Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else Hardcover – October 16, 2008
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"Talent Is Overrated is a profoundly important book. With clarity and precision, Geoff Colvin exposes one of the fundamental misconceptions of modern life-that our ability to excel depends on innate qualities. Then, drawing on an array of compelling stories and stacks of research, he reveals the true path to high performance-deliberate practice fueled by intrinsic motivation. This is the rare business book that will both prompt you to think and inspire you to act."-Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind
About the Author
- Publisher : Portfolio; 1st edition (October 16, 2008)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1591842247
- ISBN-13 : 978-1591842248
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.23 x 0.98 x 9.28 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #485,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Let's face it that dedicated hard work will produce top results. I agree with that. However, if you take two people, one with a natural aptitude towards something, and another without that aptitude, if both people put in the same exact dedicated hard work, the one with the natural aptitude will always do better. It's just a fact.
So my bottom line review of the book is that it will make you think, and realize that dedicated hard work is what all people do who excel in a particular endeavor. However, it's not fair or accurate to say that we can all be great at anything other than the obvious would preclude us from (a 6'10" person trying to be a gymnast, or a 4'10" person trying to be in the NBA). I think a better title for the book would be "Talent Will Only Get You So Far".
Yet, with that said, it is a book worth reading, as it will make you realize that people who are good at something are good because they have paid dues beyond what the average person is inclined to do.
And something called "deliberate practice" may be more significant. Deliberate practice isn't mindless repetition. It's hard. It hurts. And the more you do it, the closer you move to greatness.
Where Did The Idea of Innate Talent Originate?
Colvin traces it to Francis Galton, 19th century English aristocrat and college dropout. Galton and his peers believed that people came into the world with pretty much the same capabilities, which they developed (or not) throughout their lives. This concept arose from the Age of Enlightenment and the French Revolution -- liberté, égalité, fraternité and all that.
Then Galton's cousin Charles Darwin published On The Origin Of Species. It inspired Galton to change his tune and write a book called Hereditary Genius, which influenced the next several generations.
Does Talent Even Exist?
Scientists haven't yet discovered what all our 20,000-plus genes do. They've yet to identify specific genes that govern particular talents.
What About Mozart?
Mozart wrote music at age 5, gave public performances at age 8, and composed some of the world's most beautiful symphonies before his death at age 35. Yet a close look at Mozart's background reveals:
His father, Leopold, was an expert music teacher who published a violin textbook the year Mozart was born.
Leopold systematically instructed Mozart from at least age 3 (probably sooner).
Mozart's first four piano concertos, composed at age 11, contained no original music. He cobbled them together from other composers' works.
Mozart composed his first original masterpiece, the Piano Concerto No. 9, at age 21. That's a remarkable achievement, but by then he'd gone through eighteen years of intense, expert training.
Colvin concludes that years of deliberate practice can actually change the body and the brain, which is why world-class performers are different from the rest of us. But they didn't start that way, which is great news for late bloomers like me! It's never too late to follow a passion, especially if "world-class" is not your goal. This book is accessible and tightly written. I highly recommend it if the subject even vaguely interests you.
Top reviews from other countries
Talent is overrated gives dozens of examples of great performance based on deliberate practice, gives referenced notes of every paper or research named in the book and takes the time to argue why some ways of training work better than others.
The author gives some advice on how to use this on companies and teams, how to avoid what most organizations do to destroy any chance of great performance and deliberate practice. This part is very interesting if you are starting a business or planning to do so.
I am sorry for those who claim, after reading it, that talent is necessary to achieve greatness, because they just won't have any of it. In fact, I could place a bet here: you, the naysayers, go and ask any great performer, go and ask any great sportsman, any business "prodigy", any "talented" musician or scientist. Tell them that they are the best in their fields because they had a "gift", tell them that they didn't work HARDER AND BETTER (which is more hours but also, and more importantly, well planned time and objectives) than anybody else. They will laugh at the idea.
Michellangelo Buonarroti, arguably the greatest artist of all time, said: "If they knew how much work it takes, they wouldn't call it genius". But, you know, he also said (or they say he said) something that made him unable to believe in such as thing as "Talent", he said "criticize by creating". So I will try to help instead of arguing on the internet, which I found is not the best way for deliberate practice:
I recommend this book for those trying to excel in any field, and would recommend this other books in particular, as they helped me a lot:
Never Let Go: A Philosophy of Lifting, Living and Learning For those trying to be something at sports. This book gives good advice, but not easy to follow tips. This is deliberate practice.
E-myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It This is a classic most of you already know, read it if you are trying to run a successful business.
Eat That Frog!: Get More of the Important Things Done, Today! Very short and easy to read, but worth every single word. A deliberate practice manual. Recommended for everyone.
Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character as Told to Ralph Leighton Feynman was a genius, or so called. He surely was one of the greatest minds of the last century, but you will learn (and have lots of fun on the way) that he was trained, raised from his early years, to be a curious mind, to be eager to learn WHY everything happened. This book is also a very important read if you are looking for deliberate practice, other books teach you what to do, this one tells you to have fun with it.
Some of the chapters are mildly interesting but only a few concepts, that Colvin briefly touches upon, really appealed to me:
- The concept of metacognition
- The Whiz Kids that Ford brought in after World War II to drastically increase their performance
- The dream team that Herb Brooks put together for the Lake Placid Olympics in 1980
- The conclusion that legendary top executive teams are nearly always pairs, who developed deep trust over many years and produced outstanding results.
All in all this doesn't live up to its promise but has its thought provoking moments.
This book is a great corrective to views such as "it's all in the genes" or "he came from the right sort of house" or "people round here just can't do that." You cannot completely deny the power of genes and environment, but this book shows how how can make great use of both, to further your performance level at a certain task.
This book shows why truly great performance is rare- the combination of opportunity and willingness to stick to disciplined practice for long enough is actually rare. But it is also optimistic in that it shows how most of us could raise our performance level when we have a need and reason to do so.
An enjoyable book, with a useful message, and easy to read. I can recommend it to those readers who are interested in understanding and improving either their own or their colleague's performance.