Book Review: Talent is Overrated


A friend recommended this book to me months ago, and now that I’ve finally read it I can see why. It is so common to hear about how people are naturally talented in so many ways, including public speaking. While Toastmasters does a good job of proving that even those scared of their on shadow can be confident and successful speaking on a stage, there is still and underlying “S/he’s born with it” feeling about the better speakers.

In Talent is Overrated, author Geoff Colvin seeks to dispel that myth with some convincing and credible evidence about how the best really get to be the best. This includes an important caveat: Doing something (like your job) for a long time isn’t enough. Simple experience is not enough to be the best. He uses examples from sports and music (i.e. Tiger Woods, Mozarrt and Jerry Rice) since that is where we can see the results of Deliberate Practice from a common point of view, but the references to Warren Buffet and Jack Welch show tht this idea does translate into business as well.

By using the method of Deliberate Practice, anyone (in sports or business) can improve to be world class.

1. It is designed specifically to improve performance.
2. It can be repeated a lot.
3. Feedback on results is continuously available.
4. It’s highly demanding mentally.
5. It isn’t much fun.

Is there a catch? Of course – if it were easy everyone would be doing it. But of course you knew that.

More importantly, the focus of this book isn’t to tell you how to be a great golfer, composer or football player. The central theme is that these same principles can be applied to business life.

You may wonder if practicing your job would be of any value, and Goeff answers that with suggesting three models, the Music model (running through the process to improve it), the Chess model(case studies), and the Sports model (practicing certain skills) for use as templates for Deliberate Practice. He continues by showing where these can be used in our business lives with varying examples.

You may ask yourself, “do I want to do that much work?” That’s a fair question, but remember the times we live in. Any edge you can get can make the difference to getting and staying employed. The tools in this book, if put into Deliberate Practice, could make you more valuable to your current (or future) company.

One final thought: don’t misunderstand the title of this book. People (your boss) still value talent. The point is that talent isn’t born, it’s made. It’s up to you whether or not you want to get there from here.

Rob’s Rating system (bolded, the rating is)
Buy now at full price (although it’s already in paperback)
Buy if you get a discount
Wait for the paperback
Wait for someone else to be done with the paperback
If you’ve read my review, you got the gist of it

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