My goal in this post is to continue to help people succeed, and make the most of their time. I believe an effective way to accomplish this is for me to read a book, give you guys the main points, and tell you if it’s worth reading. Simple as that.
Today, I’m going to summarize the 206-page book titled Talent is Overrated by Geoffrey Colvin. Colvin is a longtime editor and columnist for Fortune, frequent television guest, and radio speaker on business trends in America.
At first I was skeptical at the title, because society always uses the term “talent” and “he was born with it” as a way to describe spectacular performances. Yet, through Colvin’s research and facts, he (more than) convinced me that innate talent is indeed a myth. This book is probably the best one I’ve read in the past three years. I highly recommend that you read it.
Talent Is Overrated Summary
Colvin first proves that innate talent isn’t a reality by examining young musicians, who later on became excellent solely based on their practice habits, not what skills they started out with. Then, he further examines top performers and finds what doesn’t drive greatness. Colvin says that spectacular achievement is not from experience, inborn ability, and general abilities like intelligence and memory.
So, the next question is what drives great achievement.
Through examples like Mozart, Tiger Woods, Chris Rock, Ben Franklin, and Jerry Rice, Colvin finds the true reason for why some people achieve extraordinary feats and others do not.
It’s how much they practice improving, and how they practice: How they review the results of their work and then learn. How they focus on their weaknesses and improvement when it’s painful. This type of practice and motivation to be great empowers them to achieve mastery.
He uses the term deliberate practice to describe years of hard work and intentional practice to improve. Deliberate practice is different from the normal practice that many people are accustomed to.
Many people work hard at their job or a hobby. But, they are not engaging in intentional, difficult practice.
They are doing what’s asked of them at work, or playing golf only when they feel like it. These people aren’t stretching for what’s beyond their mental understanding, which is what deliberate practice involves. They don’t have a golf coach who is constantly evaluating their swing and reviewing their game after hours of play each day.
Thus, Colvin is able to prove that both the believers in the hard work camp and the believers in the innate talent camp are wrong about the cause of great performance. Instead, deliberate practice and intrinsic motivation is what is needed for incredible success. The more deliberate practice, the greater the results.
Colvin concludes by writing that great performance is possible for everyone, and great performance is achieved by only those who pay the price of excellence. Some may not want extreme greatness because the struggle is hard and takes decades, but they can still use this information to improve in all that they do and be better off than if they didn’t do it.
Major Takeaway #1
This evidence shows that you can virtually do anything you want to. Now, you don’t have an excuse like “he was born smarter than me” or “she is naturally better with people than me” to stop you from achieving greatness. Do you want to be a movie director, professional sports coach, CEO, or astronaut? The world of opportunity is yours.
This thought of being able to accomplish anything as long as you put in the deliberate practice over years should be liberating for you. Or, it could be painful as you realize what’s stopping you from accomplishing your dreams is all in your head.
Major Takeaway #2
It is important to note the fact that the quicker you start, the more you practice when it’s difficult, and the more times you experience overcoming failure by learning from it, the better chance you have of succeeding.
So, if you’re thinking about embarking on a journey that will take a decade or a full career, be sure you’re committed and then start right away. You can use this knowledge you learned to be inspired by difficult practice and failures, because you know it’s necessary to accomplishing your end vision.
Major Takeaway #3
If you want greatness, you need to focus on mastering one field. Colvin supports this claim by citing a scholarly paper that couldn’t find an explanation for innate talent, so it concluded, “the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.”
Personally, my vision is to master business. I know this involves years of deliberate practice on my skills in communication, negotiation, evaluation, reading financial statements, predicting market trends, and many other components. I’m excited to improve this skill now, after I graduate in two months, and for a lifetime. The vision of my future-self succeeding is what drives me in the hard times, and makes that deliberate practice even enjoyable.
And later on, I have to decide if I’ll force my child to be a world-class athlete, actor, or musical artist. I’m kidding, I think.
Comment below with your thoughts on this radically different mindset for great performance in school, plus your future career and life.