Studies of Life

Learning by doing.

Talent is Overrated

31 March 2012 by Jim

I finished reading the book Talent is Overrated. Here are a few good quotes from the book:

  • Contemporary athletes are superior not because they’re somehow different but because they train themselves more effectively.
  • Low IQ experts always used more complex models than high IQ non-experts
  • IQ is a decent predictor of performance on an unfamiliar task, but once a person has been at a job for a few years, IQ predicts little or nothing about performance
  • It isn’t experience. Not only are we surrounded by highly experienced people who are nowhere near great at what they do, but we have also seen evidence that some people in a wide range of fields actually get worse after years of doing something
  • It isn’t specific inborn abilities. We’ve seen extensive evidence that calls into question whether such abilities exist, and even if certain types of them might, they clearly do not determine excellence. 
  • So all the violinists understood that practicing by themselves was the most important thing they could do to get better. Though they didn’t consider it easy or fun, they all had virtually unlimited time in which to do it. On those dimensions, they were all the same. The difference was that some chose to practice more, and those violinists were a great deal better. 
  • The answer lies in the students’ histories. All the research subjects were asked to estimate their weekly practice hours for each year of their violin playing lives, enabling the researchers to calculate cumulative lifetime totals. The results were extraordinarily clear. By age eighteen, the violinists in the first group had accumulated 7,410 hours of lifetime practice on average, versus 5,301 hours for violinists in the second group and 3,420 hours for those in the third group. All the differences were statistically significant. 
  • It is activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help; it can be repeated a lot; feedback on results is continuously available; it’s highly demanding mentally, whether the activity is purely intellectual, such as chess or business-related activi ties, or heavily physical, such as sports; and it isn’t much fun. 
  • The great performers isolate remarkably specific aspects of what they do and focus on just those things until they are improved; then it’s on to the next aspect. 
  • illustrates the point by drawing three concentric circles. He labels the inner circle “comfort zone,” the middle one “learning zone,” and the outer one “panic zone.” 
  • Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it “deliberate,” 
  • it strikes us that they’ve practiced for so long, and done it so many times, they can just do it automatically. But in fact, what they have achieved is the ability to avoid doing it automatically. 
  • So he would rewrite Spectator essays in verse. Then, after he had for gotten them, he would take his versified essays and rewrite them in prose, again comparing his efforts with the original
  • So Franklin identified the aspects of his performance that needed to be improved and found a way to stretch himself, the essential core of deliberate practice. Significantly, he did not try to become a better 

This is pretty long, but it’s late and I don’t want to condense it further. Now on to other things.

The last week has been productive, I’ve advanced up to Unit 14 of the Latin course, which is great, and I started reading a book by Edward Bond on the War pieces, which is quite enlightening. Today, I’ve had 211 minutes of activity, and I will track all of that more precisely now. From Monday on, the numbers were 125, 149, 187, 187, 217, 211, which makes for an average of 180 minutes per day, which is three straight hours, and pretty damn great. I’ve had some transcription work, too, so I didn’t use up all that time for studying. I’m now at 6 chapters of 25 or so that I have corrected, and I isolated some issues that need modification, which is great.

I still have to setup a comprehensive rule work for my life, which I am going to do tomorrow.

Main goals to achieve in the next few weeks are to invoke wonder in people, which I’ll do through the novel, to benefit more thoroughly from social interaction without too many strings attached, to start a meeting with a poem.

I found out that in order to regain some confidence in the wondrous qualities of people, I will have to change and experience others more deeply, through travel. That is something I definitely have to push myself to do more of in the future.

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