52 in 52 Book Summaries

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoffrey Colvin

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoffrey Colvin


The Essence

The title says it all; Talent is overrated. Dispose of the idea that top performance comes from anything but a methodical process of development. Our most prized prodigies are really the product of practice. And not just any practice, Deliberate practice. It’s not that a select population of people is somehow predisposed to greatness, people just prescribe to being mediocre. A tendency to seek automation of the hard things in life stigmatize hard as viscerally unpleasant. It happens that if we cling to these challenges they have the propensity to change us. Such change holds the secret to world-class performance. Find meaning, start early, and of course, practice.

Talent Is Overrated Journal Entry Notes:

This is my book summary of Talent Is Overrated. My notes are a reflection of the journal write up above. Written informally, the notes contain a mesh and mix of quotes and my own thoughts on the book. Sometimes, to my own fault, quotes are interlaced with my own words. Though rest assured, I am not attempting to take any credit for the main ideas below. The Journal write up includes important messages and crucial passages from the book.

• Great Performance is in our hands far more than most of us ever suspected, talent is much less important than we tend to believe.
• Letters v. Words analogy: It isn’t just that novices see letters while experts see words; experts also know the meaning of the words.
• When finding creative solutions to problems:
Knowledge is your friend
Creativity is not a lightning bolt
Long and careful cultivation is needed

• We tend to think we are forever barred from all manner of successes because of what we are or were not born with. The range of cases in which that belief is true turns out to be a great deal narrower than most of us think. The roadblocks we face seem to be mostly imaginary.

• People keep getting better long after they should have reached their “rigidly determinate” natural limits.

• Avoid Automaticity: Progress through mindfulness of actions.
• “Experience Trap”: Occasionally people get worse with experience; adaptability.
• “Landing on your butt twenty thousand times is where great performance comes from”
• The key component of self-regulation: DELIBERATE PRACTICE
• “Practice is too vague: use deliberate practice” -Ander Ericsson
• Deliberate practice is designed specially to improve performance. It is something that can be repeated a lot. It has feedback continuously available, is highly demanding, and isn’t much fun.
• If the activities that lead to greatness were easy and fun, then everyone would do them. It is hard; that is the best part!

• Set goals like the best performers; goal not about the outcome but about the process of reaching the outcome.
• The connection between general intelligence and specific abilities is weak and, in some cases, apparently nonexistent.
• Our assumption on high intelligence and high achievement are nowhere near what the research has found. IQ is not the prerequisite to achievement.
• As you add to your knowledge of your domain, keep in mind that your objective is not just to amass information. You are building a mental model, a picture of how your domain functions as a system.
• There is absolutely no evidence of ‘fast track’ high achievers.
• Undergoing years of expert training Mozart is not ‘prodigy’ in our normal use of the word. Mozart became ‘Mozart’ by working furiously hard form a peaked interest and his father’s obsession.
• The knowledge of top performers is integrated and connected to high-level principles.

A few methods experts from various fields achieve world-class performance.

Music Model
Analyze the medium in sections, determine what is most important. Work with each section repeatedly, constantly striving to express. Key ideas more effectively, with feedback after repetition preferably from a teacher.
Chess Model
Designed to meet the central demands of the field and can be further focused on the types of moves that need to be improved; high repetition and immediate feedback.
Sports Model
Must be performed differently every time because the situations they encounter are never exactly the same. Conditioning is key, skills decay if not maintained. Specific skill development is needed.

If you liked what you saw. Here are 3 titles that I recommend based on what was discussed in Talent Is Overrated.

  1. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
  2. Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson
  3. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

Find the book on Amazon: Print | Audio

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