effect of an antisemitic campaign that resulted in many Polish Jews emigrating, among them a few thousand to Sweden. Thus, I’m first generation Swedish. Or, in the parlance of official language as well as large part of the public view, second-generation immigrant.

The Jewish inheritance in my family is a matter of culture and ethnicity, not a religious one. I was not brought up to care about any religion at all. Which, by the way, fits well into the general, relatively secular Swedish culture.

As for language, my native Swedish has always been supplemented with the Polish that remained the everyday language for family life in my childhood, and that my parents still use when we talk. Then, I was taught English and French in school. I consider this early access to multiple languages a real treasure.

2. Jacobsen: How did these multiple facets of family background feed into early life for you?

Orski: It’s all part of me, of course. Being part of a minority is a very basic experience, and in some ways defining. I never had a choice not to be visibly ”different”, and I’m sure it has shaped a certain outlook. I am, of course, as much of a consensus seeker as anyoneSwedish, but I am not afraid to stand out when needed.

Also, I am aware that family background was an important influence when I chose my field of work. I studied literature in parallel with computer engineering, but it was always clear that the serious, long-term part was to become an engineer. It had to be something that wasn’t language dependent, something that could be used more or less anywhere in the world. An element of “just in case” was always part of the equation.

Not that I ever regretted being a software engineer. Today, I have been a freelancing consultant for a long time, mostly in the area of solution architecture, and also do other things on the side. I am a writer with books published, and I offer lectures on leadership, mostly based on my experience within Mensa.

3. Jacobsen: When did giftedness become a fact of life for you, explicitly? Of course, you lived and live with it. The key, when was the high general intelligence formally measured, acknowledged, and integrated into personal identity and loved ones’ perception of you?

Orski: It was formally measured when I took a Mensa admission test at age 21. But there was no change in either personal identity or loved ones’ perception caused by this formal measure. By then, I was a student, and had been considered – and considered myself – intelligent since childhood. For better or worse.

4. Jacobsen: Was your giftedness nurtured in early life into adolescence? 

Orski: Yes and no.

I was lucky to grow up in a family where academic success was encouraged, or even expected. I guess we fit the stereotype of a Jewish family, at least in that way. Also, there were always books around, and while my parents often tried to make me spend more time outdoors, they were never opposed to my copious reading as such.

School was another matter. I was not a top-grade student, but I did well enough, while I was horribly bored by school work and had no chance to learn how to actually work to gain knowledge. Being different didn’t help the social interaction either. For quite a long time, a day without physical violence would count as a good day, and there were not that many good school days.

In class, I was often used as an unpaid teaching assistant, starting somewhere around the age 9 or 10. Then, I was a child, and only saw that this singled me out even more, and certainly didn’t help. But as an adult, I am most appalled by what those teachers did to my classmates. Imagine you are eleven and have some trouble following the class in math – and then you are supposed to be taught by a frustrated ten-year-old. Doesn’t that sound like a failsafe way to turn temporary difficulties into permanent failures? Although with time, I actually learned some pedagogical skills, mostly the hard way by trial and error.

5. Jacobsen: Why should governments and communities invest in the gifted, identification and education?

Orski: First and foremost, because every child should be allowed to explore their potential, and feel validated in doing so. Of course, it is more important to teach everyone the basic skills: read and write etc. However, if that is the only level you measure your education system by, you have already given up.

There is the individual point of view. People are not happy when they are kept back, and while adults always have at least some opportunities to counteract this themselves, children usually do not. Even more so when they know they are somehow different from those around them, and are left with only the negative consequences. Also, if you don’t learn how to work to learn things, you will probably experience a sudden change at some point, when you no longer can absorb everything without effort. If that happens before you are old enough to understand it, it will probably cause a traumatic decline of self-esteem.

There is also the society point of view. Many of the gifted will end up in regular, but qualified careers, and thus benefit society as a whole. But there is more to it. If allowed a broad education, some of those gifted children will shape future fields we do not even have names for today, and provide huge contributions. Some, of course, will choose other paths, not visibly using their intelligence in career or public life, but the community will benefit in those cases too. Overall, the number of gifted trouble makers, in schools as well as far beyond, will be less if everyone gets the chance to explore their potential. We cannot know in advance who will end up where, but we do know that either way society as a whole will benefit from investing in their education.

6. Jacobsen: How can families and friends help prevent gifted kids from a) acting arrogant and b) becoming social car crashes (with a) and b) being related, of course)?

