Following is a review of the book Talent is Overrated written by Geoff Colvin. Colvin is an author and Senior Editor at Large for Fortune Magazine. Entrepreneurs, business leaders, teachers, coaches, students and others have felt the power of this book’s message in their own lives and found new ways to get better at what’s most important to them. It’s a business book that prompts
you to change your mindset for the way to think about your job and career and inspire you to achieve more in all you do. His key is from practice, how you practice and how you learn from mistakes which will enable greatness. Greatness doesn’t come from DNA but from practice, which is Colvin’s primary message that people are not born with all the natural talent and abilities that will make them great in life. He asserts anyone can get better with the right kind of “deliberate practice” in a chosen field.
This book certainly gave me a different perspective on how athletes and top business people became so successful. After reading this book I also developed a better understanding of my own son’s passion to become a successful business entrepreneur and what it takes to become a great performer in a field. He devoted every extra minute he had and spent endless nights working on his internet business. That passion to grow and devotion of hard work and practice paid off in his career and personal life. It almost falls into Dave Ramsey’s similar practice of work like no one else so you can work like no one else!
The mystery. Great performance is more valuable than ever but where does it come from. Look at those around you, friends or family, and think about how they spend their day. Few if any of those around us are truly great at what they do. Most are good conscientious people and do their jobs well but that is not enough to create greatness. Work is our real priority, yet after all those hours and years, most people are just okay in what they do. Many people fail to become outstandingly good at what they do no matter how many years they work in a field, and frequently don’t get any better than what they were when they started. Field after field, people were not any better at their jobs and, occasionally, people can actually get worse with experience. Studies have shown that a few more experienced doctors actually score less on tests of medical knowledge than less experienced doctors. Auditors can become less skilled at certain types of evaluations.
Why are some people so excellent at what they do – the first belief is that everyone thinks it is due to hard work. A person will get extremely good at something because they work hard at. We tell our kids if they work hard, they will be fine. Which is basically right, they’ll be fine just like others who work at something most of their lives and get along fine but never become particularly good at it. Putting in the years isn’t much help to becoming a great performer. This instinctive answer does not hold up. The second belief is that those who are naturally talented and gifted came into this world inspired. The natural gift explanation of a God-given talent is not handed out every day and that it’s a one in a million God-given talent. This belief takes the natural talent out of our hands even though great performance is in our hands more than what most realize. Research studies are contradicting what is believed about gifted people. No one is a naturally born, talented and gifted person. Many assume some have above average IQ’s, but most do not and many are just average. Research shows “deliberate practice” creates greatness. Deliberate practice is not what most of us do when we think of practicing golf. Deliberate practice is hard, it hurts, but it works. More of it generates better performance and tons of it equals great performance.
Deliberate practice is hard and in some cases not inherently enjoyable, yet many people still put themselves through it. It is apparent that most people put themselves through it due to the trend of the rapidly rising standards in most careers. Even the purchase of a car, which can now run 200,000 miles as opposed to cars running only 50,000 miles years ago. Businesses have to perform at the highest standard and get continually better just to be competitive. Great performance is becoming more valuable. This trend is the same in every field of individual performance. For example, the Olympic records of 100 years ago equals below average performance by high school athletes today. The winner of the men’s 200 meter race in the 1908 Olympics ran it in 22.6 seconds and today’s high school record is faster by more than two seconds. And it isn’t because of size, the smaller you are the better you are; size and power are irrelevant. Contemporary athletes are superior not because they are different but because they train themselves differently, an important concept to remember. Calculus was thought to take years to master and is now taught in high school. People are doing much more with what they have and standards of performance will continue to rise increasing the value of great performance.
It isn’t just companies that are facing challenges. We all individually face challenges as the pressure on us to get better is greater than what it used to be due to the change in our economy. Companies have far more money than what they need today and are unsure what to do with it. The scarce resource is no longer money, it’s human ability. Microsoft has used 30 billion dollars of financial capital from all sources and has created about 221 billion dollars of shareholder wealth. Google has used five billion dollars of capital but has around 124 billion dollars of shareholder wealth. Microsoft and Google understand perfectly well that their success is built on human capital and both are famous for the people they hire and the brutal tests they impose on job applicants. Bill Gates said if you took the 20 smartest people out of Microsoft it would be an insignificant company. Microsoft says its core competency is hiring, not their software. They know what the scarce resource is, which is so significant and applies to all companies. This is putting a separate trend on individuals under unprecedented pressure to develop their own abilities more highly than what was ever necessary before. This is apart from what their employers may or may not do to develop them. It’s setting a trend of the large scale global labor market. Today, people compete for jobs around the world. A large and growing proportion of all work is information based and doesn’t involve moving or processing anything physical. This has generated workers in other countries answering our calls, computing power and telecommunications costs for practically nothing. A fast number of workers have to be just as good and just as good of value as anyone in their field. Businesses and individuals are increasingly going up against the world’s best and creating rewards of being genuinely great. And it is crucial to understand where great performance comes from. There is more to life than work and more to work at than a job. Reach fulfillment in your life and your career and realize that most of what you want to do is hard – that’s life. Having any real knowledge of what you want to do can make you richer and happier.