Talent is Overrated


#1

re: dusty delso’s post in another thread, reprinted below.

IMO, Dusty has found some valuable hidden treasure and shared it freely with everyone here. Geoff Colvin’s book: “Talent is Overrated” is written in the form of a virtual roadmap to high-level achievement, extracted from the scientific literature on learning and behavior, human psychology, and studies of the common themes found in the careers of stellar performers in several different fields of human accomplishment.

Caveat: As Dusty’s post suggests, this book is not about an “easy way” to outstanding performance, nor does an easy way exist.

For those who insist on genetic factors (or “God-given talent”) as the primary differentiation separating themselves from the greatest in their field, there may be some rude surprises in this book.

Posted: Jan 14, 2011 Post subject:


if what we are talking about is true, the conclusion is, find someone you think is a great pitcher that you think your motion simulates, imitate them and work it out for yourself.

this is the pattern most if not all world class performers in any discipline follow to greatness. it is outlined in two studies, geoff colvin: talent is overrated and malcolm gladwells outliers. they both look at the development and biographies of world class performers. what did they find in a nutshell:

  1. world class performers all began by learning the basic skills known in their art that current world class performers use (sometimes this was simply by chance)

  2. they put in enormous amounts of time to become the little bit better than really good performers every day. over time this begins to separate you from the really good (which is not good enough to pitch professionally). takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of what is referred to as directed practice which is difficult and not fun to become world class @ anything.

  3. they then used their own creative beliefs and applied to their field of expertise and became enormously successful because they could do what very few people could and are willing to do. sometimes people will pay you a ton of money to do it if they like it and/or it’s profitable.

the beatles played other rock/blues music for years and mastered it in hamburg, germany before they began writing and playing their own stuff, tiger woods swung a golf club under the supervision of his father for years to become great. and his father was a very good golfer.

like the scouts say, if i don’t see it, i can’t pay for it, i know what i’m looking for and that’s what we’re buying.

if you want to blaze a new trail, it has to be clearly equal to or superior to what they are currently doing unless you want to pay for your own chance to show them. i can think of many baseball people who have lost enormous amounts of money trying to change the system and crashed. if you are a young player, are you going to bet 10,000 hrs of your time on an unaccepted model/method because someone the current experts reject says it’s how you should do it, or are you going to spend your time like every other member of major league baseball’s retirement system has and believe you can do it.

why would you listen to an idiot like me anyway, i thought you wanted to be a world class pitcher. if you don’t intend to be world class, many, many methods of throwing the baseball are sufficient, just expect to exit from the game before you may be ready to quit. what do any of us on this site know about being a world class pitcher that you can understand and apply to help you anyway. are we just trying to get you to buy in and make a little money ourselves till you figure out we are full of it and then maybe it’s too late. 10,000 hours is about 7-10 years. are you sure you want to listen to any of us. we do not get paid well to tell you how to do this. are you sure you want to take our “expert” advice.

lets all go out in the parking lot and chase cars, i saw major league pitchers do that one night when they were drunk, or listen to the rest of us who have not been invited to join the fraternity of major league baseball pitchers who think we know more than they do. they have one thing we don’t that is vitally important, the ear of the people with money, willing to spend an enormous amount of it on this game we all love. if you’re going to change things, that is where you begin.

like they say in detective work, follow the money. let the posts and games continue


#2

Speaking specifically of baseball, I totally agree that talent is indeed overrated, and precisely for the 10,000 hour reason. Given 10,000 hours of practice and perfection of skills necessary to succeed at the game, pretty much anyone able to put in the hours in true hard working form can develop the necessary level of skills.

But, I don’t quite know where the “new trail” business came from. Now you’ve gotten outside of skill development, and into what is typically known as nepotism or the unwillingness to accept a different way to express the same skills. FI, if the skill is a pitcher getting out batters and giving up as few runs as possible, how he does that should be completely irrelevant.

But of course it isn’t, and I doubt ever will be. Instead, the metric is much more involved than expressing skills. Philosophies and personalities are allowed to creep in and affect things, and suddenly the metric goes from being totally objective to totally subjective. :wink:


#3

good thread. I shared my thoughts on this topic a while back in this blog post:

http://danblewett.com/2010/01/talent-is-overrated-summary-and-reaction/


#4

Do I think talent is overrated? Somewhat. But ignorance of genetic gifts/limitations and the blindness to these very real factors is the birthplace of expensive select teams with coaches telling parents that their kids can play big league ball if they sign up with them and “work hard.”

Want a good example of someone who dropped everything to train for an obscure sport that you’ve probably never heard of? (And came nowhere close to his original goals?)

I highly recommend this read as a counter to Talent is Overrated. The will to work hard is a worthy trait in and of itself. Let’s not all think we are destined to be elite if we just work harder than everyone else.