Orski: There is a prevailing myth that intelligent people have poor social skills. In fact, research shows the contrary. There is a positive correlation between intelligence and social skills.

That said, all children have some tendencies to see themselves as the center of the world, and act accordingly. This is perfectly natural. It is true that in gifted children, an arrogance rooted in their giftedness would be a common symptom of this tendency. Like all children, they need to be taught to interact with others, and called on behavior that is not acceptable. That would include to let them know that kindness is usually more important than specific skills, as well as more important than an ability to learn quickly.

Another aspect is that all children need to have peers they will consider equals. When other gifted children are not a natural part of a child’s environment, the most valuable assistance family and friends can provide is to help them find them. This can be done via aMensa youth program, or a chess club (if they like chess), or a choir (if they like singing) or online gaming (if they like games), or some other context that brings people of similar interests and gifts together. Of course, I am personally very much in favor of the Mensapath.

7. Jacobsen: How well-established and funded is the acceptance and nurturance of the gifted and talented through the formal mechanisms of the countries in Western Europe? 

Orski: Western Europe is a very diverse area, and it’s hard to discuss it as a whole. In short, every country has it’s own educational system. Now, I’m not sure how many European countries should be included when using a term like “Western Europe”, but to provide some understanding of the diversity, remember the European Union currently has 28 members, and that not all European countries are part of the EU.

However, among the things we do have in common one comes to mind when discussing education. Tuition is financed by tax money in most European countries, including university tuition. The access to university education is subject to many things, and will again vary between countries, but no potential student needs to worry about whether their finances, or those of their parents, will allow them to pay for their education.

To narrow down to an area I do know, for a few years Sweden has a law stating that in elementary and secondary school, every pupil should be allowed to learn and develop to their potential. In practice, this is far from being the case at every school, but at least there is a general framework that is supposed to help nurture all children, including gifted children.

Among the things we are most proud of within Mensa Sweden, is the Gifted Children Program (GCP). Our GCP-volunteers offer schools a free 2-hour education on giftedness for their staff. Thus, we help not only gifted children with parents who recognize their talents and seek ways to nurture them, but also children we never meet, as their teachers are taught how to recognize them. This year, between them our 40+ volunteers give 2-3 such lectures a week.

8. Jacobsen: Western Europe produced a number of great geniuses. Who comes to mind for you? What periods of time represent the largest flowering of intellectual progress in this region of the world?

Orski: Again, I would like to start with the proviso that Western Europe as a concept is diverse and without clear delimitation.

Among those who come to mind for me are scientists Isaac Newton, Carl Linnaeus, Marie Curie and Albert Einstein; philosophers Spinoza, Voltaire, Hegel and de Beauvoir; writers Cervantes, Dante, Shakespeare, de la Fayette, Goethe, Austen, Heine, Lagerlöf, Strindberg, Ibsen … I could go on at length regarding writers.

Intellectual progress spreads over the long history of Europe. Not being particularly well versed in the history of ideas, I will however venture the guess that the age of enlightenment (17th – 18th century) represents a flowering with effects also seen in the 19th century, and that the Romantic era (late 18th – 19th century) represent a surge in arts and literature that is still relevant to these areas today.

9. Jacobsen: How can a high-IQ be a detriment in life?

Orski: High-IQ itself is never a detriment. On the contrary, high-IQ makes many things in life easier, and there is research indicating a positive correlation between intelligence and many desirable things, such as longevity and health.

However, high-IQ can have detrimental side effects. Being and feeling different always has its downsides, especially while you are very young. Even a child who is told ”you’re really gifted and that makes you different in all sorts of good ways” will only hear ”you’re different”. Those who do not know about their intelligence often feel like aliens, not being able to understand why they don’t think the way most people around them do, and they often draw the conclusion there is something wrong with them.

This is part of why the acknowledgment of high general intelligence can make a fantastic difference in an individual’s life. Suddenly they get the tools needed to understand why they feel the way they do. Even more important, they gain an understanding that helps them look for peers they can feel equal to, sometimes after half a life of feeling inferior because they perceive themselves as different.

10. Jacobsen: How can ethnic heritage provide a bulwark for confidence in life? Something of a pride or happiness in heritage and culture, and tradition, but not in the accident of birth with ethnic grouping.

Orski: I agree, to feel pride in the accident of birth with ethnic grouping would be like pride in the color of your eyes – basically meaningless and in my view inconceivable.

