Talent Is Overrated?
by, 20-03-11 at 02:28 AM (2167 Views)
The vast majority of people tend to believe that somehow, some people were born with a magical gift regarded as “Talent”
Examples have been scattered throughout history: Mozart, Tiger Woods, Warren Buffet, Winston Churchill, Bill Gates, Benjamin Franklin, Einstein and hundreds of others. When you hear these names, the first thing that probably comes across your mind is they are "great and special, they were born with it." Somehow they are better and exceed in their fields for some "magical" reason. Like God choosing them.
However, I, like Geoff Colvin the author who wrote "Talent Is Overrated" beg to differ. He argues that Mozart and the likes are not some form of paragons. They are different because of "deliberate practice" not talent. (Shock!) He explains through various examples of people who come across as talented, but they rather went through intensive practice. Mind you, not normal "hard work" he spends the rest of the book trying to explain deliberate practice and how it differs from normal practice. And certainly, if this theory holds any water then there must be something different. Otherwise, the typical investor after 15 years of investing should be as good as Warren Buffet. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
For instance, Mozart was not born great despite being able to compose works at a very early age. His father was a composer, his father would mentor him. His early works were pastiches of other people’s work. He practiced with great rigor and therefore he is great. Similarly, Tiger Woods father was a golfer. He started training Woods at age 2. And from there on, Woods focused on his greatest weaknesses and perfected them. Then moved on to his next weakness and repeated the pattern, until complete perfection. Benjamin Franklin, regarded as a great writer, also did not magically possess the ability to write. He would pick a great essay of that time and take notes on it. Then after a few weeks (after forgetting) he would come back and without looking at the original essay would use his notes to carry the same idea of the original essay, but strive to have a better version. He then would compare his work to the original. And would learn from his mistakes and then repeat the process. As you can imagine, it was probably not easy.
The author provides many examples, (and scientific experiments) in his book (which I have not read completely) and has lead me to believe that talent is overrated. With great motivation a person can achieve great levels in certain fields. Having said that, there must be some role which talent plays. How did Benjamin Franklin create such a program to improve his writing? He possessed some sort of talent. Therefore, I am not arguing that Talent does not exist, as the book seems to imply. Also other factors such as luck also come into play.
Reading the book has brought out some magical feeling towards these people and feels...awkward. I feel as if I have no excuse, except for being lazy and having bad luck.
So, what are your views on this matter? Are people born, or made? Bringing us to the classical argument of Nature vs. Nurture.