Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Talent - A Myth? (Part II)

After a couple of attempts, I was able to get two days off work just to rest! Unfortunately, I am not sure I have rested and the 2nd day is almost over. Isn’t that interesting? Anyway, I couldn’t let the 2 days pass without responding to some of the thoughts that readers of my last article has shared with me. It’s very expedient that I write a follow up article and that is exactly what I am doing. I hope my son sleeps for another 1 hour, so I can do this without any interruption (lol)

In his book “Talent Is Not Enough”, John Maxwell shares a thought that is what stating here. He said “Talent is often overrated and frequently misunderstood”. When people achieve great things, others often explain their accomplishments by simply attributing everything to talent. That is a false and misleading way to look at success. I am sure you know highly talented people who are not successful. Just look around you.

Many people are obsessed with talent. They think this is the answer to every problem. Far be it. Talent alone is never enough. Before you label me as anti talent, let me tell you what I believe about talent. Talent is important. Talent is God given and should be celebrated. Talent enables people to do extraordinary things. It stands you out and gets you noticed. In the beginning, it separates you from the rest of the pack. It gives you a head start on others. However, this will not be forever. Too many people who start with an advantage over others lose that advantage because they rest on their talent instead of raising it. I like the way that bestselling author Stephen King puts it. He said “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from successful ones is a lot of hard work”. Characteristics like punctuality, effort, patience and unselfishness are more important in the school of success than mere talent.

Character and Talent

There is a story that comes to my mind here. It’s the story of one of the best professional footballers Nigeria has ever produced. He was one of the 1st Nigerians to play professional football out of the country and was making a lot of money from it. He was adored by many and was a “wizard” on the ball. I am talking about Etim Esin. While preparing for the U20 world cup in Chile (in 1987, I guess), he was shot by armed robbers on his way from a night club, while still in camp! His talents were so great that he had to be rushed out of the country for a surgical operation in order to make him fit for the world cup. Needless to say that, he, and the whole team performed woefully at the event. Even after the event, his wild life will not let him rest. In a few years, he was off the stage. I am sure many young Nigerian football lovers will find it difficult to remember him. They will however remember people who are far less talented but used their skills to help their fatherland. It is character that protects your talent.

You can never climb beyond the limitations of your character. If you do, be ready for a free fall!

Absence of strong character eventually topples talent. You can never climb beyond the limitations of your character. If you do, be ready for a free fall! The enron example and several other examples are there to show that.

People are very much like icebergs. There’s much more to them than meets the eye. Only about 15% of an iceberg is visible. That’s the talent. The rest (the character) is below the surface, hidden. It’s what they do and think when no one is watching them. The greater the talent is, the greater the need is for strong character. If they are “too heavy” with talent, then they are likely to get into trouble.
Talent will most certainly bring you into limelight, but it’s not likely to keep you there for long, except you develop strong character. Developing talent without developing character is a dead end. If your life is long on talent, but short on character, then, your life will always be out of balance!
If your life is long on talent, but short on character, then, your life will always be out of balance
A Teachable Spirit

Have you ever been on the same team with a highly talented individual? If you have, chances are high that you would have also seen someone who is very unteachable. Afterall, he is a star! He knows it all. Who the hell are you to tell him what to do and how to do it? If you cannot be teachable, having talent won’t help you. It will get in your way of success.

One of the paradoxes of life is that things that initially make you successful are rarely the things that keep you successful. You have to remain open to new ideas and be willing to learn. If you want to expand your talent, you must become teachable. “The most important skill to acquire is learning how to learn” says Author John Naisbitt.
People who are teachable are often a greater assets than people who are merely talented
People who are teachable are often a greater assets than people who are merely talented. People who are teachable are continually growing and improving by the day. They look out for new opportunities to learn. They are easier to work with and are better team players. While a coach will definitely like to have talents on his team, he will be more successful in the long term, if he has a team full of people who are ready and willing to learn…from him and from each other.

There would never be a talent shortage in the world. Talent is God given and as long as there are people in the world, there will be plenty of talent. What is missing are people who have made the choices necessary to maximize their talent. Talent in itself is not enough. Talent in itself is a myth.

Well....i couldn't finish this before my son got up! He is currently struggling with the laptop with me. Hmmm.....looks like that is his own talent (lol)!

Till i come your way again, stay right at the top of the topmost top!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Talent - A Myth?