While I can see a point in discussing pride in heritage, I am rather reluctant to use the word pride in this context. A feeling of connection and history is a better description. The heritage of culture will always be part of every one of us, and it’s usually good to feel a connection and continuity within it. Also, such a connection can foster feelings of responsibility, and a will to do good in and for the world around us.

A 2nd Interview with Monika Orski: Ordförande/Chairman, Mensa Sverige/Mensa Sweden

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What have been the books written by you? What topics tend to be the focus for you?

Monika Orski: In this area, I am a typical mensan, in that my activity is diverse. This far I have published three books, each of them very different from the others.

My first book, in 2007, is an introduction to open source software. There was no such book in Swedish, and I saw a need for it, as part of my computer systems related consulting work.

The second book, in 2011, is a young adults novel. It tells a story of friendship, incipient romantic interests, and mental illness. When it was published, I often got the question whether it’s autobiographic. It is not.

The third and most recent book is a collection of short stories, published in 2017 but written over many years. The short stories are partially intertwined, with most of the main characters part of a Jewish family in Stockholm, Warsaw and Jerusalem. Again, I often get the question if it’s autobiographic. It is not, but of course I have used settings I am familiar with, and in part processed stories I have heard.

If things turn out according to plan, there will be a fourth book published next year, 2019. This time around I go back to nonfiction, for a book on leadership of the highly gifted, largely based on my Mensa experience.

2. Jacobsen: Also, why those topics for the texts?

Orski: Well, they are all topics that interest me. I always write something or other. Some texts reach publication, others do not. Writing is a hobby I find rewarding in itself, even when it does not produce tangible results.

I also look to what is currently topical in Swedish literature, as for the young adults book, and of course to what I know about, as in the nonfiction. All in all, there are many factors shaping the choice of topics, and I am aware that I am probably unaware of half of them. Like most writers, I would presume.

3. Jacobsen: Let us talk about the different functions and facets of Mensa Sweden: how many members? 

Orski: Around 7,000 members, and the number increases every year. With Sweden’s circa 10 million population, we are the national Mensa with the highest number of members per million inhabitants, which we are very proud of.

I also find it noteworthy that the only other national Mensa at a similar level of members per million is Mensa Finland. Since many years, we have a friendly competition with our neighbours for this first place. There are larger national groups, of course, but no other is even near the same numbers per million.

4. Jacobsen: What demographics remain a part of Mensa Sweden? 

Orski: Well, we do not really keep statistics of demographics regarding anything but age and gender. The average age of Swedish mensans is 36. We have around 25 % women, 74% men, 1% others / unknown gender.

As a side note, the success rate of candidates who take the admission test is slightly higher for women than for men. Not a large difference, but visible. Thus, if we could only persuade as many women as men to take the admission test, the gender balance would even out with time.

5. Jacobsen: What other Mensa groups frequently associated with Mensa Sweden?

Orski: All the national Mensa groups, currently around 50 of them, are associated under the realm of Mensa International. But there are also regional cooperations, and we are very happy about the close cooperation we have between the Nordics, i.e. the national Mensas of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

6. Jacobsen: What does Mensa Sweden provide for its members?

Orski: Mensa is member-driven, and almost all work within the organization is done by volunteers. This means the most important service we provide are ways to meet other members, and decide what to do together. There are local meetings spread around Sweden, organized by members who simply announce a pub meeting, or book a lecturer and a room for the lecture, etc.

There are, of course, larger meetings organized by groups of volunteers and supervised by elected Mensa officers on the board. There is also a magazine published 8 times a year, by volunteer editors and with contributions from members.

Then there is the opportunity to help out as a volunteer in the Gifted Children Program I mentioned before, and many members see this as a key function. It is a very tangible way to contribute to one of the three stated purposes of Mensa: to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity, to encourage research in the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence, and to promote stimulating intellectual and social opportunities for its members.

8. Jacobsen: What is the average standard deviation IQ score of the members?

Orski: The criteria to join Mensa is the same all over the world, to score among the highest 2% on a supervised intelligence test.

We prefer the use of percentile to IQ scores. To still answer the question about scores: Intelligence is normally distributed. Assuming a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15, a passing Mensa score is 131 or above.

9. Jacobsen: What is the relationship between Mensa at 2-sigma and other high-IQ groups at 3-sigma and 4-sigma?

Orski: In short, none. Mensa is by far the most well-established high-IQ group, and has no direct relationship to any other group.

