I recently read the book, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (Geoff Colvin). It has a message of hope for our children: great performers are not born great; they achieve greatness through a process available to you and me.
Researchers found that more than 75% of the people (mostly education professionals) polled for a study believed that playing concert instruments requires a pre-determined genetic makeup – a special gift or talent.
The same researchers set out to determine if that was true. They observed 257 children who had studied music. The children were organized into five groups based on ability. “Researchers matched the groups by age, gender, instruments, and socioeconomic class.”
What did the researchers find? None of the children in the top ability group had a special gift or talent. Only one factor – and one factor only – contributed to their success: how much time they practiced. Children in the top group averaged two hours of practice a day. Children in the lowest group practiced fifteen minutes a day.
Again, the only factor that separated the top group from the other groups was the amount of practice time.
The finding makes sense. Who is better at playing popular video games? Parents or their children? For parents my age (50 plus), most likely the answer is their children. Why? Compare and contrast the time parents play video games (near zero) to their children’s time (hundreds of hours) at the same games. It is not surprising that the group (children) that puts more time into playing video games is better than the group (parents) that plays less.
The message of hope? Achieving great things is possible for those who want it. The key is practice.
[Note: This is the first blog in a series of blogs titled, “A Message For Our Children: Talent is Overrated”].
[Note: Throughout this series, please keep in mind that the author has the utmost respect for and understanding of obstacles that cannot be overcome with practice. It would be a mistake to prescribe practice and more of it for every child who has difficulty acquiring mastery of a subject or achieving a goal. At some point it might well be time to determine the difference between “dead ends” and “detours”. For information on that subject, please read Dr. Jerome Stewart’s Blog titled, “Dead End or Detour?”].