Right now, I am in a conference room at work. I just finalized a presentation due to be submitted before the week runs out. I have worked for Procter and Gamble now for 6years and with each passing day, I keep learning. I have worked with very great people, all with different strengths and different styles. I have worked with 5 different direct bosses, from 4 different nationalities. I have worked with people who succeeded in there assignment and those who failed woefully. In all this, I have come to a conclusion that I want to write about in this piece. You need more than talent to succeed! Talent, all by itself cannot bring you success.

You need more than talent to succeed! Talent, all by itself cannot bring you success.
At some point in your life you noticed that some people were unusually good at certain things. The brainiac who aced all his exams. The star jock that scored both on and off the court. The person who oozed charisma and everyone loved. What makes Tiger Woods great? What made Chairman Warren Buffett the world's premier investor? Why were they successful? Some people probably told you it was because they had talent, a natural affinity for greatness. I think they are full of crap. Well, folks, it's not so simple. For one thing, you do not possess a natural gift for a certain job, because targeted natural gifts don't exist. (Sorry, Warren.) You are not a born CEO or investor or chess grandmaster. You will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. And not just any hard work, but work of a particular type that's demanding and painful.

This lie of talent, of gifted-ness has to be one of the most poisonous lies people have deceived themselves into believing. The belief that certain people, maybe even us, were born with abilities that you lack the power to replicate. Unfortunately, if you tell a big enough lie enough times, people start to believe it. Long ago people use to believe that the earth was flat; the sun revolved around us and lightning was hurled from the top of a mountain by a guy who gave birth to one of his daughters from his forehead (lol). Just because something can explain an observation, doesn’t mean it is correct. The same is true for the myth of talent.
The good news is that your lack of a natural gift is irrelevant - talent has little to do with greatness
Buffett, for instance, is famed for his discipline and the hours he spends studying financial statements of potential investment targets. The good news is that your lack of a natural gift is irrelevant - talent has little to do with greatness. You can make yourself into any number of things, and you can even make yourself great.
Scientific experts are producing remarkably consistent findings across a wide array of fields. Understand that talent doesn't mean intelligence, motivation or personality traits. It's an innate ability to do some specific activity especially well. In an extensive study, evidences surveyed do not support the notion that excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts. Researchers are beginning to say that talents are developed from huge amounts of conscious training, rather than gift. Michael Jordan may have been born slightly better suited for basketball, but without all the years of training, nobody would take a second look at his ‘talent’.

No substitute for hard work

The first major conclusion is that nobody is great without work. It's nice to believe that if you find the field where you're naturally gifted, you'll be great from day one, but it doesn't happen. There's no evidence of high-level performance without experience or practice. Your talent may set you up for success, but hardwork is what delivers success to your hands.

Reinforcing that no-free-lunch finding is vast evidence that even the most accomplished people need around ten years of hard work before becoming world-class, a pattern so well established researchers call it the ten-year rule. What about Bobby Fischer, who became a chess grandmaster at 16? Turns out the rule holds: He'd had nine years of intensive study. And as John Horn of the University of Southern California and Hiromi Masunaga of California State University observe, "The ten-year rule represents a very rough estimate, and most researchers regard it as a minimum, not an average." In many fields (music, literature) elite performers need 20 or 30 years' experience before hitting their zenith.
In the school of success, the only substitute to hard work is hard life!
So greatness isn't handed to anyone; it requires a lot of hard work. In the school of success, the only substitute to hard work is hard life! The choice is really yours. The dictionary is the only place in the whole world, where “Success”, comes before “Work”.

Yet that isn't enough, since many people work hard for decades without approaching greatness or even getting significantly better. What's missing?

Practice makes perfect

The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call "deliberate practice." It's activity that's explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one's level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.
For example: Simply hitting a bucket of balls is not deliberate practice, which is why most golfers don't get better. Hitting an eight-iron 300 times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours every day - that's deliberate practice.

Consistency is crucial. As Ericsson notes, "Elite performers in many diverse domains have been found to practice, on the average, roughly the same amount every day, including weekends." Evidence crosses a remarkable range of fields. In a study of 20-year-old violinists by Ericsson and colleagues, the best group (judged by conservatory teachers) averaged 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over their lives; the next-best averaged 7,500 hours; and the next, 5,000. It's the same story in surgery, insurance sales, and virtually every sport. More deliberate practice equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance.

Let go of the belief that others have a talent you can’t learn. Success is a skill. Skills come from an intention to work and the formula for doing so. Don’t fall into believing the myth of talent.

Oopssss….it’s time for another meeting. I have to run now. I’m still thinking about this myth…..