In this series, Bob Morris poses a key question and then responds to it with material from one or more of the business books he has reviewed for Amazon and Borders.
The authors of three recently published books think its relative importance has been misunderstood, indeed exaggerated. In Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, the difference between them is about 10,000 hours of what he characterizes as “deliberate practice.” His insights offer a reassurance that almost anyone’s performance can be improved, sometimes substantially, even if it isn’t world-class. Talent is overrated if it is perceived to be the most important factor. It isn’t. In fact, talent does not exist unless and until it is developed…and the only way to develop it is (you guessed it) with deliberate practice. When Ben Hogan was asked the “secret” to playing great golf, he replied, “It’s in the dirt.”
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell demonstrates superior storyteller skills as he discusses several quite different situations that demonstrate that “the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are…[Those who succeed] owe something to parentage and patronage. [They] may look like they did all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot…It’s not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.”
John Maxwell suggests in his latest book, Talent Is Never Enough: Discover the Choices That Will Take You Beyond Your Talent, that if it were, “then the most effective and influential people would always be the most talented ones but that is often not the case…Clearly talent isn’t everything.” That said, he hastens to add, talent is worthy off our admiration and must be perceived in the proper perspective. For Maxwell, it is “a God-given gift.” For others who do not share his faith, it is nonetheless usually referred to as a “natural” as opposed to an acquired capability. All human beings possess talent but differ in terms of number, nature, and extent of what Maxwell calls “giftedness.” The challenge is to maximize one’s talents. In this context, I am reminded of Darrell Royal’s suggestion that “potential” means “you ain’t done it yet.”
Comments, questions, requests, or suggestions? Please share them. They will be most welcome and I thank you for them. Best regards, Bob