Talent is (seriously) overrated

I have a gigantic pile of books to read and I am looking forward to the holiday break to catch up on some of my reading. Yesterday I randomly started with what was on top of the pile-o-books: Talent is overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin. I like Goeff Colvin’s writing – he is a brilliang journalist – so I am not surprised that I was still finishing up the book in the wee hours of the morning. Now that said the first thing I thought when I read the title was: everyone talks about talent, firms hire talent, there is a shortage of good talent, but… we all know that what’s really happening is that “hard work is under rated” or even overlooked!

As a youngster I used to play basketball so so much that it sometimes affected my school work. For those of you who know me, you know that I am short – I envy all the tall 6 foot ++ geeks – but I am short and there is very little I can do about that (except consider some stilettos!) but when I was young I used to bet people that I could score a 3 pointer on the basketball court.  I always won the bet, because acquaintances would take one look at me and bet I could not get a 3 pointer in. Ha! What fun and great pocket money while it lasted. How did I do that? Practice. Hours and hours and hours of practice. So  much practice that some days I could not lift my arms as I would have spent hours dunking balls. I loved it and I had one single goal, one single desire: scoring a 3 pointer. I asked my coach for feedback, I asked him to watch me shoot the ball, I asked him to suggest exercises to correct my shoots etc. until I could score practically with my eyes closed. It was sweet.

In those days I was obsessed with scoring a 3 pointer. Obsessed to the point of carrying my own basketball ball to practice any chance I had. That’s when I realized as a kid what my mum meant when she said: “sit your ass down and practice the score!”. I hated music but loved basketball. My mum would not hear any of it. I continued to practice music poorly escaping to my real practice: basketbal!

Colvin’s book settles the question of whether great leaders are born or made: they are made. Through deliberate practice. Florida State University researcher K. Anders Ericsson, writes: “Until most individuals recognize that sustained training and effort is a prerequisite for reaching expert levels of performance, they will continue to misattribute lesser achievement to the lack of natural gifts, and will thus fail to reach their own potential.”

To become the very best you need to spend more time learning how to and practicing and not less. Hommage to hard work if I ever saw one.

Need to get going on applying this to my running!