Talent Is Overrated

Got this rather insightful email from Coach Joel today. Dubner and Levitt are citing the work of psychologist Anders Ericsson, who studies (in their words) the question of “[when] someone is very good at a given thing, what is it that actually makes him good?”

“…the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.

Ericsson’s research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don’t love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don’t like to do things they aren’t “good” at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don’t possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better.”

Read the full article at Freakonomics.com

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