Friday, May 01, 2009

On Genius

David Brooks writes often about the books that discuss why people become great or excel at certain areas. Today he summarizes The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin.

The meat that I take out of it:

What Mozart had, we now believe, was the same thing Tiger Woods had — the ability to focus for long periods of time and a father intent on improving his skills. Mozart played a lot of piano at a very young age, so he got his 10,000 hours of practice in early and then he built from there.

So, child prodigies aren't born, they're made.

It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.

That's how I feel about most things I study; I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but I will outwork you. I'll put the hours in and teach myself whatever is necessary in order to develop a skill or talent. I'm glad there's now a greater body of research saying that my work is not in vain.

Public discussion is smitten by genetics and what we’re “hard-wired” to do. And it’s true that genes place a leash on our capacities. But the brain is also phenomenally plastic. We construct ourselves through behavior. As Coyle observes, it’s not who you are, it’s what you do.
Funny that the more I do and learn, the less I feel I know.


Andy said...

Malcolm Gladwell discusses this topic (the 10,000 hour rule) in his new book Outliers. Great book!

JDTapp said...

Brooks wrote about that one a few months ago. If memory serves, he had some criticisms too. He's apparently obsessed with this kind of thing.

It's on my wishlist. Used my wishlist money to buy a new phone. Which is just as well since I spend all my free time reading textbooks.