June 11, 2011

THE TALENT MYTH-conception

Edwin McCain: talent or sweat?Friends were chatting about music and art. And talent. You've got it or you don't. You're born with it. Talent is innate.

What an excuse!

If talent is innate, we're doomed. To avoid a lengthy discussion, I didn't argue. There's something bigger than talent. That's determination. Within reason, of course. Some activities require specific body types. For instance, squeezing into a tight space is easier if you're smaller.

If you're determined (beginning with the end in mind), you'll have the discipline to practice and practice and practice. And then practice some more.

Not just any practice. Repetition could lead to bad habits. You need feedback and goals just slightly out of reach. A coach helps since we can't be objective about ourselves.

I learned writing, public speaking and networking. Each was difficult. I had no natural skill and stacks of excuses. Yet I wanted to learn. And did. You can achieve your goals too.

The Crutch

If we're born (or not born) with talent, we have a wonderful excuse for not being good at math, not being able to draw, not being able to sing, not sticking with things, etc. We have ready-made excuses for almost everything.
The factory shut down and the only thing I knew how to do was install door handles. We couldn't compete with the _______ (fill in the current culprit). I'm too old to do anything else now. The government needs to take care of me because this isn't my fault.
Brian Tracy calls learned helplessness the second major obstacle to growth.


If you believe that talent is innate, these books could change you're mind. They're in the order I read them.
  1. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: 10,000 hour rule
  2. Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin: deliberate practice (a tad dry but has practical suggestions)
  3. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle: practice to myelin to perfect
  4. Bounce by Matthew Syed: choking, double-think (you convince yourself of success next time though you know you don't win 'em all; he builds on Malcolm and Geoff and focuses on the world of sports)
There's less overlap than you might expect. Outliers and Bounce are the most interesting.
There's a special world for those who look beyond talent and forge their own lives. Do you remember The Little Engine That Could?
Think you can
Think you can and then
Do what you can
Do what you can
(with apologies to Wally Piper)


Podcast 121 (3:47)

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PS What other misconceptions bother you?

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