Posts Tagged ‘talent is overrated’

Where Does Success Come From?

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

SuccessWhat makes some people successful, and others not so? I’m mostly talking about in the business world, although it could be in any activity. What makes some people perform so much better than others? This is a question I’ve spent a lot of time – years, in fact – thinking about, and studying. I get excited just thinking about it, I’m so passionate about human performance. Okay, I may not be “normal,” but that’s just who I am.

So, what makes some people perform better than others?

Is it talent? Not entirely, if you follow the latest research (most of which is written about in the excellent book, Talent is Overrated, by Geoff Colvin). Sure, it’s important, but as I talked about in a previous post (The Myth About Natural Talent) it’s not everything. In fact, it may be much less of the performance equation than many people think.

Is it skills and knowledge? Well, one certainly needs skills and knowledge to do a job well, but is that the key? Have you ever met anyone who is extremely skilled and knowledgeable, but who doesn’t perform very well? Have you ever seen a person with an impressive list of accreditations and accomplishments fail at a new job?

Is it focus? You know, being focused on the right things at the right time? That’s important, isn’t it?

Is it motivation? Sure. But not without the skills and knowledge to do the job. And the focus. Motivated mayhem does not lead to great performance.

Is it fit – you know, fitting into the culture of the company or team? That’s part of it. But again, without the skills and knowledge, and without being aimed in the right direction, fit isn’t everything.

Is it personality? Hey, that’s important. I’m sure you’ve seen very talented, very skilled, very knowledgeable, very motivated people who fit the culture of the company or team who failed. Why? Because their personality sucked. Okay, maybe not that bad, but let’s just say their personality didn’t fit with their co-workers or teammates.

Is it the person’s manager (or sports coach)? Yes, the manager plays a big role in how well someone performs, and that is going to impact how much success they have – I talked about this in a previous post, too (How Important Is Management?). In fact, I’m sure you’ve seen poor performers who were transformed into superstars by a different manager, and vice versa. But is it just a person’s manager?

Is it communication? Without good communication, no one is going to perform very well, right?

Is it the person’s own mission being in alignment with the company’s mission? Very important. But is it the most important factor?

My point here is that performance is not a simple thing. It’s not just one thing. Of course, everyone knows that, right? Then why do so many people look for the silver bullet, that one simple thing that is going to transform themselves or others into superstar performers?

I’m sure I’ve missed many factors here that lead to great performance, and to success. This is one of those posts that provides more questions than it does answers, so I’m waiting to hear your thoughts…

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.