Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else
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Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  7,458 ratings  ·  544 reviews
Expanding on a landmark cover story in Fortune, a top journalist debunks the myths of exceptional performance.

One of the most popular Fortune articles in many years was a cover story called ?What It Takes to Be Great.? Geoff Colvin offered new evidence that top performers in any field--from Tiger Woods and Winston Churchill to Warren Buffett and Jack Welch--are not determ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 16th 2008 by Portfolio Hardcover (first published 2008)
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Talent is Overrated by Geoff ColvinThe Power of Habit by Charles DuhiggOutliers by Malcolm GladwellThe Social Animal by David  BrooksMindset by Carol S. Dweck
Readings on Talent and Skill
1st out of 19 books — 9 voters
Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin LefèvrePit Bull by Martin SchwartzFooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas TalebAgainst the Gods by Peter L. BernsteinThe Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
BMT members' Recommendations
67th out of 168 books — 6 voters


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Robert
Colvin set out to answer this question: "What does great performance require?" In this volume, he shares several insights generated by hundreds of research studies whose major conclusions offer what seem to be several counterintuitive perspectives on what is frequently referred to as "talent." (See Pages 6-7.) In this context, I am reminded of Thomas Edison's observation that "vision without execution is hallucination." If Colvin were asked to paraphrase that to indicate his own purposes in this...more
Kate
The takeaway from this approachable book is that a particular kind of practice--what Colvin refers to as "deliberate practice"--is what allows mere mortals (who include all of us, even Mozart, he argues) to painstakingly climb toward world-class performance in our respective fields. Colvin spends a few chapters arguing that talent, an inborn gift most of us assume is responsible for world-class performance, is a slippery concept whose cause-and-effect relationship to excellence hasn't been born...more
Trevor
This was surprising in some ways. The start of it is pretty much Gladwell’s Outliers, the end is pretty well Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and the middle is about the least interesting part of the book. So, I guess I would recommend those two books rather than this one, except that there were some things about this that made the whole thing worthwhile.

I’m more convinced than ever that talent is overrated. What is talent? Essentially it is directly connected with performance...more
Constantine
I couldn't put it down...(although the sections devoted to acheiving world class excellence in the coprporate realm did drag ...revelatory of my lack of interest in the business of business). It is a very straightforward read: competent prose, a degree of it researh based,that provides insight into what separates those elite individuals at the very top of their chosen fields (golf, football,sales,music,chess,invention,chairmanship of mega corporations,comedy,physics,medical analysis, etc). Colvi...more
Tabasco
Insightful analysis of excellence and excellent performance in any field. The point of the book is in the title: the concept of "innate talent", when it comes to great performance, is overrated in our society, because the number 1 element that generates great performance is something else. Taking the term from a paper published years ago by someone else, the author identifies this "holy grail" of excellence in "deliberate performance", that means: whoever is ready to spend more time than the oth...more
Nick
There have been a number of books lately that attempt to disabuse us of the myth of talent -- that some people are born gifted, like Mozart or Tiger Woods. When you look into the details of such cases, you almost always find a passionate parent, a good understanding of the field of expertise, and hours and hours of practice. Both Mozart and Woods had all of these. Colvin asks us to replace the idea that people are born gifted with the idea that anyone who's willing to put in the time can do wond...more
Mark Fallon
One of, if not THE best book I read this year. Some of this book supported theories I've read in other books (the "10-year rule" and "deliberate practice"), yet Colvin presented the ideas backed with more research. This book reinforced my beliefs on the benefits of coaching. Colvin also pointed out specific ways to apply this knowledge to business.

The last chapter, "Where Does Passion Come From?", has inspired me to add the books and articles from the "Resources" section to my reading list.

Few...more
Andy
This book is overrated.
After meandering for several chapters through what does not lead to high performance, Colvin finally gets around to arguing that the secret is "deliberate practice." This turns out basically to be Flow, so I would recommend just reading that book, which is by the scientist who originally described the concept, and is I think a much more interesting and useful work. Flow  The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Beyond that, Colvin mixes apples and oranges in terms of what "talent" means. Winning at something isn't the...more
getAbstract
Telling examination of the power of practicing

Author Geoff Colvin rejects the popular notion that the genius of a Tiger Woods, a Mozart or a Warren Buffett is inborn uniquely to only a few individuals. He cites research that refutes the value of precocious, innate ability and he provides numerous examples of the intensely hard work that high achievement demands. Best performers’ intense, “deliberate practice” is based on clear objectives, thorough analysis, sharp feedback, and layered, systemati...more
Xiaomin Zu
There are numerous good points about this book: good information based on solid scientific research; pretty good writing (not master level but close); cogent argument and so on. That being said, this book leaves several threads hanging: why experience does not necessarily led to mastery and what distinguish learning through deliberate practice from normal working experience.

