And not just plain old hard work, like your grandmother might have advocated, but a very specific kind of work. The key is how you practice, how you analyze the results of your progress and learn from your mistakes, that enables you to achieve greatness.
Now Colvin has expanded his article with much more scientific background and real-world examples. He shows that the skills of business - negotiating deals, evaluating financial statements, and all the rest - obey the principles that lead to greatness, so that anyone can get better at them with the right kind of effort. Even the hardest decisions and interactions can be systematically improved.
This new mind-set, combined with Colvin's practical advice, will change the way you think about your job and career - and will inspire you to achieve more in all you do.
©2008 Geoffrey Colvin; (P)2008 Tantor
Aspiring Children's Book Writer
Many condemn this book claiming that its sole premise is to shout that practice makes perfect. Not so. The author actively seeks out other explanations--innate talent, large memory, and intelligence--and finds that these qualities do not, statistically speaking, correlate with talent, especially in the beginning. Colvin doesn't exclude precocious children or people from the study, he just states that for the majority of people there is an obvious and strong statistical correlation betwixt time invested and competency, and the organization of the invested time, whether it focuses on improving weaknesses/aspects of performance or involves repeating a task which the one is comfortable with is also statistically shown. The latter seems to just maintain the current level of talent. The information in the book is scientifically sound. Instead of solely studying exceptional people, the author collects data from the mediocre as wells as a spectrum between these extremes to compare, establishing control groups for the data.
Others have compared this with Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. The biggest difference between Outliers and this, is that Gladwell's work focuses on the combination of social influences, available opportunities, and developed skills to become an outlier. This book focuses almost exclusively on the development of skills, only mentioning the other factors as side notes. Because the other factors can't be easily controlled, but practice can, this book is more highly applicable, but I will say that Gladwell's work is more artfully written.
As many others reading this book, my interest in the top was sparked by Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, which discusses virtually the same topic, but in broader terms.
I enjoyed Geoff Colvin's approach of "this is how I was convinced by the evidence, and this is why it may convince you too", but I never found it too preachy.
Whether you agree with his premise by the end of the book or not, there are many gems to pick up along the way.
As a successful music teacher I already knew 80% of this from hundreds of personal case studies. I did not have the vocabulary (what he calls 'deliberate practice' I have called focus and guided feedback, what he calls 'domain knowledge' I have called immersing oneself in the subject). He also fleshed out that information and interconnected it in ways I had not considered. Further, I have participated in deliberate practice and yes, it is hard and it works and anyone can do it. I can't tell you how many 'untalented' students I've brought to high levels of performance.
Of the 20% I did not know 10% is that the highest levels of mastery are not a gift (I thought my teaching ability was a gift as my degrees are in music and I never studied teaching formally. Now, as I analyze how I got here, I realize I did a ton of deliberate practice), and anyone can acheive them. The other 10% was the application to business models which is out of my realm, but was fascinating.
Some may hold on to the traditional view of 'talent' with a religious zeal. Might we consider that it is beneficial to consider the truth wherever that may lead us?
Get this book, especially if you are a teacher and you care about your profession, it is brilliant. It has bettered me as a teacher.
Everyone needs to read this book! Page by page this book strips away all of our odd desires to write off human excellence as mythical or mystcial or just plain genetic....and then it turns them upside down. It hacked away any preconceived notions about our helplessness in life to become truly great at something. It uses scientific studies to remind us that at the very center of any great achievement is YOU! Human effort is the big secret. There is no divinity in Tiger's golf swing, no magic to Mozart's ink strokes, or voodoo in Einstein's theory...there was a LOT of committed effort and hard work. The book has a kind of hidden warning too: that if you ascribe greatness mostly to genertic flukes and heavenly gifts, then you are devaluing all that REAL human effort undertaken by real people. The danger is creating an illusion where your best efforts are thought to be unneeded. In reality, you are the culprit, you are the reason, YOU are the conspirator to your own greatness. This book sheds light on that timeless question....how do you get to Carnegie Hall...?
voiceover artist / lover of the written word
I've always known that practice, especially in the arts, yields better results. But what an eye-opener to learn that practice, as we've known it, will not yield the best results. It's "deliberate practice" that will, according to this book and the research behind it, that results in top-line performance.
I would have loved to get to Chapter 5 quicker, as much of the beginning seems somewhat repetitive in parts, but still enlightening because of the case studies, examples, and research it puts forth.
I have, since reading this book, "designed" my own deliberate practice routine in my field (voice-overs) and I look forward to seeing the results. Two weeks later, and even my agents are noticing on improvement in what I submit. The bad news is that this could get out. The good news is that most people don't have the commitment to do it.
Geoff Colvin completely annihilates the notion put forth by many that you're either born with the right talent or you aren't. He then systematically shows that it's all about achieving excellence is a matter of deliberately practicing hard for ten years or more. I love the way he uses Mozart as "Exhibit A." As a child Mozart was not any more brilliant than many children of his day (or children of today); his brilliance came after he had been living music under the tutelage of his father for well over a decade.
This book gives me a lot of hope since I have yet to achieve many of my dreams. Until reading this book I was beginning to doubt whether I was wired correctly for achieving some of my dreams. I now believe that it's a matter of deliberate, well designed and persistent hard work in one's field.
Thank you Geoff Colvin.
I was first ready to write this book off after the first chapter's vapid explanation of Total Assets to Net Income as a measure of a business's efficacy. However, in the following chapters Colvin lays out a well argued point about certain practice, drive, and determination being an intrinsic equalizer... a believe I have held since childhood.
I highly recommend this book. The author provides a well-researched hypothesis, but is careful not to make statements unsupported by data. In addition, the easy transitions from chapter-to-chapter and great narration made it difficult to turn off at bedtime.
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