Sunday, January 18, 2009

Talent is Overrated

I wanted to recommend the Talent is Overrated book referenced in the reading list. This is a most eye-opening book about the point that there may not be such a thing as born talent. Instead, the success of most world-class performers/athletes/scientists, etc. are due to deliberate practice across years of time. There are physiological constraints such as height in playing basketball, but most fields, it is deliberate practice that makes the difference.

The book takes a hard look at Mozart and at Tiger Woods and we find that they had lots of practice as they grew up. The had fathers who were teachers of the subject who started them early. Jerry Rice's practice during his pro career is said to have worn out most others who tried it.

The differences between practice and deliberate practice is most interesting. Hitting a couple of buckets of balls at the driving range is not deliberate practice. I used to work with someone who lived on a great golf course. In the morning as he headed to work, he saw one of the locals practicing a shot. When my friend came home in the afternoon, he was still there practicing. Later, when my friend asked the pro about it he said that his office was on the course. That is deliberate practice. Focused, deliberate work on shortcoming or hard aspects of your skill. Not repeating things you already know how to do.

The book goes on to talk throughout about the implication in the office. How do we make people world-class at business operations? We typically today don't start training our kids on business when they are three. Perhaps the apprentice roles of the past where much more like this. In this modern era in the West, we don't seem to do this much.

There is certainly a lot of similarity to Gladwell's Outliers book as there is much talk about the 10,000 hours of practice required to become world-class in something.

I wonder how much Paul Potts practiced.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with everything here, but I would also like to say that it DOES take a specific type of personality, because these people have so much dedication. Sometimes when parents push their kids hard early in life, it annoys them, and they don't continue. Tiger Woods and Jerry Rice both loved what they did.

    Having said all this, I haven't read the book... haha, and I agree that practice is a huge part of their "talent," but they also had the correct attitude and were working at something they truly loved.