As a Chinese, I am totally buying into this because that's what I grow up with. And I think this book explains why Chinese...more
Alex
I read this as a primer to the study of expertise, which is something I'd like to learn more about academically. So my rating of 3 stars is more a reflection of my intrinsic interest in the topic than the quality of the book. As a piece of writing and reporting, I'd put it at 2 stars--Colvin is at his best when he is explaining Anders Ericsson's research, but a bit out of his depth when he tries to draw independent conclusions.

Like several popularizations of social psychology theories I've read...more
Robyn Blaber
Well, I think I could have written this book and made it a lot shorter. 3 stars is perhaps low considering that the research was good... and that I agree with the author's findings. It's just that the conclusion was obvious. How do you advance to a world class at some skill? Malcolm Gladwell explained that in his book outliers; simply spend 10,000 hours at a thing. You'll become a master.

Colvin points out that many people spend years... 10,000 hours plus at a task, however they never achieve wor...more
Eric
When looking at the greats in a field, particularly artistic and athletic fields, people tend to focus on the prodigies. Mozart was composing as a child. Tiger Woods was golfing as a toddler. People tend to assume they had some unnatural talent or passion that led them to greatness. In TALENT IS OVERRATED, Geoff Colvin shows why these stories are just myths. It’s practice not passion, testing not talent, that makes someone great.

I first heard of TALENT IS OVERRATED in SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE Y...more
Chris Wolak
I have a two hour commute each day and usually listen to free podcasts about books or running, but I recently discovered that I can download audio books for free from the library via My Media Mall. I have a hard time with audio books because the reader's voice and performance can quickly kill a book for me. Its all I can do right now to restrain myself from boring you with stories of bad audio books past. I'm still traumatized by an especially horrific Moby Dick experience. Suffice it to say now...more
Mike
The title of this book should be 'Talent is Irrelevant,' as that's essentially the author's argument. I guess he wanted to hedge his bets, and he does grudgingly acknowledge (in the last few pages) that innate capacities *may* play some role in performance, particularly in regard to physical skills. But his constant assertion, which runs very much contrary to popular belief, is that there is no real evidence for innate or genetic abilities playing any role in the success of world-class performer...more
Steve
A continuation of the discussion I first read about in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story Of Success - are high-achieving performers naturally talented or is it the result of hard work? Talent Is Overrated sides with Gladwell in that hard work is the defining bit and pure, native talent is truly hard to find, but it goes farther in examining the type of hard work necessary to produce greatness, specifically, "deliberate practice": identifying weak areas and following a comprehensive plan to...more
Simon
The book argues that truly great performance is a result of many years of deliberate practice,not simply doing what we already know over and over again but rather stretching ourselves continually to identify, overcome and eventually master our weaknesses in a given activity. To put it in practical terms, we are speaking of around twenty-four hours of solo practice per week for a period of ten years or so to become great. Many studies are quoted and examples given from the worlds of business, sp...more
Brian
Highly recommended book about how to achieve a high level of performance in any field or endeavor.

The author refutes the notion of talent and the idea that we are born with abilities and predispositions that allow to to excel in some areas (math, music, sports, etc) relative to others. The thesis of the book is essentially to prove the saying that "perfect practice makes perfect" and he builds on Malcolm Gladwell's idea in "Outliers" that you need 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at...more
Michael Valentiner
While I agree with the general premise of the book, that hard work is the key to success and achievement, I didn't really like the book. I found it long winded, repetitive, and often not very convincing. The author never really defines what "talent" is, almost denies its existence in the first chapters, then down plays its importance in the later chapters. This is an age old debate. It is nature AND nurture that make us who we are. And yes, hard work is what really makes the difference.
Mariam
Great performance is not reserved for a preordained few. It is available to you and to everyone.
Merce Cardus
InTalent is Overrated , Geoff Colvin tells how even though most people spend a great deal of hours working, they perform just okay—not awesomely, not amazingly, not world-class excellent.

