I’ve been studying various philosophies of success and mastery lately, in an attempt to better understand how to help writers reach their goals. I came across this idea that Talent is Overrated and that, in fact, it is hard work that leads people to master a skill or profession, not any kind of inborn ability.
I’ve mentioned many times on this blog that there may be a degree of innate talent or aptitude for writing a good book that contributes to a writer’s chances of success. But perhaps I’ve been wrong all this time? I find Geoff Colvin’s theories and his analysis of the research compelling.
He says that it’s not just hard work that makes the difference and leads to greatness. It’s a specific kind of hard work: a regimented and completely consistent practice schedule; tracking and analyzing your performance; and making adjustments as you learn what works and what doesn’t. I admit, it seems hard to apply this kind of structure to writing!
Colvin further asserts (and I first heard this from Tony Schwartz) that if you’re not actively trying to get better, you are probably getting worse.
He uses the analogy of a golfer going out to hit a bucket of balls. That activity in itself is not, apparently, hard enough work to contribute to improvement, success, and greatness. But the golfer who hits the balls, measures the distance and trajectory of each one, and records information about his swing, his stance, his hand positioning (etc.), analyzing which changes to led to a better result… that golfer is more likely to find success.
Over time, if people are not actively improving, actively incorporating new information and new skills, they will lose ability rather than gain or stay the same.
How does this strike you as a writer? Is there any way to incorporate this information into your own journey? And do you think it’s true that talent is over-rated and hard work is the only thing that matters?
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