I just finished reading Talent Is Overrated. It’s an eye-opening book that made me reconsider what I’ve thought about talent, success, and achievement.
I used to believe the common myth that talent has a lot to do with success and achievement. However, the book gives a lot of evidence including in-depth research studies and real world examples that talent may not have much to do with exceptional achievement at all.
Geoff Colvin, the author of the book, argues that deliberate practice is the key. And not just a couple months of deliberate practice but years. In fact, it usually takes at least 10 years of deliberate practice before an individual proves his greatness. He goes over the lives of exceptional performers like The Beatles, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Jerry Rice and shows that each of them had habits of deliberate practice for many, many years before making it big.
Even the child prodigies like Tiger Woods and Mozart that we often think of as supremely talented reached their success early in life because they started practicing very early. Colvin credits Tiger’s and Mozart’s fathers. Tiger’s dad had him practicing golf when he was only two years old while Mozart’s father had Mozart learn about composing when he was only three years old.
So, what does all this have to do with development, design, and other forms of web work?
Well, if talent is not the answer and practice is, then most of us have to rethink things.
If you consider yourself more talented than your competitors, then you”ll be tempted to coast, rely on our talent, and neglect practice. This leaves you vulnerable to competitors that practice very hard and therefore, will out-achieve you in the future.
If you don’t consider yourself very talented, you can have hope of huge success by practicing hard and well. You don’t have to be limited by your own perceived talent.
And most importantly, we need to figure out what deliberate practice is and how to create the types of practice activities that actually lead to improved performance. Fortunately, Colvin gives us a clear definition of deliberate practice.
Next week we’ll look at this definition and see how we can apply it to web work.