What it takes to be great
October 19 2006
Scientific experts are producing remarkably consistent findings across a wide array of fields...talent doesn't mean intelligence, motivation or personality traits.
It's an innate ability to do some specific activity especially well.
"The evidence we have surveyed ... does not support the [notion that] excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts."
In virtually every field of endeavor, most people learn quickly at first, then more slowly and then stop developing completely. Yet a few do improve for years and even decades, and go on to greatness.
The first major conclusion is that nobody is great without work...There's no evidence of high-level performance without experience or practice.
The most accomplished people need around ten years of hard work before becoming world-class, a pattern so well established researchers call it the ten-year rule.
So greatness isn't handed to anyone; it requires a lot of hard work. Yet that isn't enough, since many people work hard for decades without approaching greatness or even getting significantly better. What's missing?
The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call "deliberate practice." It's activity that's explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one's level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.
For most people, work is hard enough without pushing even harder. Those extra steps are so difficult and painful they almost never get done...If great performance were easy, it wouldn't be rare.