Of course, there are members who also join other groups, like Intertel (1%) or Triple Nine (0.1%) or ISPE (0.1%). In my experience, those who do usually stay in Mensa too, and are more likely to continue their Mensa membership than members of any of the others.

10. Jacobsen: There seems to be a widespread loss of the gifted and talent for the benefit of society and the fulfillment and meaning, in their own lives. How would you recommend Sweden move forward in the identification, education, and utilization of the young gifted and talented population?

Orski: I’m not at all sure there is such a widespread loss. Of course, most of the gifted people I come across are members of Mensa, which means they are in the relatively small group that wants to join a high-IQ society. Among them, far from everyone has any sort of visibly intellectual career, but that doesn’t imply they cannot be happy with their life and benefit society.

That said, I still think that much can be gained if gifted children are identified and given an education proper to their needs. If schools learn to identify them early, they can be taught in slightly different ways, to cater to their intellectual conditions and needs. Most important, they should not be held back. It can make a significant difference just to allow a child to sit quietly and read about something s/he is interested in, instead of having to explicitly wait for their classmates to accomplish a task they themselves were able to do in a few minutes. Not only does it let them do something meaningful, it also gives them a feeling of being rewarded for having done the standard tasks, instead of being punished for completing them faster than others.

11. Jacobsen: What programs exist in advanced industrial economies for the gifted and talented that could easily be implemented in Sweden? 

Orski: There are probably many good programs I am not aware of. Then, every educational system has its problems. However, I think the schooling systems of France and Finland would probably be interesting to look to for hints, as both tend to produce good results.

12. Jacobsen: What gifted and talented programs would take the longest to establish in Sweden but would have the greatest long-term impact on the intellectual flourishing of the country?

Orski: In my view, the greatest long-term positive impact would be produced by a shift of focus in university education. Today, it is mostly about training students for specific professions. We have university education for teachers, psychologists, engineers etc – but to gain a broad education that spans over several subjects is hard, not in terms of the actual learning process but in terms of being able to put such an education together. The system is designed to streamline student throughput, not to let them explore several possible talents.

Gifted young people should be able to combine subjects more easily. If they are allowed to find new combinations, and follow their usual multiple talents, some of them will be eminent in fields that do not even exist yet. But that takes a shift in education as a whole, and especially a shift that would allow university students to still pursue a specific field, but also let them create new combinations for learning.

Also, there remains the basic imperative never to punish gifted youth for being gifted. It is not as easy as it sounds, as every educational system has to be mostly adapted for the average, for practical reasons. However, I think much can be accomplished by the general approach that no one should be held back.

13. Jacobsen: What are some informal education and practical life skills the gifted and talent should acquire if they wish to pursue a life in writing?

I will start with the things everyone who wants to pursue a life in writing should do: Read, read, write, read, write and then read some more. You need to be truly rooted in your language, you need to know about other literature in your field, and you also need to read classics to be able to relate to current writing, including your own. If you do not enjoy reading, writing is not the path for you. Also, writing is a craft. It takes practice.

The next thing is, remember that very few writers can actually live off their writing. This is especially true for all of us who work in small linguistic regions. Here, the gifted usually have an advantage. Most highly gifted people have multiple talents, and thus it is easier to pursue a “daytime job”, or another parallel career, as well as being a writer.

Another important practical thing is to find peers to exchange text analysis. Find other writers at about your own level, and form a group that will share text and help each other by criticism. It is important that you should not be in the habit of praise each other’s texts, but actually criticize. That is the way to learn, and also learn to pay more attention to the strengths and weaknesses of the text before you. This group should, ideally, contain writers from different walks of life and with different intellectual skills.

14. Jacobsen: What are some prominent cases of when a known highly gifted person went wrong, e.g. antisocial, violent, and so on?

Orski: My Internet search is no better than that of anybody else… It has been widely published that the “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski is probably highly gifted. The same things are said about another terrorist, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Of course, I have no way to corroborate these claims.

High intelligence is no guarantee against mental illness. Neither is it a guarantee for high morals. Unfortunately, there is no sign that the highly intelligent don’t go wrong about as often – or as seldom – as those of average intelligence.

A 3rd Interview with Monika Orski: Ordförande/Chairman, Mensa Sverige/Mensa Sweden

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How does collaboration work with the other Mensa chapters? What have been some of the collaborative projects worked on together?

Monika Orski: There is formal cooperation, to shape the rules that make Mensa chapters around the world all stay part of the federation. Then there is informal and semi-formal cooperation, mostly to create opportunities for members to meet.

