A Message For Our Children: Talent is Overrated III

This is the third in this series of five blogs. The first blog shared research findings that found  people who accomplish great things do not do so because of a special gift or talent. They achieve great things through a process available to you and me: practice.

The second blog described deliberate practice … the specific type of practice needed to reach a level of world-class performance.

This blog takes a look at time and fun as they relate to deliberate practice.


The research is clear: There are no shortcuts to achieving great athletic or mental performance. Researchers found that, “No matter [the great performer]  … it always took them many years to become excellent.” To obtain the levels of accomplishment described in the book, “Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else” (Geoff Colvin), it takes practice … a lot of it … over many years.

How many years? Research in the book suggests a minimum of ten years. That’s a long time.


Deliberate practice – ten years of it, no less – doesn’t sound like a lot of fun … and it isn’t.

The example used in the book to illustrate that level of practice – the type of practice that produces excellence – is retired professional football player Jerry Rice. He was a receiver in the NFL for 20 years and considered by many the best ever at that position. Why was he so good for so long? “Everyone in the football world seems to agree that Rice was the greatest because he worked harder in practice and in the off-season than anyone else.”

Sometimes people would write the trainer on Rice’s football team and ask for the details of Jerry’s off-season workout. “The trainer never released the information out of fear that people would hurt themselves trying to duplicate it.”

His workouts were not fun. Deliberate practice is not fun. But that type of practice, the type that isn’t fun, is necessary to reach levels of greatness.

If you want to be great at something, there are no shortcuts. You must practice … practice a lot. Practice like that takes time … a lot of time … every day … over many years. And practice like that is not fun.

But it can be done, if you dare.

[Note: This is the third blog in a series of blogs titled, “A Message For Our Children: Talent is Overrated”. A fourth blog will be posted the week of August 29, 2011.].

[Note: Throughout this series, please keep in mind that the author has the utmost respect for and an 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?“].

About drjstewart

Christian, husband, father, educator, writer, and photographer.
This entry was posted in Inspiration, Talent is Overrated. Bookmark the permalink.

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