#5

“Talent is Overrated” was recommended reading at the last NPA Coach’s Certification a week ago. I plan to pick it up soon.


#6

I agree with kyleb. If innate talent and genetics were not a factor there would not be a 15 mph (or more) difference between the hardest throwing pitchers in MLB and the slowest. All MLB pitchers would simply “work hard” and all would throw 103 mph. But they don’t, because, despite all the “hard work” mandated by their teams, most simply can’t.


#7

Yeah, I heard about that too, Roger. When you read the book, I think you’re going to recognize a lot of overlap between House’s teaching and the lessons learned from “Talent is Overrated”.

kyleb, southpaw: The thesis of the book has very little to do with the vague concept of “working hard”…except to contrast most peoples’ perception of “working hard” with what top performers actually do.

Instead, it discusses scientific research that was intended to find evidence for “God-given talent” among some very well-known names in sports, music, chess, and so on… but failed to do so. It also delves into the actual biographical circumstances of stellar performers’ pathways to the top.

A main thesis of the book is the concept, “deliberate practice”, as something that is very different from what most of us might call practice, or “hard work”.

I repeat, dusty delso did a lot of people a big favor by introducing this important book to the LTP community.


#8

If it were only genetics, there’d be little need for all the work. The “cream” would simply rise to the top. But there is that need because there are so many factors floating around that impact performance. In baseball for example, two pitchers who can both throw 100+ can have very very different success. Why? If velocity is all that it takes, then two guys who throw 100+ should have virtually identical success. And, if velocity were all it took to succeed, no one would ever see the guy throwing 15MPH less.


#9

If it were only genetics, there’d be little need for all the work. The “cream” would simply rise to the top. But there is that need because there are so many factors floating around that impact performance. In baseball for example, two pitchers who can both throw 100+ can have very very different success. Why? If velocity is all that it takes, then two guys who throw 100+ should have virtually identical success. And, if velocity were all it took to succeed, no one would ever see the guy throwing 15MPH less.[/quote]
I did not say it is “only” genetics. I said genetics is “a factor”, which is why, despite all their equally hard work, a significant variation in velocity - 15 mph or more - remains among MLB pitchers.


#10

You know when I think genetics and work ethic - I think about Tim Tebow. I watched the ESPN special about him the other day and you talk about work ethic, focus and intensity - but he still “only” got drafted late in the first NFL draft; was much maligned about his throwing motion; and was on the bench until late in the season.

But I’d give almost anything to be just like him. First, I would love to be considered by my peers (at any level - little league through professional ball) to be hard working; I would love to have been the principal reason why my school won a national championship; to be drafted in the first round of any professional league; to run out on the field late in the NFL season as a starting quarterback and show the attitude that he showed (how many QBs - congratulate the defensive team when they come off the field) & this doesn’t address the postive character that he has portrayed outside of football. I could go on & on - my point is yes genetics is important - but don’t overlook desire and heart they can be game changers.


#11

If it were only genetics, there’d be little need for all the work. The “cream” would simply rise to the top. But there is that need because there are so many factors floating around that impact performance. In baseball for example, two pitchers who can both throw 100+ can have very very different success. Why? If velocity is all that it takes, then two guys who throw 100+ should have virtually identical success. And, if velocity were all it took to succeed, no one would ever see the guy throwing 15MPH less.[/quote]
I did not say it is “only” genetics. I said genetics is “a factor”, which is why, despite all their equally hard work, a significant variation in velocity - 15 mph or more - remains among MLB pitchers.[/quote]
I personally believe that even though genetics play a big part of pitching, I don’t think that anybody, no matter how fluid a motion, can fully use their body to 100% efficiency. Major league pitchers usually are more efficient, but they may be less than we expect.

The biggest difference in pitchers is not genetics but how they use their body effectively to pitch. Most pitchers may only be 80-85% efficient.


#12

Sorry if it came across that I was saying you said that. Its not what I meant.

Genetics may well be a reason for the variations, but like everything else, it certainly shouldn’t be considered as the only reason. Someone genetically superior might throw significantly slower for all kinds of different reasons.


#13

[quote=“CSOleson”]I personally believe that even though genetics play a big part of pitching, I don’t think that anybody, no matter how fluid a motion, can fully use their body to 100% efficiency. Major league pitchers usually are more efficient, but they may be less than we expect.

The biggest difference in pitchers is not genetics but how they use their body effectively to pitch. Most pitchers may only be 80-85% efficient.[/quote]

I suspect your pretty much on the right track, but I also believe that the one part of the body that’s used the least effectively, sits right between the ears. :wink:


#14

[quote=“scorekeeper”][quote=“CSOleson”]I personally believe that even though genetics play a big part of pitching, I don’t think that anybody, no matter how fluid a motion, can fully use their body to 100% efficiency. Major league pitchers usually are more efficient, but they may be less than we expect.