Within Europe, there is a semi-formal cooperation around an annual common meeting, known as EMAG (European Mensa Annual Gathering). Formally, it is hosted by a different Mensa each year, but previous and future organizers cooperate closely for every event. I have attended every one since the start in 2008, and they have all been great fun. Also, I was the coordinator when we did one in Stockholm, in 2012.

Within the Nordics, we have a more recent common annual meeting, known as the Floating Mensans, as it is always a cruise between two of the countries. We have done two this far, had good success, and expect this meeting type to continue. We also cooperate to try and help create Mensa groups in neighbouring countries where Mensa is not yet present. In addition, I think all Nordic chairs are very happy about an annual chairs’ meeting, when we exchange experiences and best practices and offer each other support when needed.

2. Jacobsen: How have the other chapters been helpful in the development of Mensa Sweden?

Orski: The very first Mensa group in Sweden was founded in 1964 by a member of American Mensa, Jay Albrecht, who lived in Stockholm for a few years. Without that seed, who knows if we would have the thriving national group of today.

Then, there is always an exchange of ideas. For example, when Mensa Sweden had a large revision of our bylaws around 15 years ago, we got many good ideas from Mensa Norway, who had done a similar revision about a year earlier, but we also picked up some ideas from Mensa Hungary. More recently, we have been able to use experiences from Czech Mensa in discussions about paper publishing or e-publishing of our Mensa magazine, seen some interesting ideas from Australian Mensa regarding young members, etc. We are all part of an international organization, and that is among the key strengths of Mensa.

3. Jacobsen: Some individuals work to reduce the diversity of the possible programs for an individual student’s training. Some recent news items arose in the feed for me. With respect to the training and education earned in various disciplines including the typically higher-prestige and higher-paying jobs mentioned by you, what might shift the emphasis from the siloed education typified in some modern post-secondary education – for a teacher, a psychologist, or an engineer, and so on – to a  broader base? An education for someone with the more plural, life-long intellectual interests rather than the singular professional ones.

Orski: There seems to be a continued development towards more streamlined, and siloed, education. My guess is that it’s mostly driven by short-term economic reasons, but it can also be perceived as making it easier to find the right education for a student with a purpose to pursue a specific profession. It would certainly not be easy to shift the other way, into a broader base.

One step towards such a broader base would be to allow students to start out with two, or even three, parallel courses from start. Let the multi-talented, and the multi-curious, try out several paths without a clear-cut switch between them. Then, let them continue – one path or several – and add more learning, some of which can be from entirely different disciplines.

While I think the general tracks for education into specific jobs also needs to remain there for those who know that one of those tracks is what they want, it should also be made easy to put together the required parts of such a track from the multi-course track, for those who start out there and then want to be qualified for a certain profession. Even within the specific job educational tracks, there should be room for, and time for, the possibility to also take some courses in other disciplines.

Not an easy change, of course. But in the long run, it would benefit all students.

4. Jacobsen: In personal and experience and knowing the data better than me, what differences exist between girls and boys, men and women, with respect to general intelligence? What similarities exist between them too? Do these considerations influence the provisions of Mensa Sweden?

Orski: In short, as far as we know there are no such differences. At least, I have not heard of any serious research that showed such differences and could be repeated.

There are many theories regarding this topic, usually spread along with claims of ”natural differences” that any quick examination will disprove as things that have differed over time and differ between cultures. These assertions are usually made by people with a clear political agenda, and do not merit anything but the quick examination that disproves them.

As far as I know, there has actually been one scientific study that showed a small difference between men and women regarding the spread of intelligence. According to this study, while the average intelligence of men and women is the same, there is a small but measurable predominance of men in the extremes of intelligence – very low intelligence as well as very high. However, the study has been criticized for not having enough subjects at these extremes to be statistically significant, and no one has yet been able to recreate the results.

As I mentioned before, we do see a small but clear difference among those who take our admission test, in that women are more likely to “pass”, i.e. score among the top 2%. But there is absolutely no proof that this shows a general difference in intelligence. After all, only a very small portion of the population take our test, and among those who do there are many more men than women. It seems probable the difference in ”pass” percentage simply exposes a difference in how sure of their own high intelligence women and men need to be to go take the test.

5. Jacobsen: If someone is a layperson and has an inkling someone in their life is gifted, what non-professional observational clue would indicate the various levels of the giftedness of this person in their life? The signifiers, maybe not universal but probably indicative, of the person being gifted, highly gifted, even profoundly and exceptionally gifted.

