Is talent overrated?


Talent has always been viewed as something you either have or you don’t have, period. You can be trained to a certain level, but if you don’t have the right ‘God-given powers’ from birth you will never be among the elite. And certainly not amongst the geniuses. Or so it is said.

In the book ‘The talent Code’ Daniel Coyle poses the questions about why some athletes, musicians or authors for that matter excel in their chosen field, and one of the answers are – because it is their chosen field. These are people that do something they not only love doing, but are passionate about.

Passion and having fun, seems to be the key ingredient in succeeding, not necessarily talent.

my feet

So what does it take to put you among the best in your field then?

This is where the rule of 10 000 hours come in to play. It is said that in order to be at the top of your league in any given field you need approx. 10 000 hours of training. That is almost twenty hours every week for about ten years. In Outliers Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly mentions the ‘10,000-Hour Rule’, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. We are not talking just playing along; we are talking at least 10,000 hours of dedicated, focused practice to become an expert at something.

Some who have applied the 10, 000 hour rule:

  • Wayne Gretzky played hockey for 10,000 hours growing up.
  • Bill Gates spent 10,000 hours programming computers.
  • Yo-Yo Ma spent 10,000 hours practicing the cello and violin.

The list goes on and even Mozart is said to have studied 3500 hours of music with his instructor father before his sixth birthday.

So is this enough? Train hard, train focused and train right, and you will become a genius?

David Hambrick of Michigan State University and Elizabeth Meinz of Southern Illinois University, writing in the New York Times, cite findings from Vanderbilt University researchers who conclude that intellect or in-born talent, not brute-force practice, makes overachievers what they are.

The Vanderbilt researchers tracked the educational and occupational accomplishments of more than 2,000 people who as part of a youth talent search scored in the top 1 percent on the SAT by the age of 13. Those in the top 99.9 percentile — the profoundly gifted — were between three and five times more likely to go on to earn a doctorate, secure a patent, publish an article in a scientific journal or publish a literary work” than those merely in the 99.1 percentile.

So where does this leave us? Do we really know?
Is talent is something that you are born with, or not? Or do we just use lack of talent as a silly excuse for not going after what we want?

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11 Comment
  1. stjernekast 8 years ago

    Super interessant lesning! Selv tror jeg mer på å øve, øve, øve enn å ha blitt født med et talent.

    • H.S. Palladino 8 years ago

      Veldig enig, cluet er nok å øve ‘smart’, dvs hele tiden utvikle seg.

  2. Karen J Montalvo 8 years ago

    What about when you’re just starting out at something and it just flows, you have a knack for it, it’s “natural”?

    • H.S. Palladino 8 years ago

      Hard to say Karen, I guess when you are doing something you love, or related to something you really like doing it will seem more natural. But a very interesting subject, would love some more thoughts on it!

  3. Tony 7 years ago

    Passion, talent, and training, are all entwined, and compose a product.

    To sum it up, what you miss in one area, you have to compensate in the two others. Like it ore not.

  4. H.S. Palladino 7 years ago

    Well said!

    • Tony 7 years ago

      Yes, thank you, like it OR not 🙂

  5. Garry Rodgers 7 years ago

    This is a very well thought-out post. I’m definitely with you on the 10,000 hours apprenticeship. Some genius, I think it was Einstein, say genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work. Best wishes for your writing and you’ve got a nice site. I look forward to more posts.

  6. H.S. Palladino 7 years ago

    Thanks for your comment Garry. I also think that most of our successes boils down to hard work, passion and dedication.

  7. Shane KP O'Neill 7 years ago

    I think there are far too many factors involved to be able to put our fingers on any single aspect. Hard work is a must to achieve anything in life. So dedication and persistence are crucial in mastering any field, as well as a passion for it. I’m not sure how many people will excel at something they do not enjoy doing. But I do think talent is a factor, and flair as well. Hard work and persistence will enable us to hone and polish our craft, but to really excel you have to have that something extra that most will not have, whatever your given field of expertise.

    • H.S. Palladino 7 years ago

      You are right Shane, a lot of factors are involved when it comes to success, and what is success anyway? Another interesting question.

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