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Talent Is Overrated?

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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.
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  1. Oak R's Avatar
    but what about Einstein his father or mother is not a scientist or any how relate to it
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  2. Deadly Shadow's Avatar
    ^ Yes, his family thought he was mentally retarded because he could not talk till 4, and not read till 7, and could not tie his shoelaces till 9.

    But you have misunderstood the point. I was just mentioning how these greats went through a great deal of work. The more early, the better as they get a headstart and how there interests are sparked. But his father was an engineer, and some say his father enrolled him in a class on magnesium or something. He literally spent his entire life devoted to science and stuff. He himself said "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious."

    and: "I have no particular talent. I am merely extremely inquisitive."

    I should also mention, that Einstein was big on failures and mistakes. He learned from them. (i.e: Corrected his weaknesses, in a way)
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    Updated 20-03-11 at 03:17 AM by Deadly Shadow
  3. Shary Bhallu TC's Avatar
    There was a janglee Indian kid who was brought up in a village. His parents thought he was mentally retarded. But in truth, he formed the Quantum and Relativity theories by himself, and was on his way to produce the String Theory when at the age of around 19, he died of illness.

    This is a 50 year old incident and is true. I cannot find a source, but will post here as soon as I find it.

    My point is that there is lots of talent everywhere. It just needs to be harvested. The Indian telly channels for young kids are actually harvesting that talent.
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  4. hasooboy's Avatar
    Agreed with sahry every one has some kind of talent and it is like revealing it and knowing your on strength, if you pull your self towards your strength then you will be a great personality one day. my question is can hard work overcome the talent ?? or Talent+hardwork
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  5. Benighted's Avatar
    I don't think anyone is born with any talents. I think its just that some people learn fast... which sort of contradicts my statement. Because being a fast learner could, in fact, be a natural talent...
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    Updated 20-03-11 at 03:05 PM by Benighted
  6. cobby's Avatar
    when kid is growing up parents can easily judge what kind of talent he has .

    i have seen some 2-3 years old girls who make so good face expressions and dance and even do acting . I can easily say they can become good actresses but parents here in Pakistan dont want that to happen so the acting talent gets wasted .

    I had a friend of mine when i was kid he was junglee type at the time. At my childhood there were no Nat Geo or discovery and he used to do those exploring things going inside swears as well and holding of lizzards , reptiles even snake .
    His parents knew . Once he was stinged by Scorpion one day .Since that day he was restricted going out side even . i can bet he had that explorer kind of talent in him but he grew up in medical college and he is no good in it .

    Talents are there but the problem is Parents are enable to let kids do what they are good at , and you should be good in what you do encouragement from the beginning let the person be on top
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  7. Crow's Avatar
    I don't think anyone is born with any talents. I think its just that some people learn fast... which sort of contradicts my statement. Because being a fast learner could, in fact, be a natural talent...
    This, basically.

    @Shary, that's impossible. Scientific theories thrive off of one another; one theory supports another, which sprouts yet another, and so on. This is how scientific progression is made, and what we have been doing for the past 5000 years. Science is not "absolute truth", science is the "relative truth", grounded by thousands of years of research and empirical evidence. None of these theories are absolute. They are all relativistic points of view that exist only in conjunction with each other, and at best, rough estimates of what is truly happening.

    A person living in remote jungles, without access to the previous scientific theories/a relative compass to navigate through science is... let's just say, the likeliness of this happening is so small that it's on par with the infinite monkey theorem.
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  8. DarkLordMalik's Avatar
    There is just a tiny bit of talent and a whole lot of hard work and devotion which makes people successful in their life. Talent is only good when it is utilized properly, everybody is good at something at least so in short i can say that everybody has some talent but utilizing their talent is another story. I believe it is just like in RPGs we have got warriors, mages etc and then their are some multi talented people who are master of both.
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  9. r3aper's Avatar
    I have the exact same thoughts about this inborn talent. I believe Nature (heredity) and Nurture shape you up.
    In your blog you have mentioned how those guys practiced hard to move closer to (what they believed) success (was to them).

    I remember I read a research which was posted on BBC and it emphasized the same point. I can't find it right now but will post it one I find it. Also if you look at it from a religious point of view, you might find a few answers.

