I am just finishing up a book that had been recommended to me by a couple of people. Talent is Overrated is an in depth look at what exactly fuels great performance in any field and challenges the myth of the “natural talent”. Time and again, when you look at story behind the performance you find that even those who were supposedly blessed with “talent” worked hard to achieve those results.
The take home message from the book is that “lack of talent” is usually not the real issue. Instead, the author of the book looks at the traits shared by great performers and identifies several things that, if applied, can help anyone achieve greater performance in anything.
Here are a few of the things that really stood out for me:
– Deliberate Practice: Great performers all engage in a lot of “deliberate practice”. Deliberate practice is a term coined by the author to distinguish it from the mindless activities that usually define “practice” for most people. For practice to be deliberate you have to identify specific things that you are trying to work on and be mindful of how you are doing.
For example, on the trail just riding your bike is not “deliberate practice”. Going on a ride with a very specific thing you are going to work on, say leaning your bike and not your body in corners, is the start of the process. While on the trail you must be conscious of what you are practicing going into a corner, executing as best you can and then taking stock in how you did and what you can improve next time. That entire process qualifies as deliberate practice.
In the gym you should also be engaging in “deliberate practice”. You should pick specific things about an exercise that you need to improve on and spend each rep going through the “think-execute-analyze” process. This is how you improve functional movement through exercise instead of just laying fitness on top of your current dysfunctions.
– Bad performances are opportunities to grow: Average performers blame outside forces, great performers look at how they can learn and grow. In the gym this takes the form of writing off an exercise just because it is “tough” and feels “awkward”. It is also seen in people who do an exercise wrong, feel some pain and then decide the exercise is bad instead of their execution.
On the bike this is the rider who blames trail conditions or equipment for performance. While these things can play a role, the biggest factor is the rider. Only by looking at a bad ride as a chance to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses and using that info to create “deliberate practice” activities can you really hope to improve every year.
– Being a great performer is fun but the process of getting better isn’t: The fact that deliberate practice and critically analyzing performances isn’t fun came up more than once. Trying to “play” your way to great performances just doesn’t happen very often, if at all. This is the main reason great performers are so rare – most people simply are simply not willing to put off some “play” for the deliberate practice that will make them better. This is good news for those that are willing to put in the work but really puts a damper on the “just ride your bike” philosophy.
If you want to understand more about how great performances on the trail, in the gym or in business is really achieved are you should really read this book. It will help you gain a better understanding of what is truly holding you back from achieving the results you want. Your mom was right – you can do anything you want, if you are willing to put in the work needed to grow.