Harnessing the Magic

Igniting Innovation, Nurturing Diversity, Unleashing Potential.

Harnessing the Magic






A Journey Through Neurodivergent Genius by Nathaniel “Nth” Bar-Fields

“You never know where inspiration might strike. Personally, I’ve never been one to dive into role-playing games. But when a friend coaxed me into exploring games about Mages and Changelings, little did I know it would become a window into understanding the fascinating world of traditional and neurodivergent forms of genius.”


Game of Life and Game in Life
I was never particularly interested in role-playing games until I encountered the RPG ‘Mage.’ In it, players are ordinary humans with Awakened, creative souls. They use this creativity to master and bend the rules of reality, avoiding the typical reprimand for such divergence. For once, I felt liberated, similar to a Mage who wields their mental prowess to alter reality. You mean I don’t get reprimanded for finding a loophole like I would have in real life? Bet! What, no penalty for finding a solution that the test designer didn’t have in mind? I’m in! But while the Mage game drew me in, another concept I stumbled upon in the game beaconed to me: Changelings. They’re ordinary humans imbued with fairy souls, a notion I found eerily reflective of my own experience.

This resonance deepened when I delved into the ‘Changeling’ game. Unlike its darker World of Darkness (WoD) counterparts, ‘Changeling’ maintained a lighter, whimsical tone. Yet, it was the unintentional misfit of the WoD family—a game bursting with originality yet seemingly misplaced and misunderstood, even by its creators. This is a feeling many neurodivergents, including myself, can relate to. Such parallels aren’t surprising, especially considering the real-life connections between the Changeling mythos and neurodivergence.

Changelings of Lore: Neurodivergents by Another Name
Historically, changelings were perceived as fairy-touched beings, swapped for human children. Modern academia suggests these ‘changelings’ were likely neurodivergent individuals—autistic, non-binary, sickly, or exhibiting atypical behaviors. Their unusual traits confounded communities that couldn’t accommodate them, leading to tales of fairy swaps as justification for their mistreatment. On a personal note, my early idiosyncrasies, like crawl-walking and unique finger movements present at birth, might have cast me as a changeling in ancient Ireland or Scotland. Yet, being born to a young San Franciscan mother—a proverbial changeling herself—I was considered more an intriguing puzzle than an enigma by my family. Many members of Elysian Trust have echoed similar sentiments, sharing their ‘Changeling’ stories that hint at untapped potentials and stifled mental gifts that somehow survived mundanity.

However, while my early life celebrated these quirks, academic and professional settings weren’t as forgiving. Standardized tests yielded standardized results, a boon for high-range linear thinkers—the ‘Mages’ of our world. But for the neurodivergent, this structure often felt constraining. Our unique, often sideways approach to problem-solving wasn’t just overlooked; it was sometimes penalized. While this isn’t an outright criticism of the mainstream system, it certainly begs the question: Shouldn’t there be alternatives that nurture non-linear genius too? Imagine mentally calculating calculus problems on a quiz but flunking the quiz because you didn’t “show your work.” Imagine building a bridge out of popsicle sticks for a science project that withstands incredible weight but failing that project because you didn’t show a single equation to present why your bridge works so well. Those were my real-life experiences. And again, no criticism of the school system for the interface challenge. But imagine if school had instead helped me figure out how to capitalize on whatever intuition I resorted to for my work. Perhaps our scientific understanding of the world would be more supplemental/complementary than it currently is. Keep in mind that there are literally millions of neurodivergent “changeling” folks out there, each with unique potential worth harnessing.

Inventors in an Engineer’s World
College was not much better. I attended—and was either kicked out of or dropped out of—some of the finest universities on the planet, until I eventually graduated from one of them. If I stick with the Changeling/Mage metaphor, I would say that the university experience for me was like enrolling in Hogwarts and being surrounded by Wizards-in-training, taught by wizards, using books designed for wizards, about wizardry. Thinking that because you passed the “magic tests” for entry too, that you must be a Wizard as well, but at some point you realize, that while you too do magic, entirely different from the wizardry being taught, understood, or even valued, because you are inherently different. You are not a Harry Potter or a Ron Weasley in the making and never will be. You aren’t even a peculiar Luna Lovegood. You will never be one of the Wizards any more than a Wizard will ever be one of the Fae. It’s like one day realizing you are not actually an engineer; you are an inventor. And while an engineer and an inventor can often overlap, they also often do not, and the mindsets of both can sometimes be antithetical to each other. But while there are schools for engineers, where are the institutions for the inventors? Welcome to the life of the neurodivergent, the proverbial changeling.

