It’s learning, practice, not natural talent, that brings success

According to Geoff Colvin, senior editor at Fortune: “Talent is Overrated.”

In his new book by the same name, he says researchers see little evidence of talent in high-achieving individuals before they had intensive training. The findings show up in every kind of endeavor and in business people, artists, sports figures and others. The researchers don’t say talent doesn’t exist or help, but that practice and diligent work are more important to success.

“Deliberate practice” designed to improve performance is the key. It includes continually stretching yourself just beyond your current capabilities. You have to identify the elements of your performance that need to be improved and work intensely on them and with repetition. That means using deep focus and concentration.

For deliberate practice to be effective, do what is difficult and painful. Seek out what you are not good at.

In the beginning, and sometimes long after, you should have a teacher to guide you, says Colvin. Anyone who thinks he’s outgrown the benefits of a teacher’s help should question that view. You need feedback.

It may seem that the most important things you can do to improve in your work are not fun.

But if the activities that lead to greatness were enjoyable, everyone would do them. There would be no way to distinguish the best from the rest. Bottom line: If you think you aren’t highly talented in an area, you can still become great by learning and practicing deliberately.