Talent is Overrated

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One of the books I have enjoyed reading this summer is Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. 

The main idea of the book is debunking the age old theory that some people are just born with a talent; that this talent comes easily for them. The book cites Mozart and Tiger Woods as examples. Most people think, as I did, that these two men were born with a natural bent toward their talents. But the book reveals that both these gentlemen had fathers who started training them at very young ages. In fact, by the time Mozart and Tiger came into the public eye, they had been practicing their skills for years. The author backs up this theory with research that shows that it is only through 10,000 hours of practice can world class performances be achieved. This practice is what makes a talent exceptional.

Geoff Colvin calls this enormous amount of practice “deliberate practice” and states that deliberate practice is made up of the following:
  • It must be designed specifically to improve performance.
  • It can be repeated a lot.
  • Feedback on results is continuously available.
  • It is highly demanding.
  • It isn’t always fun.
For the majority of us, the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice would be a daunting challenge, which is why these great performers are in the minority of our population. The rest of us would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to expend this amount of time and energy on one area of interest. The author states that this is what makes deliberate practice powerful – it pushes a person beyond what they can currently do and enables them to know more and remember more than the average person.
Colvin asserts that even though most people will not develop a super talent, we can apply the principles of deliberate practice to our lives to improve both our professional and personal life. Using deliberate practice to hone our skills in the workplace and at home can allow us to become better than average and lead to accomplishments far greater than we would have thought possible.


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