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…..

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