When asked to explain why a few people are excellent at what they do, most of us have two answers. The first one is hard work. If you work hard, you’ll be fine. And those get along perfectly acceptably but never become particularly good at it. Second, the great good fortune to discover their natural gift (usuall...more
Ryan
They studied many great performers/creators/creatives in different domain throughout the history. They observed some common traits in the process of becoming a great one.

They saw everybody needs many hours of practice (more on practice later), thousands of hours. They saw a relationship: those who achieved more were actually practicing more than their peers who achieved less and also practice less. And this relationship is not constant, I mean, when you practice and then become better, and then...more
Elfscribe
This book looks at a variety of studies to challenge the view that most of us have -- that talent is innate. Colvin suggests that although there may be natural proclivities in children that a far more important factor is what he calls "deliberate practice," that is hours and hours of practice at a skill focusing on improving a person's weaknesses. Studies also show that practice should start in early childhood and that a certain number of years, the magic number seems to be ten, are required for...more
Diana
I took this book out of the library and read it over two days. The writing style was dry at times, but clearly written and well organized. Colvin sets up the book by deconstructing what talent is *not* -- an inborn gift, a genetic predisposition, or even exposure at an early age. It's sort of what you expect -- the product of hard work -- but with a twist: it's the repetitive practice of the key (and often difficult) skills underpinning success, putting in the hours even when you don't feel like...more
Rob the Obscure
This book gave me insight into why I do not have any hope of becoming a world-class jazz bassist at the age of 54 when I have been playing double bass for 3 years and maintaining a full-time day gig! (I did benefit by playing electric bass for a number of years prior to taking up the double bass.)

(smile)

I'll have to be content to play as well as I am able and be grateful that wonderful musicians allow me to play with them.

At any rate...the book summarizes some very interesting research that debu...more
Laura
For those interested in this topic, I'd suggest instead Daniel Coyle's "The Talent Code" and Paul Tough's "How Children Succeed." While I'm sold on the basic premise of this book, the author often seems to skim the surface, not discussing the effect of biased environments (sexism, racism, poverty) on developing human potential, for example. There was far too much about the business world for my taste - and one could argue that this sort of "talent" is of another nature entirely and so not releva...more
Joseph Rizzo
The main point of the book is that it takes much more than an innate talent to succeed in a given field, whether it be athletics, music, science, business, or whatever your passion is. The concept of a child prodigy when you take a closer look is easier to explain based on how much time and effort, deliberate practice has been put into the activity. Michael Jordan didn't become the greatest basketball player of all time just because he was born faster and stronger than everyone else. He had athl...more
linhtalinhtinh
I am hesitating between two and three stars. I gave 3 in the end because I want to send a signal: Yes, Talent is Overrated. I always admire acquaintances who work hard more than who rely and brag on their intelligence and "talent". But I do feel, sadly, that sometimes hard work is not good enough. As a result, sometimes we just want to give up. What is the point? This book, and another conversation with a friend of mine, change that dismal outlook. No, we are not helpless.

The book succeeds in it...more
Jasmine
I think as a book I'd probably give it 3 stars, but the message behind it gets 5 stars, so I'm giving it a four.

My primary complaint is that it focuses way too much on business, and how the strategies of top performing athletes and artists can be extrapolated to the world of office and business (which I found a bit of a stretch, and also kind of boring and repetitive). But that is because I'm not particularly interested in those things - perhaps it could be useful for a person in that industry.

T...more
Jeremy
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Creativity and Passion 1 19 Nov 27, 2009 11:11AM  
Deliberate Practice Fueled By Passion 1 22 Nov 27, 2009 11:01AM  
Company Culture 1 8 Nov 27, 2009 10:50AM  
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  • The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal
  • Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...about Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business
  • Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone
  • Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
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  • The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Geoff (Geoffrey) Colvin has a degree in economics from Harvard and an M.B.A. from New York University. He is an author, a broadcaster, and speaker. He is also Senior Editor-at-Large of Fortune Magazine.
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“What you really believe about the source of great performance thus becomes the foundation of all you will ever achieve” 1 likes
“If you set a goal of becoming an expert in your business, you would immediately start doing all kinds of things you don't do now.” 0 likes
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