Talent Is Overrated

  • by Geoff Colvin
  • Narrated by David Drummond
  • 7 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

One of the most popular Fortune articles in many years was a cover story called "What It Takes to Be Great." Geoff Colvin offered new evidence that top performers in any field - from Tiger Woods and Winston Churchill to Warren Buffett and Jack Welch - are not determined by their inborn talents. Greatness doesn't come from DNA but from practice and perseverance honed over decades.And not just plain old hard work, like your grandmother might have advocated, but a very specific kind of work. The key is how you practice, how you analyze the results of your progress and learn from your mistakes, that enables you to achieve greatness.Now Colvin has expanded his article with much more scientific background and real-world examples. He shows that the skills of business - negotiating deals, evaluating financial statements, and all the rest - obey the principles that lead to greatness, so that anyone can get better at them with the right kind of effort. Even the hardest decisions and interactions can be systematically improved.This new mind-set, combined with Colvin's practical advice, will change the way you think about your job and career - and will inspire you to achieve more in all you do.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

An Even-Handed Look At Talent

Many condemn this book claiming that its sole premise is to shout that practice makes perfect. Not so. The author actively seeks out other explanations--innate talent, large memory, and intelligence--and finds that these qualities do not, statistically speaking, correlate with talent, especially in the beginning. Colvin doesn't exclude precocious children or people from the study, he just states that for the majority of people there is an obvious and strong statistical correlation betwixt time invested and competency, and the organization of the invested time, whether it focuses on improving weaknesses/aspects of performance or involves repeating a task which the one is comfortable with is also statistically shown. The latter seems to just maintain the current level of talent. The information in the book is scientifically sound. Instead of solely studying exceptional people, the author collects data from the mediocre as wells as a spectrum between these extremes to compare, establishing control groups for the data.


Others have compared this with Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. The biggest difference between Outliers and this, is that Gladwell's work focuses on the combination of social influences, available opportunities, and developed skills to become an outlier. This book focuses almost exclusively on the development of skills, only mentioning the other factors as side notes. Because the other factors can't be easily controlled, but practice can, this book is more highly applicable, but I will say that Gladwell's work is more artfully written.
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- Sasha L. Stowers "Aspiring Children's Book Writer"

The Holy Grail of education

As a successful music teacher I already knew 80% of this from hundreds of personal case studies. I did not have the vocabulary (what he calls 'deliberate practice' I have called focus and guided feedback, what he calls 'domain knowledge' I have called immersing oneself in the subject). He also fleshed out that information and interconnected it in ways I had not considered. Further, I have participated in deliberate practice and yes, it is hard and it works and anyone can do it. I can't tell you how many 'untalented' students I've brought to high levels of performance.

Of the 20% I did not know 10% is that the highest levels of mastery are not a gift (I thought my teaching ability was a gift as my degrees are in music and I never studied teaching formally. Now, as I analyze how I got here, I realize I did a ton of deliberate practice), and anyone can acheive them. The other 10% was the application to business models which is out of my realm, but was fascinating.

Some may hold on to the traditional view of 'talent' with a religious zeal. Might we consider that it is beneficial to consider the truth wherever that may lead us?

Get this book, especially if you are a teacher and you care about your profession, it is brilliant. It has bettered me as a teacher.
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- Gregg

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-09-2009
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio