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Publisher's Summary

A powerful and inspiring examination of the connection between the potential for great talent and conditions commonly thought to be "disabilities", revealing how the source of our struggles can be the origin of our greatest strengths.

In The Power of Different, psychiatrist and best-selling author Gail Saltz examines the latest scientific discoveries, profiles famous geniuses who have been diagnosed with all manner of brain "problems" - including learning disabilities, ADD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism - and tells the stories of lay individuals to demonstrate how specific deficits in certain areas of the brain are directly associated with the potential for great talent. Saltz shows how the very conditions that cause people to experience difficulty at school, in social situations, at home, or at work are inextricably bound to creative, disciplinary, artistic, empathetic, and cognitive abilities.

In this pioneering work, listeners will find engaging scientific research and stories from historical geniuses and everyday individuals who have not only made the most of their conditions but who have flourished because of them. They are leaning into their brain differences to:

  • Identify areas of interest and expertise
  • Develop workarounds
  • Create the environments that best foster their talents
  • Forge rewarding interpersonal relationships

Enlightening and inspiring, The Power of Different proves that the unique wiring of every brain can be a source of strength and productivity and contributes to the richness of our world.

©2017 Gail Saltz (P)2017 Macmillan Audio

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Dr. Pollyanna

At the beginning of the book, the author says she asked all the people she’d interviewed if they could eliminated their “brain difference” would they? Apparently not. No matter how much they had suffered, they couldn’t imagine “separating their strengths from their weaknesses.” (I’m having a hard time believing that statement.) I knew then that the doctor who wrote this book was going to take the Pollyanna approach to some pretty debilitating things. Hey, people! Here’s the absolutely fabulous upside to depression, schizophrenia, dyslexia, ADD, OCD, anxiety, PTSD and more. And that’s just what she did.

In no way does she deny how wretched things are, but she plays up the benefits to a ridiculous degree. You have OCD? At least you have a tidy house. You have dyslexia and it takes you five times longer to read than your classmates? Oh, but you are more prone to be artistic! You have dysthymia (chronic low-level depression that stops short of incapacitating you—you always get out of bed and go to work, unlike major depression where you may be nonfunctional for months.) Well, I’m so glad that my dysthymia makes me a more realistic person, a more empathetic person, a more creative person. All true, what she says, but seriously. If someone said I could live my life over without depression, I would. Even if I would be overly optimistic and less empathetic and creative. I know or have known various people who fit into all these categories except schizophrenia and none of them would choose these “brain differences.”

Because yeah, the benefits OCD: My friend who walked over an ice cream stain on the sidewalk in tennis shoes and spent hours obsessing that she was going to get HIV from it, asking me, “Are you sure it was ice cream? Are you sure there’s no hole in my shoe? Are you sure you can’t get HIV from the sidewalk? Are you SURE SURE SURE SURE SURE? 25 years of things like that. Let’s see, the up side is that there was never any expired milk in the fridge.

My friend with anxiety: Apparently the up side to this is that you are better able to read faces and situations. I’m sure that helps her in her work as a therapist. I am equally sure she’d rather not spend her days feeling like she was going to explode out of her skin.

I could go on with the examples, but I’ll stop. The “positive” aspects of most of these things generally do not outweigh the negative. And I felt like the author was like a parent telling her kid how special the kid was, how the kid can do anything he wants when he grows up. But then it turns out the kid is average and actually CAN’T do anything he wants because he’s just not smart enough to be a doctor, a world class chess player, a mathematician—whatever. Again, Dr. Pollyanna does say that not everyone is a genius so their brain “difference” (Oh, good God. Let’s call it what she won’t: a disability.) might not be as super cool as she paints it, but she parades some pretty successful people before us as examples of how their disabilities actually helped them. I think they did in some cases, but in others…not convinced.

And you really should listen to me on this because remember: people with dysthymia see things more realistically. Ha!

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Profoundly insightful...

Finally, a book that highlights the positive side of brain differences rather than simply seeking after more disorder.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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NPR interview

The interview with the author on NPR resonated, and I wasn't disappointed with the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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incredibly validating and encouraging

I was deeply moved by the description of ADD, anxiety,and to some degree dislexia, due to the precision in which it summarized my own life. I thought I had ADD, but had no clue that it encompassed​ and explained the complete set of cognitive challenges I've struggled with from my earliest childhood memories to now as a working adult, husband, and father. Nor did I realize it had anything to do with my aptitude and creativity in math science and music. I've managed to work my way into a fitting career as a research engineer, through what I perceived as hard work alone, without ADD medication or coaching, despite ongoing challenges with planning, organization, time/task management, task switching, reading, paying attention, short term memory, and convergent thinking. After reading this, I'm inspired to try to get an accurate diagnosis​, and hopefully some help.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Great insight on versions personalities

What I got out of this book is that no matter who we are and what personality traits we have, there is a place for each in this world. It also gave me more insight and understanding on what people with personality differences have to go through. Thanks for these insights. It does well to have better understanding of people.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Eye opener

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to figure out why basic tasks felt so difficult but I was able to complete complex tasks with much less effort. I’ve been trying to fit into the “norm” when I wasn’t wired to work that way. I still had issues with accepting this path. His book helped me see I’ve made the right decision, which I am thankful for.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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the power of different

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

As a parent of a young child with bipolar disorder and other brain difference, this book is
very encouraging

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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This book contains so much useful information!

This book is tremendous. The research completed was outstanding and the material was presented in a well organized manner. Thank you very much Gail for writing this book.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Thank you

Absolutely loved it. I was telling my friends about it before I finished it! I hope to delve deeper into this matter

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Made me feel okay to be me!

please pass this book around to your friends. it will help save lives. we are okay, just different.