Tony DeMeo


Talent is Overrated

Talent is Overrated
By: Geoff Colvin
I am a big fan of the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle which I reviewed earlierhttp://tonydemeo.com/book-reviews/the-talent-code-by-daniel-coyle/. I would again highly recommend it to any teacher or coach. Geoff Colvin also goes into the question of where does great performance come from.
Every coach in America or around the world searches for the secret of great performance. What Colvin discovers is that there are some critical pieces to the foundation of great performance. First, great performers do not have greater gifts than everyone else. No one is born great. The second factor is that great performance comes about through Deliberate Practice. Coyle refers to this as “deep practice”. It’s hard, it hurts , its intense and it works. The more deliberate practice the greater the performance. The problem is that most organizations put roadblocks in the way of deliberate practice. Colvin says human capital is far more important than financial capital in long term success.
Colvin also believes talent is overrated. By talent Colvin is referring to inborn, natural ability. Quick learners often do not go onto achieve greatness. Tiger Woods the poster child for early success was coached by his Dad Earl Woods from an early age. (Similar to Mickey Mantle’s Dad) Tiger became a great golfer through hard work. The same holds true in business. Jack Welch in his early twenties showed little sign of his future success.
So what are some of Colvin’s ideas for better performances? He points to Jerry Rice. Rice had to be talked into going out for football in High School. After high school only Division II Mississippi Valley St. College offered him a scholarship. The 49ers drafted him and he became the greatest receiver in NFL history. How did this happen?
1. Rice worked harder than anyone on the field. He sprinted into the end zone after every catch.
2. He worked out six days a week every week on his own the entire off-season. Cardio work in the morning and weights in the afternoon.
3. He didn’t get faster so he designed his practice for specific needs. He developed his skill set. He learned to run precision patterns, he developed his strength so he could out-muscle defensive backs, he developed great change of direction
4. He focused o0n specifically what he needed to be great. And he did this mostly on his own time. And therein lies the secret. Rice developed his own deliberate practice.
Colvin also describes what deliberate practice is and what it isn’t.
1. Deliberate practice is specifically designed to improve performance. It’s usually done with a coach. It’s designed to stretch the individual beyond current abilities.
2. Deliberate practice is high repetition. Lots of feedback & very demanding mentally – not much fun.
3. Repping something develops skill if the reps are focused reps. Feedback on the reps are important to the process.
4. Focus and concentration is what makes it deliberate. It pushes you out of your comfort zone but not into your panic zone but somewhere in between in the learning zone.
5. It’s not much fun and few have the discipline to do it, but those that do can achieve greatness.
Colvin points to other elements that lead to great performances. Good coaches are important. Tiger Woods had his Dad, Jerry Rice had Bill Walsh etc. A supporting environment is also very important. Having two Hall of Fame Quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young was certainly a big part of Jerry Rice’s rise to stardom.
Colvin also talks about applications of his findings in our lives. Turning individuals into a successful team takes a lot of self-discipline. The USA 2004 Olympic Basketball team was a perfect example of how a collection of great talent never devoloped into a great team. We had the greatest basketball talent in the world yet could only produce a Bronze medal. You need players dedicated to making the team great. The 1980 USA Winter Olympic Hockey team certainly was not the most talented players but they were the best team and took home the Gold medal.
Colvin’s advice is to invest in people and people development and team development. Think in terms of making the group always seeking improvement.
I thought this book was full of great coaching and teaching advice and I would strongly recommend it. This book Talent is Overrated is a book that will really help you whether trying to develop a team or just trying to improve your own individual performance.