Everything you need to pursue your Passionate Purpose you already have or can be learned.
Come on, Greg, you’re positive outlook sounds nice, but we all know that your success really comes down to how much talent you were born with.
For just a second forget about whether that’s true or not. Let me ask you a question. If you really believe that your success is out of your control and is determined by innate talent, will that belief help you achieve your goals?
The good news is the latest research shows this idea of “talent” just isn’t true. I recommend two books on this for more information: Talent Is Overrated, by Geoff Colvin and The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle.
Both books found the data show no proof of what most of us call talent. Even people who seem to show an uncanny ability at a young age at playing an instrument or a sport really aren’t more “talented” than other children. The researchers found they have simply practiced more, practiced better, and often been instructed better, than the other children. In fact, the biggest indicator of “precocious ability” in children was how long they practiced every week.
Don’t forget that the kind of practice you do matters as much as the amount of time you practice. Deep, deliberative practice is what you are looking for. Colvin describes deliberate practice this way:
“Deliberate practice is characterized by several elements, each worth examining. It is activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help; it can be repeated a lot; feedback on results is continuously available; it’s highly demanding mentally, whether the activity is purely intellectual such as chess or business-related activities, or heavily physical, such as sports; and it isn’t much fun.” [i]
Coyle sees it only slightly differently and calls it deep practice. He says you are looking to stay in the “sweet spot” of struggle for as long as you can. Catching and correcting your errors. It’s very mentally taxing and most cannot do it for long periods. However, if you can stay in deep practice, you can do in ten minutes what it would take weeks of regular practice to do.
The sweet spot: that productive, uncomfortable terrain located just beyond our current abilities, where our reach exceeds our grasp. Deep practice is not simply about struggling; it’s about seeking a particular struggle, which involves a cycle of distinct actions. [ii]
Coyle found that breaking skills into chunks, slowing down the skill you’re practicing and doing a little every day were keys. All-nighters don’t make up for a week of no practice. But more important than the time put in was the time spent in deep practice.
I had the chance to interview Coyle on the idea of talent:
Deep practice is something we rarely do for our careers. We simply go to work every day and just expect to become great by doing the same thing over and over. But what if you started doing some deep practice for your career?
If you’re in sales, you should be breaking down your sales presentations into chunks and practicing them until you’re super smooth. Ask a colleague you trust to watch your presentation and give you immediate feedback. Tweak it and make it even better. What would happen to your career if you became world-class at making sales presentations?
If you’re a surgeon you can do deep practice on medical dummies and cadavers to work on the intricate skills you will need to do your next difficult surgery. In fact, that’s what new doctors do. Why don’t we do that equivalent in whatever career we have?
What could you do to practice skills that will take your career to the next level?
[i] Geoff Colvin, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2009), 66
[ii] Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How (New York: Random House, 2009), 92