Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Review: "Talent is Overrated"

"Talent is Overrated" is a best-selling book and concept from Geoff Colvin, Senior Editor of Fortune Magazine.

Colvin asks what makes world-class performers and athletes the way they are. And based on scientific research, he questions the natural assumption of many that natural-born talent and skill is the primary reason, followed by intense hard work.

Colvin argues that world-class performance is based less on natural talent or raw unfocused work, and much more on what he calls "deliberate practice" - a practice, argues Colvin, engaged in purposefully by world-class performers such as golfer Tiger Woods, comedian Chris Rock, football player Jerry Rice and many others.

In "deliberate practice", the performer focuses on his weaknesses specifically. And he repeatedly and deliberately practices overcoming them, especially under pressure situations. Thus, the limits of one's ability are pushed back -until they begin to master that which limited them from greatness.

And Colvin argues that we can all learn from these principles, and apply them to our lives to reach higher performance levels.

An intriguing concept worth considering.

Needless to say, the book is not suggesting that talent is irrelevant or unimportant, or that we can all achieve world-class performance levels, or that other factors such as "desire", "competitiveness", "inspiration", "passion" or "coaching" do not play a role.

Rather, "Talent is Overrated" is suggesting (based on some scientific research), I think, that a particular kind of rigorous, systematic, focused and purposeful practice is greatly underrated or not well-understood in the process of building performance - "deliberate practice" targeting and overcoming weaknesses to push through one's limits.


Book: Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, Geoff Colvin, Portfolio Hardcover (2008), 224 Pages, reprinted in Paperback by Portfolio Trade (2010).(Available on

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