Our Unschooling Adventure - which officially started in Lowell in the Fall of 2005 - now continues in Berlin.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Talent is Overrated"

Jim Citrin has this provocatively titled piece on Yahoo! Finance. Apparently it's the title of a book that just came out. Here's an excerpt from the article:

Contrary to popular belief, what makes certain people great is not inborn talent. Rather, it is something called "deliberate practice," a sustained, often life-long, period of purposeful effort designed to improve performance in a specific domain. This turns out to be just as true in business as it is in sports, music, medicine, chess, science, and mathematics.

Deliberate practice is characterized by several elements: It is an activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher's help; it can be repeated a lot; feedback on results is continuously available; and it's highly demanding mentally. It is far different than the general notion of "practice makes perfect." Instead of repeating a task over and over again in your comfort zone, deliberate practice requires that you identify certain sharply defined elements of performance that need to be advanced and then work intently on them.

Sounds very intriguing. I will have to read the book now...



Blogger LB said...

Makes sense to me. Give us your thoughts on the book should you read it.


11:53 AM

Blogger Manoj Padki said...

It does *not* make sense to me! In my model of the world, extraordinary achievement comes from a confluence of passionate interest *and* talent, which creates a positive feedback loop that builds and builds. I know many people with one or the other, but that does not lead to greatness.

It is not easy nor possible to sustain "deliberate practice" unless you have passionate interest. That is the fuel.

Also, with deliberate practice you can always improve your *relative* performance, compared to where you started from. You can always improve any aspect of your life with deliberate practice - sounds like a tautology to me!

But not everybody starts with the same "endowment". Greatness seems to me a result of hard work (fueled by passionate interest and focused with deliberate practice) *and* a higher starting point (innate ability, mental and/or physical).

Does that make sense to you?

7:25 PM

Blogger LB said...

I think he discusses "relative" improvement compared with extraordinary achievement, and I agree that passion will help sustain an interest in practice. But I do not believe that talent is innate (unless height or double jointedness are an integral part of your talent).

Perhaps I'll read it and get back to you!

9:04 PM

Blogger Manoj Padki said...

You write, "I do not believe that talent is innate." What are your reasons for believing this? Is this a testable hypothesis? How could one go about testing it?

10:42 PM

Blogger SUE LANDSMAN-- said...

I'd like to point out that we only identify it as "talent" if it's in one's area of chosen endeavor. Otherwise, nobody gives a bok (oh no...)

It's pretty clear that two of my children's brains are wired in a way that math comes easy to them, whereas the other one needs a good strike with a rubber mallet. I do believe that certain things are easy for some of us, and that varies per person. I would argue, though, that we don't *call* it "talent" unless we're looking back at how somone successful originated with that particular aptitude in their field.

I do believe that someone could achieve the same success with only passionate interest and some degree of mastery, which is *not* the same thing as talent.

8:58 PM


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