I recently read “Talent Is Overrated,” by Geoff Colvin, and thought I’d share a brief report on the things I found most valuable, especially since it’s all related to becoming more effective.
Mr. Colvin’s primary message is that people are not born with all the natural talent and abilities that will make them great it life. He asserts that, aside from some physical atributes that may give an athlete an advantage in a particular sport, everyone can achieve world-class performance through “deliberate practice” in his or her chosen field - business, music, sports, etc.
In his opening chapter, Mr. Colvin proceeds to debunk the commonly held beliefs that Tiger Woods and Mozart were simply born with the innate ability to excel at golf or music composition. Mr. Colvin argues that any of us may have been as great in either of these two fields, had we been born to Earl Woods or Leopold Mozart, their mentor fathers. He writes, “neither Tiger nor his father suggested that Tiger came into this world with a gift for golf.” He goes on to quote Tiger Woods himself, “‘Golf for me was an apparent attempt to emulate the person I looked up to more than anyone: my father.’ Asked to explain Tiger’s phenomenal success, father and son always gave the same reason: hard work.”
The author explains, drawing several research-based conclusions, that the secret – deliberate practice – is designed, can be repeated a lot, requires constant feedback, is highly demanding mentally, and isn’t much fun.
He goes on to say, “If it seems a bit depressing that the most important thing you can do to improve performance is no fun, take consolation in this fact: It must be so. If the activities that lead to greatness were easy and fun, then everyone would do them and they would not distinguish the best from the rest. The reality that deliberate practice is hard can even be seen as good news. It means that most people won’t do it. So your willingness to do it will distinguish you all the more.”
At this point in my reading I couldn’t get a famous quote by George Washington Carver out of my mind (apologies for repeating this in an earlier posting):
“People who do the common things in this life uncommonly well will command the attention of the world!”
Mr. Colvin’s book quite simply supports the premise our organization, FranklinCovey, is founded upon. That is, that everyone and every organization has the potential to achieve greatness. It is our mission “to enable greatness in individuals and organizations everywhere.”
Each of us might feel compelled, therefore, to ask this question daily, “What have I done today that will bring me closer to greatness?” It proves to be within our reach.
Will you grasp it?
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