Talent is Overrated

TalentIsOverRatedThis book describes what makes a person excel at his or her field. Many of the studies referenced in this book are the same ones illustrated in “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.

While the underlying lesson is the same, the book goes far more in depth and is worth the read.

Some lessons to note:

  1. No Talent is innate. Talent is the result of massive amounts of hard work. This is the 10,000 hour (10 year) rule in “Outliers”. The Beatles, Tiger Woods, Beethoven, etc all were mediocre before they put in the work needed to become exceptional.
  2. Practice isn’t good enough. It takes “Deliberate Practice”. This is a unique type of practice that is actually painful. Even experts at a field can only do it for small periods of time before need a break or even a nap. In the examples used, it becomes clear that going to the driving range every day to hit balls isn’t Deliberate Practice. Deliberate Practice is where you study a skill, break it down to it’s parts, and study each part carefully over and over again. Unlike say ‘learning to drive’ the object of deliberate practice isn’t to make an action automatic. The best example he give is how Tiger Woods can pull his shot mid-stroke if he becomes distracted, while lessor golfers – although good – can’t. A shot is never automatic to Tiger Woods, it is always the result of extreme concentration and effort.
  3. Deliberate Practice involves doing the things you are bad at, not the things you are good at.  This is a major difference between the way some people practice and they way experts practice.
  4. There is an edge where learning occurs. It must be hard enough to challenge us, yet not so hard that we are discouraged. This is a hard balance to find.
  5. Institutions are terrible at developing talent since, for example, the work place rarely forces a person to the edge of their skill level. Work places typically value routine more than learning requires.
  6. Some institutions are working hard to develop people. According to the book, GE has way more capital than it can use. Dividends are a companies way of saying “here –  you know what to do with this money better than we do”. GE is quoted as saying they simply do not have the people (talent) necessary to fully utilize capital.
  7. Starting young is necessary to be a master at things that young people can start to learn. Golf, music, etc are all skills that even very very young children can start to practice at. When we age, even the brains of experts slow down, however this often doesn’t show – experts adapt by using different routines, shortcuts, knowledge to stay atop their field.
  8. Motivation is key. The biggest obstacle to talent is the very painful learning that has to go in. What makes some people stick it out? One theory is that small advantages in an area make a person stand out early in that area. They then acquire praise for their skill in that area, which makes them want to be better at it. They do and therefor become more skilled for more praise, etc. It’s a virtuosos cycle. Experts often come from small circles (towns, small schools, outlying areas, etc) since it’s easier to stand out in a small group. This leads to the motivation, which leads to the talent, etc.
  9. The cycle described above can started by ‘false praise’ which leads to motivation, which leads to talent, etc.
  10. The last point I can remember is that memory is purely a learned skill – which obviously I need to work on since I can barely remember 10 clear points from such an excellent book.
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