September 10

It’s all about Deliberate Practice – Talent Is Overrated


The book Talent is Overrated explain Deliberate Practice in detail and it has been a very interesting read.

What are the two principal explanations people give for top performance?

The top two explanations are:

  1. Hard Work
  2. Gift from God

Research does not confirm this.

The most recent studies confirm that people with lots of experience were no better at their jobs than those with very little experience.

Some findings do not prove that talent doesn't exist but they suggest an intriguing possibility: that if it does, it may be irrelevant.

In fact, how can you explain the following?

The extreme increases in top levels of performance in a wide range of fields over the past century have happened far too fast to be connected to genetic changes, which require thousands of years.

 Wow!!! Can I become a top performer?

The answer is Yes.

Great performance is in our hands far more than most of us ever suspected.... but it's not that easy like you would like.

One of the examples of top performance presented in the book is the story of Jerry Rice.

What was his secret?

  • He spent very little time playing football: less than 1 percent of his football-related work to playing games.
  • He designed his practice to work on his specific needs.
  • While supported by others, he did much of the work on his own.
  • It wasn't fun.
  • He defied the conventional limits of age.

The secret is a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain. The secret is what researcher calls Deliberate Practice.



What is Deliberate Practice?

It's designed specifically to improve performance.

Deliberate practice requires that one identify certain sharply defined elements of performance that need to be improved, and then work intently on them. The great performers isolate remarkably specific aspects of what they do and focus on just those things until they are improved.

Feedback on results is continuously available.

It's highly demanding mentally.

It isn't much fun.

Yes, you understood well. It isn't much fun!

It seems a bit depressing that the most important thing you can do to improve performance is no fun, take consolation in this fact: it must be so. If the activities that lead to greatness were easy and fun, then everyone would do them and they would not distinguish the best from the rest. It means that most people won't do it. So your willingness to do it will distinguish you all the more.


What can I do then?

Know what you want to do. 

The first challenge in designing a system of deliberate practice is identifying the immediate next steps. In deciding which skills and abilities to work on, and how to do it, you're on your own.

The best performers observe themselves closely. They are in effect able to step outside themselves, monitor what is happening in their own minds, and ask how it's going. Researchers call this metacognition-knowledge about your own knowledge, thinking about your own thinking. Top performers do this much more systematically than others do; it's an established part of their routine. Metacognition plays a valuable part in helping top performers adapt to changing conditions.

Deep domain knowledge is fundamental to top-level performance. You don't have to wait for that knowledge to come your way in the course of your work. You can pursue it.

And what about creativity?

If we're looking for evidence that too much knowledge of the domain or familiarity with its problems might be a hindrance to creative achievement, we have not found it in the research. Instead, all evidence seems to point in the opposite direction. The most eminent creators are consistently those who have immersed themselves utterly in their chosen field, have devoted their lives to it, amassed tremendous knowledge of it, and continually pushed themselves to the front of it.

Creative people are focused on the task (how can I solve this problem?) and not on themselves (What will be solving this problem do for me?)

And what about passion?

Yes, passion counts a lot.

In some fields, such as science and math, fascination with the available problems seems to drive excellent performers.

What about prodigious kids?

There is various theory but lots of research still need to be done.

Some kids are somehow born with a compulsion to work in a particular domain. In keeping with the principles of great performance, they become very accomplished because they're practising for huge numbers of hours. This explanation does not depend on any miracles, nor does it violate the ten-year rule; while these kids perform far in advance of other kids their age, they're still nowhere near world-class levels of achievement. That would have to wait much longer. In this theory, exactly why they were born with their specific compulsion remains a mystery. So far in the decoding of the human genome, no one has found a gene.

Different theory: some kids are born not with a compulsion to practice but with an ability to learn far more quickly than average in a particular domain. They practise all the time, setting new goals for themselves and increasing their skill because their ability to learn makes it so rewarding for them.

As they began to receive recognition for the talent in the early years of instruction, the children's investment in the talent become greater. No longer was the prime motivation to please parents and teachers. It now became the individual's special field of interest.

Here you can find an interview with the author Geoff Colvin.


What you want-really, deeply want-is fundamental because deliberate practice is a heavy investment. Becoming a great performer demands the largest investment you will ever make- many years of your life devoted utterly to your goal- and only someone who wants to reach that goal with extraordinary power can make it. We often see the price people pay in their rise to the top of any field; even if their marriages or other relationships survive, their interests outside their fields typically cannot.

Do you believe that if you do the work, properly designed, with intense focus for hours a day and years on end, your performance will grow dramatically better and eventually reach the highest levels? If you believe that, then there's at least a change you will do the work and achieve great performance.






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