Talent is overrated, practice what you love

I’m loving the typography here, and all the other idiosyncrasies (the over-adornment of the band name, the separate “when” and “time” categories, the image of 9–14-year-olds dragging their own drums and pianos to the audition). And as Stephen Dubner points out, any young group with the organizational skills to book a New York room for two weekend days running has a decent chance they’ll stick with the enterprise until they’re actually good.

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[Psychologist Anders Ericsson’s] work, compiled in the Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, a 900-page academic book that will be published next month, makes a rather startling assertion: the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.

Ericsson’s research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don’t love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don’t like to do things they aren’t “good” at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don’t possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better.


from “A Star is Made,” by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, New York Times Magazine, 7 May 2006 :: image and link via this Freakonomics post

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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