Orski: The highly gifted usually display some combination of the following traits: thinks fast, asks many questions, quickly infers more information from what they are told, has many ideas, has multiple interests, has more than one profession, likes in-depth discussions, likes to learn new things, has a well-developed sense of humour, learns easily. Many are also high achievers, and set extremely high standards for themselves. Sometimes impossibly high standards, that they would not dream of setting for anyone else.

In children, you can add that they are usually early in many things. Read early, pass intellectual milestones early, develop an interest in world events and adult conversations early. They also tend to be easily bored, and can have some trouble in interactions with other children. Regardless of whether they find other children they like to spend time with, they also tend to like solitary activities.

None of those traits are universal, of course. But if you see several of them in someone, they are likely to be highly gifted.

6. Jacobsen: Regarding punitive educational philosophies and methodologies, what seems like the more typical forms of punishing the gifted for being gifted?

Orski: Holding them back, is my short answer. I know many stories of young children who, when they showed their teachers they had done all the exercises in their textbook, were told to ”do them over again”. As if there could be nothing more for them to learn. And of course, they often get explicitly told to hold back, and try and adjust to the average pace of their classmates.

7. Jacobsen: We watch the unique flourishing of women in most areas of education, especially in undergraduate education in the developed nations. Girls and young women continue to opt into the world of education. Boys and young men seem to opt out more now. Girls and young women had various ceilings imposed on them for a long time, especially in the world of education. Boys and young men did not have the ceilings. Now, though, they seem to have the problem of a motivational ceiling – of sorts – imposed on themselves. Why the gap in education attendance, completion, and performance between girls and boys, and young women and young men?

Orski: I doubt that anyone really has a good answer to this question. As you say, there seems to be sort of motivational ceiling, or motivational deficit. Formal education is considered less important, partially as an effect of the growing importance within our whole society of personal characteristics and certain sets of social skills, at the expense of knowledge. And areas considered less important are usually left to women.

We also need to remember that the exact same behaviour will be assessed differently, depending on whether the person doing it is male or female. We all learn this so early, it is almost impossible to fully counteract it in our own reactions, even when we are aware of it. For some reason, judgements of boys not making an effort to take in the education they are offered seem to be much more tolerant than they are of girls with the same behaviour.

Many boys and young men seem to expect to get good jobs and incomes without having to make any sort of effort. There is such a tendency among some girls and young women too, but it is much less common. At the other end of the spectrum, more boys seem to give up early, and expect nothing more than to gain a kind of respect from their peers by the ability to use their fists, or at worst, the ability to procure and use weapons. But as to why this is so? I have no answer.

8. Jacobsen: What are the pitfalls and main difficulties of a life in writing?

Orski: The first difficulty is to actually sit down and write the text. I have met many persons who say ”I would like to write a book”, but what they really mean is ”I would like to have written a book”. Most of them never even try, of course. I guess someone with very strong character and determination could write a book only driven by the wish to have written it, but most of us need to like the writing itself to do it.

To like writing means to like hours by yourself with your text. There are sometimes good hours of progress, but sometimes also very slow hours when things simply will not work out, until you tried tens of different ways to put your words down. The ensuing frustration and criticism of your own work go with the territory.

Then, there is the obvious difficulty of having it published and, most crucially, read. Today, self-publication is easy, but to get readers without a publishing house to help is very difficult. I would strongly recommend to try and get the help of old-fashioned publishing house publication. Even then, as I mentioned before, only a few writers can make a living out of their writing, especially if you work within a small linguistic region.

9. Jacobsen: What have been some of the activities and memorable dialogues and decisions made through the EMAG?

Orski: Over the years, there have been workshops on improv theatre, math, dancing, geocaching, Wikipedia, singing, martial arts, meditation, creative writing and many other topics. Among the lectures, the topics range from business to science and from art to language studies. To mention a few, this year in Belgrade in August, I heard very good lectures on Behavioural Economics and on Nikola Tesla. I also gave a lecture this year, on leading intelligent people, with a bias towards the challenges and joys of leading Mensa volunteers.

There is also a tourist program every year, a great opportunity to see a town you might not have visited otherwise. But the most important part are the mensans, old friends you see every year and new ones you meet for the first time. I have had very interesting conversations on climate change, EU politics, complex computer systems, health issues, data protection, dating life, education of gifted children, midnight sun, and how to mix a drink – just to mention a few from this year.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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