The biggest difference in pitchers is not genetics but how they use their body effectively to pitch. Most pitchers may only be 80-85% efficient.[/quote]

I suspect your pretty much on the right track, but I also believe that the one part of the body that’s used the least effectively, sits right between the ears. ;)[/quote]Absolutely, without that, we can’t get anywhere in baseball, or in life.


#15

I disagree. If the biggest difference between 85 mph pitchers and 103 mph pitchers was “how they use their body”, the experts would have figured out by now “how to use your body” and everyone would be throwing 103 mph. But they’re not, because with most bodies, no matter what you do, you’re not going to squeeze out 103 mph. :smiley:


#16

I disagree. If the biggest difference between 85 mph pitchers and 103 mph pitchers was “how they use their body”, the experts would have figured out by now “how to use your body” and everyone would be throwing 103 mph. But they’re not, because with most bodies, no matter what you do, you’re not going to squeeze out 103 mph. :D[/quote]Sorry I should have specified on this since I generalized it with the statements about professional pitchers.

I believe that at the youth, high school, and college level, most pitchers are still unaware how to use their bodies to its most effective and efficient motion. Yes, genetics play a part, which is why you are also talking about the 15 mph difference from 85-100 mph. Now, I also believe that some of this consideration can be taken into account because of different strength levels and some pitchers could pitch more effectively even in the majors. A few years back, I saw a guy throw minor league ball, he was throwing 95 at the AAA level. There was something wrong with his mechanics though, his elbow was above shoulder level and he had an unnatural whipping action with his arm. Instead of teaching him how to stay healthy and be more efficient with his body, he lasted another 3 months then was out with Tommy John. We can never be 100% efficient, but some are more efficient than others. There is a mix of genetics, strength, and efficiency.[/i]


#17

If you have additional interest Malcom Gladwell’s “Outliers” deals with similar issues. The other hot topic book at the NPA certification was “The Talent Code”- slightly different application but a similar take on the outlook of “conventional wisdoms” about genetics and in this case the role of the nervous system. I haven’t read it yet but it’s on the way.


#18

Here is all I have to say…even though I could say more.

Ever notice how some guys are simply changing their stances all the time and trying to come up with something new?

Now I am not talking about the open minded coach/trainer who makes every attempt possible at keeping his mind open in order to learn new things/new approaches.

I am talking about some of the cats out there who are constantly changing their stances and at the same time are always trying to sell something; in order to make money.

There are only so many things that can continue to come as something new before some of these approaches no longer exist as making sense.

Credibility…is a word that has a lot to do with many things. Such as but not limited to; background as a coach/trainer, experience, playing background, highest level attained and a plethora of other things all of us could list. However with me “credibility” has a great deal to do with how often someone is constantly changing their approaches and or constantly coming up with new things not to become a better coach/trainer or baseball guy but merely to make money.

“wooden nickel”


#19

talent is overated is good stuff. the outliers book by gladwell is just like it. gladwell also has another book called blink which talks about developing insight or expert level appraoches. he gives examples of world class neurosurgeons, etc and the common thread is they completely master their skill or craft until they do not think about what they are doing, they use a different part of their brain. i’m reading the new mickey mantle book and it’s talking about some of the same things using implicit and explicit knowledge. arizona state does work in this area in their human performance lab.


#20

absolutely agree, Dusty–I really like the Colvin book very much and I’m grateful that you took the time to write a lengthy comment about both books…I probably wouldn’t have sought out a copy of “Talent is Overrated” except that your remarks about it struck a deep chord. So, I bought it on Amazon for a few bucks and, man, I’m really glad I did…my kid says he wants to read it next…well, okay, but no generic genetics excuses after that. (My own excuse is more of the geriatric type–and fortunately that is a valid one, ha ha).

Interesting note to folks who may currently understand genetics to be an immutable description of an individual’s “ceiling”, so to speak: I first heard about an emerging field called ‘epigenetics’ from a friend whose wife was doing postdoctoral work in that field at Cal Berkeley a couple of years ago. She is now a professor at the University of Heidelberg where she is continuing to do research in this line.

Simplistically, epigenetics is the study of how individual circumstances (“nurture”) may physically affect the expression of genetic factors (“nature”) at the molecular level. No one is suggesting that long-term experience will change one species into another–however, certain types of long-term experience can apparently cause real, measurable changes in the expression patterns of some genes…that is, in a manner of speaking, you may eventually become the person you train to become.

So, in some ways it is starting to look like the line between ‘nurture’ and ‘nature’ is getting a bit more blurry as it is examined more closely.