Not talented – dedicated

Watch this video and you will say – Wow! those kids are talented. No – they made a choice. A choice to excel. and that takes hours and hours of dedication (10,000 hours according to the research) and purposeful practice. But do these kids look like their are struggling and toiling. No, they are having a blast.   But, here is the frightening thing.  NONE of this is about talent.  Why is that so frightening? Because it takes away the excuse from everyone who says “I would love to, but I’m not talented”.

Mindset – fixed or growth?

Achievement requires hard work, purposeful practice, the correct coaching and a “growth mindset”. The growth mindset says every mis-step is another chance to learn and make progress. Failure is seen through a different lens compared with the “fixed mindset” person who thinks that they are as good as they can get. They play it safe and avoid mistakes which will challenge their current position. My mantra when public speaking is “feedback not failure”. Which is why I seek out candid feedback and often try new things. Apologies if you were in the audience when it didn’t quite work out. But come and watch me again and you will see I have learned from the experience.

Doomed to failure

It is put well in a book called Bounce by Matthew Syed

The talent theory of expertise is not merely flawed in theory, it is insidious in practice, robbing individuals and institutions of the motivation to change themselves and society.

Think about it. Why would any parent spend time and energy seeking opportunities to improve if success is ultimately about talent rather than practice? Why would we make the sacrifices if the gains are, at best, uncertain? Why would we leave the comfort zone for the rigours of the learning zone if the benefits are bestowed on only the talented?

Combine a fixed mindset with a belief that you don’t have the talent and you are destined to live out a sad and unexplored life.


2 thoughts on “Dedication and purposeful practice (not talent)…..gets results

  1. Ian, can’t fully agree. It is well known that humans aren’t born as blank slates that an be shaped according to wish. Rather the opposite as recent science shows. But it is quite obvious that talent alone does not make a master. It does require talent AND dedication (10k h rule) to become world class in anything.

    The continuous feedback from failure can tell us if we are targeting to hone a talent (or bodily capability) we have or if we are going to be frustrated no end trying. The very top athletes are there only because they have the physiology in their genes and not because they just trained hard. Chess masters have different brain structures. Risky sports are clearly done by those who have the thrill-seeking in their emotional personality.

    Clearly, many could get a lot further if they would find or be given the motivation. But saying that anyone can do anything if they try hard enough is simply asking for a lot of unnecessary failure and frustration. Finding or testing one’s own limits is also satisfying without the ambitions.

  2. Max – I am not saying that everybody can do anything. Clearly if you are 5’2″ then basketball is going to be a challenge – however Wayne Gretzkey was not your typical ice hockey player but excelled. What I am saying it that too many people say ‘I don’t have the talent” and give up when really it is purposeful practice that they are missing. This attitude robs them of success.

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