Talent is Overrated

I just read a fantastic article in the October issue of Fortune titled, "Why Talent is Overrated."  It is a book excerpt from the book of the same titled written by Geoff Colvin.  I just ordered the book-but I am not waiting to write because the article was so good.  (I know it is good when I underline in a magazine.  I usually save this ritual for books.)

This topic of talent comes up a lot when I talk to my husband and friends about kids.  I love to watch my son play soccer.  He is so cute in his uniform, with CASTILLO across the back, running up and down the field.  It is clear that some of the other kids have more "raw talent," and he has to work much harder just to get to their baseline of effortlessness.  Don't get me wrong, he is 8 years-old, playing Select Soccer, and is an amazing athlete;  but there is definitely a skill difference.

I life coach him constantly and try to teach him that the skills he is learning by not being the best now will serve him throughout his life.  He is learning to manage frustration and his thoughts about himself. He is learning how to work and take action for the things he wants.  He is learning what it feels like when someone he idolizes is unkind.  These are lessons that he may not be learning if he was super star talented now.

My dream is that many years down the road Christian will be familiar with "sucking at it" and still stick to it.  He will know how to deal with frustration and he will feel comfortable going after what he wants.  He will know that he can have anything he wants, not because he is talented, but because he is capable.

This article in Fortune really articulated this for me.  It states that the best performers are not born with a talent gene, but rather something they call "deliberate practice."  Deliberate practice is the activity of high achievers.  He goes on to define its three components"

1. Deliberate practice is continually stretching beyond current abilities  (being willing to suck at it).

2. Deliberate practice is intense and often, which is hard and very demanding mentally.

3. Deliberate practice includes coaching and mentoring and consistent truthful feedback.

The article also notes that top performers (this is my favorite part) have high metacognition.  LOVE THIS WORD.  Metacognition is knowledge about your own knowledge, thinking about your own thinking. 

Top performers are able to monitor what is going on in their own minds and ask how it is going.  This is key because it helps them adapt to changing conditions.  And just in case you haven't been present in our current technological culture, let me remind you that it is the ones who can respond rapidly to change who are going to succeed.  I see it with my clients all the time.

The reasons I love this article are many-but this is the most profound reason.  Metacogntion is what I teach in my life coaching practice.  It is what I watch change my client's life.  This article gives me a hint that it isn't just a small community of people who need this work.  We aren't just a bunch of women with issues that need some type of theraputic intervention.  We are the top performers looking for an edge. We are the ones who are willing to stretch ourselves to be more by being uncomfortable, practice intensely what we learn, and then use a coach to give us direct and honest feedback.

We have talent because we created it.  And, watch out, because we aren't done yet.

(And neither is Christian.)