What is Talent and How Do I Get Some?


What is Talent and How Do I Get Some?

Almost every day I meet someone who comments to me about how “talented” I am. I never quite know how to respond to that, but I would like to share some thoughts with you.  Geoff Colvin wrote a book, “Talent is Overrated:  What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else”, which I found quite intriguing as I tried to apply it to my life as a “talented” person.  Colvin presents several ideas about how top performance is possible, one of them being that exceptional talent is a function of hard work over a good amount of time.  Simply put, it takes a lot of time and a lot of focused, deliberate practice.  Citing the work of Anders Ericsson on the topic, Colvin shares Ericsson’s idea that 10,000 hours or 10 years of focused, deliberate practice equals “talent”.   And basically the only thing stopping you, is you.  You can become exceptional at anything if you are willing to put in the time. 

In this day and time we have become a society of immediacy.  We want what we want when we want it and that usually means “right now”.  I teach a lot of people and most of them are NOT willing to put in their 10,000 hours, they want to be able to write beautiful calligraphy or paint in watercolors, “right now”. 

Some things just take time and cannot be rushed, baking bread, hand lettering a poem, or painting in watercolor.  There is something very satisfying about putting in the time.  I also stress to my students that “perfect practice makes perfect”.  If one continues to practice a thing incorrectly over and over, one will never be a master.  How one practices, not just by putting in the time, contributes to the excellence of the result.

All of this led me to ask of myself whether I have yet put in my 10,000 hours, whether I really am “talented” after all these years.  I feel that the pursuit is an ongoing process but I find great joy in the process

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