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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

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  14,070 Ratings  ·  853 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 de
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 16th 2008 by Portfolio (first published 2008)
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Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 12, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Nov 03, 2010 rated it liked it
This is a fun book that starts out in a vein similar to Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers". Later the emphasis of the book changes, and becomes a self-help book. For best performance, the name of the game is "practice", and not any old practice--it must be focused, deliberate, planned practice. This practice is not just for musicians; it is for every type of career, in business, sales, marketing, engineering--you name it, practice is what it takes. This type of practice can be mentally taxing, and ve ...more
Sep 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed-by-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
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Mark Fallon
Dec 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.

Tom Tabasco
Mar 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Sep 15, 2012 rated it liked it
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
May 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Creativity and Passion 1 22 Nov 27, 2009 11:11AM  
Deliberate Practice Fueled By Passion 1 23 Nov 27, 2009 11:01AM  
Company Culture 1 9 Nov 27, 2009 10:50AM  
  • The Talent Code: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Math, and Just About Everything Else
  • Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet
  • Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success
  • The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong
  • The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion
  • Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation
  • Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To
  • The Way We're Working Isn't Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance
  • How Did That Happen?: Holding People Accountable for Results the Positive, Principled Way
  • Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count
  • Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing
  • Voyage of a Viking: How a Man of Action Can Become a Man of Grace
  • Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries
  • Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life
  • 8 Attributes of Great Achievers
  • The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work
  • Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It
  • Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and Other Bribes
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.
More about Geoff Colvin...
“deliberate practice requires that one identify certain sharply defined elements of performance that need to be improved, and then work intently on them.” 8 likes
“What great performers have achieved is the ability to avoid doing it automatically.” 8 likes
More quotes…