Posts Tagged ‘outliers’

The Myth About Natural Talent

Friday, December 19th, 2008

I’ve recently read two books that talk about similar subjects: Outlier, by Malcolm Gladwell (author of the best-selling Blink and The Tipping Point), and Talent is Overrated, by Geoff Colvin. Both books back up what I’ve been saying for years, and what I wrote about in my Speed Secrets books. Great performers in any activity, whether sport, music, arts, business or whatever are not born with more talent than average performers.

What makes superstars what they are is not what they’re born with. It’s what they’ve done with what they were born with that makes the difference.

Outliers I’d recommend you read both these books, but the simple overview of what both authors write about is that factors other than talent have more to do with success and great performances than anything else. Gladwell, in Outliers, says that cultural experiences and timing have as much to do with success than anything else, and perhaps more. He uses numerous examples that support his claim, including Bill Gates, professional hockey players, and musicians. And one of the most powerful factors that determine their success is the date of their birth! And no, is has nothing to do astrological signs.

Talent-overratedIn Talent is Overrated, Colvin counts on research from a variety of sources that support his claim that
practice plays the biggest role in great performance. And not just any practice, either. It has to be what he and researchers call “deliberate practice.”

Interestingly, both these books have been published within months of each other, and they strongly support each other’s message. It’s like both authors were on the same wavelength. And, while my theories follow directly along with what’s said in each book, and some of it was based on research that I’d read, most of what I’ve talked and written about has come from my observations of great performers, and not-so-great performers. I observed exactly what the research in these books suggest.

I’ve personally seen people with what initially appeared to be average (at best) talent rise to a point where others begin commenting about his or her “natural talent” making them what they are today. And sadly, I’ve witnessed people who seem to have something special at an early age, but who didn’t use “deliberate practice,” and who turned out to be average performers.

While reading these two books, I recognized that much of my approach to coaching, and what’s help me make others successful, is my use of “deliberate practice.” I’m “famous” for giving my coachees what I just call strategies for development. Although I’ve known that my approach has worked, it’s nice when one finds scientific research that supports what you’ve known and used for a while.

Read Outliers and Talent is Overrated.