Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Talen is Overrated -- Geoff Colvin ----------------------- 3.5 Stars

This book has a pretty cool premise.  As you can guess from the title, it's basically the idea that people that are great at things (music, athletics, business) are not really great because they have some natural, innate ability, rather, they are successful because of hard work and very specific types of hard work.

Talent is Overrated really is a great idea for an essay or article...which is where this started but it really struggled as a book.  It become a preachy, business focused book during the last half and lost some real steam in my opinion.  As I said, the premise is great, and the first half of the book really is interesting and his supporting views and data regarding his premise are well told and very interesting.  He makes a great point that people like Mozart and Tiger Woods really are no different than you or I.  They just happen to be individuals that were put in very unique environments, had very specific upbringings, and were consistently following 'deliberate practice'.

Oh, 'deliberate practice', the true nugget of this book.  This is really the best part of this book and why it's worth reading.  It's not so much that people get great and really amazing at something by working hard; kind of obvious.  Rather, they work really hard at doing something very specific, very well.  Remember, the old saying, "perfect practice makes perfect"?  Well, that's the idea. 

You should really read the book to get the full description of it, but deliberate practice is what is separating you, yes you, from Tiger Woods.  Well, that and probably a few other things that it's way too late to fix.  Basically, when you go hit balls at the range or learn how to do some other activity, you are , probably having 'fun' when you try to get better.  You hit a few balls, think about your shot, hit differently, then do it all again.  That's nice, not even close to deliberate practice.  You nee to read the book to find out more about it, but be forewarned, there is the reason you are not a famous at ___________.  It's really, really hard and to be the best, it will probably take up pretty much all your time... sorry for the downer conclusion.

Overall, it's a pretty cool book with a great premise.  The first half is very interesting and will certainly carry you through less interesting second half.  If you are curious about ways to change people in business and work on organizational things like that, the second half is okay. It's got some cool ideas about how to have people focus on intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivations and things like that.  I was a bit disappointed just because it was so obviously a 'business' book and it was not marketed that way.