All That You Have is Your Soul
The Neurodivergent genius often doesn’t find their metaphorical lane. Instead, they force-fit themselves into a predefined one that can somewhat match what they are naturally about, but not quite. That actuary with ADHD who also plays in a music band on the weekend, the dyslexic Uber Driver who also runs a groundbreaking digital art nonprofit that she truly cares about, and many other combinations out there are neurodivergent examples I describe as employing the “Clark Kent” or “Dual Lives” strategy of survival. By day, they navigate the world’s expectations, but in their own time, they pursue what truly ignites their spirit and showcases their unique genius.

Revisiting the ‘Changeling’ game, I found another poignant metaphor. Where Mages faced the Paradox of their monumental magic, Changelings grappled with Banality from a world not designed for them. The mundanity of life—the monotony, the repetitive labor—could suffocate their vibrant spirits. Similarly, in real life, by adulthood, many neurodivergent individuals lose their essence to such drudgery. Some find solace in personal projects or entrepreneurial ventures, as I alluded to earlier, but wouldn’t it be transformative if our systems accommodated these diverse minds better?

Admittedly, there’s budding recognition. Tech giants are tapping into the autistic community’s coding prowess. Similarly, marketing sectors and entrepreneurship see potential in dyslexics. But more often than not, ‘neurodiversity’ feels like a begrudging nod to political correctness, rather than genuine appreciation. We must understand that while Mages epitomize brilliance, Changelings encapsulate ingenuity. Organizations thrive with both.

When the Spark Ignites a Flame
At Elysian Trust, we passionately advocate for the harmonious blend of the Mage and the Changeling. Through our various initiatives, we accentuate the irrefutable importance of cognitive diversity in contemporary academic and professional realms. The term “diversity” shouldn’t merely be a nod to political correctness—it represents a tangible competitive advantage. Our mission is to cultivate an environment where diverse cognitive styles thrive, lauding neurodivergence as a wellspring of innovation and originality. By bridging the neurodivergent geniuses with conventional thinkers, we foster collaborations where entrepreneurs team up with business experts, storytellers join forces with writers, and visionaries align with implementers. Here are just two showcases of our impactful initiatives:

  • We recently forged a partnership with the esteemed think-tank, TANDO. Originating from the University of Austin, TANDO boasts Nobel Prize laureates among its members. With their brilliant minds and accumulated academic wisdom, they understand the need for fresh perspectives. The non-traditional thinkers at Elysian invigorate TANDO’s roster, while the seasoned expertise of TANDO’s fellows further hones the insights of Elysian members.
  • Our business incubation program stands as a beacon for neurodivergent visionaries, enabling them to excel in their areas of passion. Our support services manage the oft-tedious tasks of fundraising, research, and marketing, among others. Think of it this way: “You play Robin Hood; we act as your Merry Men.” Since its inception in 2017, the program has so far successfully garnered approximately $44,000,000 in support of its participants.


Join the (R)Evolution
If any of this resonates with you, we invite you to be a part of Elysian Trust’s transformative journey. Join us! Contribute as a volunteer, collaborate with us, and aid in redefining systems that honor both the proverbial Mages and Changelings in our midst. Every individual, regardless of their cognitive path, is worthy of acknowledgment, celebration, and opportunities to illuminate their potential. We hope to hear from you soon.



About the author: “I have a brain and I enjoy learning new ways of using it. At one point I was considered learning disabled and at another point in life, I was considered profoundly gifted. They may be one and the same, and the journey to that conclusion has been as nonlinear as you may envision it to be. My varied career—from a lab tech and nuclear technician to a Navy enlistee, hotel night manager, fact-checker, grant writer, data analyst, and marketer—has undeniably enriched my perspective. Each role, in its own way, has kept my mind agile and invigorated. Now, I’m passionate about helping others unlock their mental prowess and realize their full potential.”  —  Nathaniel “Nth” Bar-Fields



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.