The book Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin, which I am now reading, is even more interesting than I thought it would be. Anyone interested in Malcolm Gladwell's new book Outliers: The Story of Success should have a look at this book, too. This book (roughly) deals with the same topic and does so in a way which is at least as interesting. The book not only debugs the talent myth, the believe that talent is a dominant factor in high achievement (which Gladwell has done too in several publications). It also operationalizes the concept of deliberate practice. This concept was introduced by Anders Ericsson, a leading researcher in the field of expertise development. Colvin explains that deliberate practice can be described by these five characteristics:
1. It's designed specifically to improve performance
2. It can be repeated a lot3. Feedback on results is continously available
4. It's highly demanding mentally
5. It isn't much fun
Deliberate practice is hard and not particularly enjoyable because it means you are focusing on improving areas in your performance that are not satisfactory. Thus, it stretches you. If you'll be able to do deliberate practice, you'll benefit by becoming better. Especially if you'll be able to keep it up for extremely long periods of time. Much research has shown that top performance in a wide array of fields is always based on an extreme amount of deliberate practice. It is hard to find a top performer in any field that has not been working extremely hard to get there. What does 'extremely hard' mean? Well, researchers Herbert Simon and Allen Newel used to say that you need at least 10 years before reaching top performance. Now, researchers have refined their estimate, saying coming up with a figure of 10000 hours. An interesting thing about deliberate practice is that its effect is cumulative. You can compare it with a road you're traveling on. Any distance you have travelled on that road counts. So, if you have started at an early age, this will lead to an advantage over someone who started later.