What you can learn from ‘Talent is Overated’ by Geoff Colvin (2016, 206 pages)
What separates the truly exceptional from the rest of us? Is it talent or is it hard work?
In ‘Talent is Overrated’ Geoff argues that while there are some qualities that make us more predisposed to certain achievements, it only when people spend a lot of time (10,000+ hours) in deliberate practice that they can become world class.
Natural talent is a threshold. Nature matters in two ways, some people are naturally better at practice than others, and some people have physical attributes that give them an advantage. Attention span and will power are not binary, and while they can be improved with practice, people have a natural level of ability. Greater attention span and grit (willpower) increase the chance that someone will ‘stay with it’ for the thousands of hours needed to develop expertise. In many areas, physically characteristics such as a person’s height (e.g., on a basketball court) or the steadiness and dexterity of their hands (e.g., for a surgeon’s hands), prevent people from being exceptional.
Nurture separates great from good. While nature can be seen as a threshold factor, i.e., you need it to compete, it is nurture that separates the exceptional from the good. When someone starts training at a young age, they quickly get better than their peers. This improved ability gets them noticed, and so they enter competitions and seek better trainers or coaches. An increase in profile and positive feedback from being better than their peers, then provide an intrinsic motivation to do better.
‘Talent is Overrated’ attempts to argue that while exceptional performance is not possible in many instances without specific physical traits, it hard work in the form of extended deliberate practice which separates the exceptionally talented from the rest of us. Read this book to find out more about how to use deliberate practice to become exceptional.