In a famous study by Victor and Mildred Goertzel, entitled Cradles of Eminence, the home backgrounds of 300 highly successful people were investigated. These 300 subjects had made it to the top. They were men and women whose names everyone would recognize as brilliant in their fields such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, Albert Schweitzer, Clara Barton, Gandhi, Einstein, and Freud. The intensive investigation into their early home lives yielded some surprising findings:

  • Three fourths of the children were troubled either by poverty, by a broken home, or by rejecting, over possessive, or dominating parents.
  • Seventy-four of 85 writers of fiction or drama and 16 of the 20 poets came from homes where, as children, they saw tense psychological drama played out by their parents.
  • Physical handicaps such as blindness, deafness, or crippled limbs characterized over one-fourth of the sample.

How did these people go on, then, to such outstanding accomplishments? Most likely by compensation. They compensated for their weaknesses in one area by excelling in another.