Talent is a Process
We all struggle through learning curves because they’re really hard at first. In The Dip, Seth Godin will help you determine whether you should keep trudging through the difficult process or quit it altogether.
If you decide to stick with whatever you’re learning, whether it’s a musical instrument, calculus, programming, cooking, chemistry, or baseball, it’s important to understand that natural genius is a myth.
Recent scientific findings support the notion that success is the product of disciplined practice – not an uncontainable natural genius. I realized this simple principle after reading Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. The examples of the work ethic in Mozart and Michael Jordan were very inspiring. They were not born with their amazing abilities; they were driven to the point where they wanted to practice music and basketball all day long, every single day. It was only after long periods of deliberate practice that they became incredibly skilled.
In his book, Outliers, Malcom Gladwell writes about the 10,000 Rule. He explains that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a given field, to actually master the subject.
One of my favorite examples is that of legendary slugger Ted Williams. He is believed to be the most gifted hitter of his era (the last man to hit over .400). Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr said, ”Ted just had that natural ability." It was also said that Ted had laser-like eyesight, which allowed him to decipher the spin of a ball as it left the pitcher's fingers. Ty Cobb once said, "Ted Williams sees more of the ball than any man alive." I even heard Ted Williams could leap tall buildings in a single step! Sounds like some guys are just born with it, right?
Wrong, scientific tests showed Ted’s eyesight to be well within ordinary human range. The true story of Ted Williams’ talent was nothing more than a phantasmagorical work ethic that began when he was five years old and continued until he retired from the game. He grew up poor, yet paid his friends to shag balls. He denied entertainment, social activities, and other sports to focus on baseball. As a rookie, he practiced long after practice was over, he hit balls until they disintegrated, and swung bats until they splintered.
Drive is an acquired trait. Talent is a process, not a natural gift.
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Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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