Talent is Overrated: What Separates World Class Performers

Talent is Overrated argues that in the endless nature versus nurture debate, at least when it comes to traditional definitions of success, is over. Nurture wins.

The book claims that to reach the great heights, to do the game changing work, talent doesn't really matter. Intelligence doesn't matter. Hard work matters. You need about 10,000 hours (or roughly 10 years) of dedicated, deliberate practice before you can even begin to start doing great work. Talent only helps you in the very beginning. In the end, it's all about hard work. Across all fields, across time, no one who ever did great work ever achieved it without at least ten years of practice.

Even though Mozart started composing music at an early age, all of his most famous pieces were created after he turned 19. He only started learning music at an age of three because his father was a musician, not because of some innate skill. He had to work 16 years before anything great was accomplished.

It also doesn't matter if you just work hard. You have to do deliberate practice, specific practice to improve a small portion of the overall picture. Tiger Woods spent hundreds of hours hitting balls in sand, even though it rarely occurs in real games. Benjamin Franklin learned prose by taking an idea, expressing the idea in his own sentence, then comparing that sentence with the same idea expressed in the classics. This is targeted work to practice one small specific skill.

While anyone can do the necessary hard preparation work to do great work, few have the resources to do it. The passion to put in the hours has to be put into someone, usually the parents. The roadmap to start targeted practice has to be developed by a mentor. The support network to actually push someone, to give them the necessarymotivation, has to be built over years before someone can actually start managing themselves.

This notion actually made me start to wonder. When hiring, instead of looking at people in their current state, we should simply look for one attribute: Do they constantly improve themselves? Perhaps if they are constantly getting better, and can articulate what they have done to specifically improve some skill, that person may be able to contribute leaps and bounds more than someone who may currently know more but has stopped improving. This is especially important as hiring is probably the one of the most important things an organization needs to do.

Overall, Talent is Overrated presents an interesting premise, one that invigorates you to start working towards great work.