If practice is the key to getting better at things, why does our typing ability fail to improve even though we spend hundreds of hours typing on our computers each year? The answer is best expressed in one of my favorite books, Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. Colvin, Senior Editor at Large, Fortune Magazine, says that ‘deliberate practice’ is the key to improving skills. He equates the concept to repeatedly hitting an 8 iron in a practice range with the goal of hitting it within 20 feet of the hole 80 percent of the time, observing results and making adjustments and doing it for hours a day. The constant observing and adjustments is what defines deliberate practice, and it differs from how most people practice in their chosen field. Basketball players who mindlessly shoot 500 shots in the gym do little to improve their skills, and the same can be applied to skills in the business world. I’ve had a theory that most people work hard early in their careers to make a name for themselves and acquire the skills necessary to succeed, but later in their careers they stop trying to get better and instead look for shortcuts – trading on their relationships and reputations. This is why many of them end up failing or getting canned – not because they are old, but because they stop getting better. Talent is Overrated has a catchy title because most people operate under the notion that talent is what separates world-class performers from everyone else. However, the book makes the case that talent, for all intents and purposes, does not exist and that thousands of hours of deliberate practice are what separates the great from mediocre performers. Colvin has recently released a 10th anniversary version of his seminal book. I had my kids read it five years ago and I would recommend it to anyone.
Author: Gary Acosta
Gary Acosta is an entrepreneur, public policy advocate, investor, and thought leader passionate about advancing prosperity for Latinos and other underserved communities.