Talent Is Overrated

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Talent Is Overrated

” Talent is overrated “. Yes, you heard right – talent is a myth and we are about to debunk it. In the western world, the narrow focus on talent leaves us vulnerable to disappointment, unfulfilled expectations and rotting potential.

I think talent is a good thing, but I think peak performance is even better. This position might go against the grain and be contrarian, but hey that is what funky thinking is all about, isn’t it? The reason that talent is overrated is often at  the back of our minds – because who does not know of a person who either is highly talent or  highly intelligent in the  left brain sense of the term – and who keeps self-sabotaging themselves, and excelling at being their own worst enemy?

In “Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else”, Geoff Colvin weighs in on the “nature versus nurture” debate with convincing evidence that nurture and old fashioned, specialized, hard work are the real keys to great achievement. In our modern, industrialized world human ability is a scarce resource. The challenge and the opportunity for each of us is to take average attributes, apply deliberate effort, and produce extraordinary results.

God given talent is not what separates the best from the “want to be’s”. It isn’t experience or inborn abilities or intelligence and memory that make some people excel. It is desire and discipline focused in a very specialized way.

The road to high achievement in every field is a challenging course. The success formula Colvin offers is: hard work, tailored to address specific needs, performed consistently (often alone) over many years (ten or more) produces extraordinary results. Deliberate practice, focused on a key lever makes all the difference. There is no resting place – great performers are always pushing the envelope seeking continuous improvement

Peak Performance is talent applied at its best. It is talent coupled with the right mental acuity or emotional  intelligence. When the two intermingle in the right proportions you have a Roger Federer – high talent, high  emotional intelligence, high performance.

In my mind the only talent crisis we have is that we are not tapping each individual’s strengths and that we do not yet  have enough faith in each person’s ability to punch above his or her weight.

Therefore, talent in and of itself is overrated. Talent is sexy, juicy, and we as human beings are frequently in awe of  it. What we tend to be able to see though through our filters of reality and sound-bite culture, might in fact be peak  performance, which is talent compounded by mental acuity/emotional intelligence and smart/hard work.

Peak performance can also be a result of lower levels of talent, and higher levels of mental acuity/emotional  intelligence and smart/hard work.

It is perhaps attitude, not aptitude, that gives us altitude in life. In fact, motivation often beats inherent skills – think  Rocky, think Michael Chang, think Gandhi, think Mother Theresa. And this is great news because it means that  whether we are talented or not, the opportunity rests squarely on our shoulders to make a difference in our lives and  to those around us on this planet.


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