The world known expert on experts, Anders Ericcson, has studied top performers in many different fields of expertise. One of his major findings is the importance of deliberate practice to master expert level in almost any skill or competence. He describes deliberate practice as a key to master almost any area of expertise. According to Ericsson, talent and even physical advantages is less important than dedication and the right form of practice. Other experts like Carol Dweck supports this in her findings regarding growth and fixed mindset. She concludes that with the right mindset you are more lightly to reach expert level in almost any area. Time and effort, combined with the right form of practice, will most surely get you to your best performance. This is in sharp contrast to what most of us grow up to belive, that some are born winners with a stronger ability than others to succeed.
Overrating results, underestimating practice!
Often when we see youths with extraordinary results, we will jump to the conclusion that we are dealing with a special talent. We do this without even considering the effort and practice that lies behind his or her performance. It is easy to forget that many young talents normally have put down much higher effort than other atlets that are competing at the same level. Doing this we simplify and discredit the amount of effort and practice that lies behind the result. We also overrate talent and results when suggesting that in our family, group or nation we are good at some areas, or more importantly, not good at others.
We actually teach our children that they have ability to succeed in some areas but not in others, and to some extent, succeed without training. Consequently this might take away dreams and give children excuses for not doing their homework, practice an instrument or take that extra running practice in the holiday.We teach them that its not about effort, commitment and training, but what you are born to do. Understanding the effect of deliberate practice and the importance of long term commitment to gain expert level at any skill is crucial in understanding the damage overrating results does to development of athletes, musicians, surgeons, pilots and other experts. Underestimating the importance of training will develop fixed mindset and higher probability of youths dropping out of school or stop doing sports. For adults it means higher probability not to reach their full potential and fear of going out of the comfort zone.
Do we need talent?
So why do we often explain great results and expertise with talent? Why do we belive that some people are born for greatness and som aren’t? Firstly it makes it easier to accept defeat. Often we look for an explanation for our own failure, and the easy way is to look for causes outside our own effort and performance. So we need talent to make ourself feel better. In sports it is difficult to avoid the fact that one needs physical advantage and talent to become an expert. You will need to be tall if you want to be a great swimmer and you will need to have perfect pitch to become a world star pianist. But it is not enough, you will need to practice and practice effectively over time. Actually in Ericssons work it is clear that no-one can achieve expert-level solely on talent or physical advantage alone. Accepting this we should look for another form of talent, the talent to persistently work effectively towards becoming an expert. The talent of grit, never giving up!
How do we get the right talent?
If we consider practice and not talent as the main factor for gaining expert level, we must start cheering effort, embrace constructive feedback and reach for that next level of expertise. We must teach ourself and our children to endure setbacks and accept that grit, the ability to try again, is more important than being seen as a great talent. And a great leader would make sure grit are a beacon in the company culture. To succeed in this we need to practice failure, and to do that we ned to make a safe environment for going out of the comfort zone. Make sure you live by the rule; #treningtrumfertalent / #practicetrumpstalent.