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This week I’ve been listening to the audio version of the book  Talent is Overrated, What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everyone Else” by Geoff Colvin. Although I am not quite finished this book I do not hesitate to recommend it.

The talent that Colvin refers to is a genetic pre-disposition to excel at something – the “born-with-it” factor. In this book the author strives to (and succeeds in my mind) to demonstrate that anyone who has become a world-class performer (whether in the arts, sports or business) has got to that point by practice – lots and lots of quality practice.

I found very interesting how Colvin presents the early life stories of two individuals (Mozart and Tiger Woods) who so many people believe must have just been “born with it” – obvious child prodigies, destined to excel. Colvin makes the argument that these two became masters at early ages simply because they practiced and practiced. They both started very early in their lives and both benefited from a parent/teacher who were able to guide their practice to make their practice time most productive. In the end though, they simply put in comparable numbers of practice hours to anyone else who has become a world class performer.

A key concept of the book is the concept of “deliberate practice” (calculated, focused practice on the minutia of the activity). Going through the motions and calling it practice, just won’t benefit you. The author explains the value of having a teacher/coach to guide that practice. Colvin gives a good example of the casual golfer who goes to the range to hit a bucket of ball for “practice” but points out  how really unproductive this type of activity usually is.

This revelation that talent is not genetic and that practice is the key, is comforting and inspiring to anyone who has wondered if they should even bother trying to learn anything new. Colvin does however point out the difficulty of getting in the necessary hours of practice to become “world class” when you have a life to live. He also states that this deliberate practice is not likely to be fun. It will be hard work including considerable mental concentration in addition to whatever the physical demands of the activity you are attempting to master.

If you are on a mission to grow, to master anything, even if not to the level of being world class, this book is worth a read or listen. It is both inspiring and helpful. You can get better – without magic and without having been “born-with-it”.


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