    This books sounds interesting...will buy it once I finish reading 'The history of the People of Pakistan' Good book I must say...
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  10. CrashBandicoot's Avatar
    brain can rewire itself,if the owner is determined enough..that way we can develop whatever talent we want..

    we are born with different configurations..as in different types of wiring..but all can be changed
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  11. Deadly Shadow's Avatar
    Interesting comments. Well let me put it this way. The brain is essentially is a muscle. And what happens when you train a muscle in a specific way? It becomes stronger and grows in that area, correct? So, if you train your brain in a way, it will become stronger in those areas. Let me take an example from the book again here.

    Violinists’ brains devote more territory to the workings of the left
    hand—the one that plays the notes—than do other people’s brains, and
    also more space than is devoted to the workings of their own right hands,
    with the effect much more pronounced in people who started their music
    study at an early age.
    So this what I believe, nature plays a small role, compared to nurture.

    brain can rewire itself,if the owner is determined enough..that way we can develop whatever talent we want..
    Agreed.

    This books sounds interesting...will buy it once I finish reading 'The history of the People of Pakistan' Good book I must say...
    Yes, it is interesting. I would recommend you read it. Try the 2 chapters in a .PDF and then decide if it is worth it to you. Thanks for the recommendation, will check it out.
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    Updated 21-03-11 at 12:32 AM by Deadly Shadow
  12. Benighted's Avatar
    I'd like to concur. Nurture is definitely more prominent of the two, IMO.
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  13. Shary Bhallu TC's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Arsal
    This, basically.

    @Shary, that's impossible. Scientific theories thrive off of one another; one theory supports another, which sprouts yet another, and so on. This is how scientific progression is made, and what we have been doing for the past 5000 years. Science is not "absolute truth", science is the "relative truth", grounded by thousands of years of research and empirical evidence. None of these theories are absolute. They are all relativistic points of view that exist only in conjunction with each other, and at best, rough estimates of what is truly happening.

    A person living in remote jungles, without access to the previous scientific theories/a relative compass to navigate through science is... let's just say, the likeliness of this happening is so small that it's on par with the infinite monkey theorem.
    I knew someone would reply to me telling me all this. But that is exactly what happened. He created Newton's equations when pretty young, then worked his way up. By the age pf 18-19 he was on his way to write the string theory but due to illness he died.

    Scientists nowadays are saying that if a breakthrough in science comes, it'll come from a rural area rather than a well educated urban area.
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  14. BeLoShI's Avatar
    Logical Explanation are reality I don't disagree at all with them. But I think destiny also plays its part. Any one here believe in it or not ? thats their POV.

    Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (Idea)

    Bill Gates (although he was not alone leaving the partner which formed SUN Microsystem) (Talent + Idea)

    I do agree with the above comments. But to me Killer Combinations are not only with the Nature and Nurture a bit of destiny is also involved.
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  15. Deadly Shadow's Avatar
    I believe that destiny follows. For example, you are brilliant at something, and you practice it and work hard, doors automatically open, which leads to a path...and you end up with something.

    But, yes sometimes people are plain old lucky. ex: Justin Bieber.
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  16. BeLoShI's Avatar
    ^ Yeah Exactly. lol

    Sometimes u hit a jackpot all of a sudden.

    Singing Covers of Various Stars and an eye popped on you luckily giving you a worldwide break not to forget the contribution of Usher & Braun.

    Not to mention all parts of the world bear talent but not all of them are recognized like this.

    I bet in Pakistan as well there are People extra talented but what not they lack the guidance or what say GODHAND
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  17. Shary Bhallu TC's Avatar
    Who says that Beiber has talent?
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  18. CrashBandicoot's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Shary
    Who says that Beiber has talent?
    Its not Beiber,its his fans who are gifted..They are gifted with the ability to find entertainment in such a bore
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  19. Shary Bhallu TC's Avatar
    ^
    True that
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  20. Raza7154's Avatar
    darn good blog..... having studied psychology pretty extensively, i've always come to the conclusion that nurture theory dominates the nature one..... being born with abilities just doesnt make sense..... if the brain is presented with the right stimuli, they can be anything from the atmosphere to a good mentor, the brain moulds itself around that stimulus..... esp in the young age..... give a kid a football at the age of 2.... ofcourse self motivation, the drive to succeed also play a huge part..... you cant invest heavily in a lazy bum and expect rewards..... what is "talent" or "being gifted"? when our minds fail to comprehend something, we associate it with the unexplainable.... that is how human psyche works.....
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