Talent is overrated!

I blogged a few times that, your level of natural talent notwithstanding, excellence is achieved through deliberate practice (A Star is Made, A Star is Made – Part 2, Gladwell on Genius).

Deliberate practice is when you repeat an activity thousands of times with the specific purpose of improving your performance. You set specific goals, measure your performance, get prompt feedback and use it.

There is a fantastic in depth article on the topic in the latest Fortune. It’s the best article I have come across on deliberate practice and I strongly encourage all of you to read it. It’s an excerpt from Geoff Colvin’s new book: Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else.

Read the article at:
http://money.cnn.com/2008/10/21/magazines/fortune/talent_colvin.fortune/index.htm?postversion=2008102116

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  • Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

    I always think about business like sports. There’s a lot of players who are projected to be superstars, but just don’t quite make it. There are a few players who turn into superstars very late. There are a few superstars (like Kobe, MJ, Tiger Woods, etc.) who have been battling for it their entire life and it shows.

    Also really interesting about the mental effort part. I think being an entrepreneur is more mentally exhausting than anything else because you are literally playing for real stakes 24/7/365.

  • Indeed! If those who succeed are those who want it the most, what makes them want it the most?

    The answer is unclear. It might be your genes, but it might just as well be random. Maybe you liked the praise you got from a teacher when you did well when you were 4 which led you to want more. Eventually you started enjoying working hard to succeed and not need the praise – you might even forget what led you down that path and find it natural to want to succeed…

  • Deliberate practice is when you repeat an activity thousands of times with the specific purpose of improving your performance. You set specific goals, measure your performance, get prompt feedback and use it.

    You could sum this up all in two words:

    Larry Bird.

    He was famous for staying for hours after official practice had ended and would practice for hours by himself. This was before and during his pro career.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/basketball/nba/1998/bird/flashbacks/1981flash.html

    He is slow as NBA players go, and in the words of an NBA scout—not the only one who thought Bird would be a mediocre pro—he suffers from “white man’s disease.” That is, he can’t jump. How, then, can Bird be so great? “I would say my vision, my court awareness and my height are God-given,” Bird says. “Everything else I’ve worked my ass off for.”

    Work—at least work on a basketball court—is what Bird loves. It has been that way ever since he was old enough to dribble a basketball up and down the hilly streets to the playgrounds of French Lick, Ind. Because his two older brothers, Mark and Mike, generally dominated the ball and the neighborhood games, Larry had to wait his turn. And when he got the ball—late at night or early in the morning, when no one else wanted to play—he would usually take it to the park by the old high school and work by himself for hours on end, just as he does now.

  • The last 2/3 of the article can be summed up with the adage I learned as a judo player:

    “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

  • hard work definately has its place but there are plenty of people who practice just as hard and will never get to be Roger or Tiger !

  • I am sending this post to the school teachers. Academic Talent and Efforts are measured, they combine for school success. Life success is another story, and another blog exercise.