Talent is the idea that a person is born to perform well at a particular task or has an innate increased ability in some field. We look at star-athletes and sports stars and assume that they were always better than their peers. When news channels interview a musician or singers old high school teachers, you always hear the same story “She was always talented, even back then, I knew she was going to be a star.”
We tend to only see the end result and so we attribute their skill to talent. We completely miss the many years of practice, experiments and failure which help to build a strong skill set. Matthew Syed, author of Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice says:
Expertise is a long-term developmental process, resulting from rich instrumental experiences in the world and extensive practice. These cannot simply be handed to someone.
Author Malcolm Gladwell also explored the importance of practice and how sheer luck and circumstance contributes to excellence in his book, Outliers. He was also responsible for popularising the 10,000-hour rule which states that it requires 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. We don’t see the 10,000 hours, only the resulting skill.
However, 10,000 hours of practice alone, won’t automatically result in mastery or expertise. It’s key that you take part in purposeful practice.
The ten-thousand-hour rule, then, is inadequate as a predictor of excellence. What is required is ten thousand hours of purposeful practice.
You have to always aim for skills which are just slightly out of reach and beyond your current limitations. With this approach, you will fail and fall short repeatedly.
If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.
Among many other things, Syed’s book highlights that anyone can become world-class in almost any skill if they are willing to put in the time and effort to constantly push themselves to the point of failure until you achieve success. And once you achieve success? Push yourself further and repeat the cycle.