Natural Talent: Not Important

In the book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell arrives at the conclusion that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become a master in your field. His conclusion came after careful study of those who seemed to have mastered their trade.

An article from the Wisdom Group, recants a story of a team of psychologists from the early 1990s who studied violin students in Berlin. They studied their childhood, adolescence, and adulthood practice habits. After being asked when was the first time the musicians picked up their instrument and how many hours they practiced it was quickly uncovered that all of them had began playing roughly at five years old. By age 20 the masterful musicians had on average more than 10,000 hours of practice. “The elite had more than double the practice hours of the less capable performers.”

The article states “one fascinating point of the study: No ‘naturally gifted’ performers emerged. If natural talent had played a role, we would expect some of the ‘naturals’ to float to the top of the elite level with fewer practice hours than everyone else. But the data showed otherwise. The psychologists found a direct statistical relationship between hours of practice and achievement. No shortcuts. No naturals.”

I’m somewhat of a Shark Tank fan mainly because Mark Cuban is one of the sharks and I’m a Mark Cuban fan mainly because he just happens to be the owner of my favorite basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks.

I’ve never had a face to face with Mark but we do text back and forth every now and then on his app, Cyber Dust. And one of the things he’s told me time and time again is that you will work 24/7/365 now so that someday everyone can call you an overnight success. His Shark Tank intro calls him a tech genius, tech guru or something like that. I’ve also heard of him that he’s a visionary and can predict the future because of his incredible success in business and technology and so on. I had to agree with those statements until I did a little reading of my own. You see, Mark started like you and me. He started from the beginning and decided he wanted to start his 10,000 hour journey down a road most people didn’t think of…the sport, art or orchestra of business. Starting his first business in his early years selling stamps soon led him to owning his own bar, The Motley Pub. After the Pub was shut down he set out again to hone his skill-set of business. That’s when MicroSolutions was born and the rest is history. But you see, he had to gain his 10,000 hours of practice and more in order to be successful in his area of ‘expertise’ and so that someone today can say he’s just a natural.

Since the secret’s out that I’m a huge Mavs fan then I’d like to look at one of my favorite players…you guessed it, Dirk Nowitzki. The man is a legend and he keeps playing like a champion. After sliding into the number 7 spot for the best scorer the NBA has seen, he’s not too far from passing Shaquille O’Neal. I always thought he just had a talent for basketball but the other day I learned he’s been working on his shot for 20 years. 20 YEARS! Wow, that’s a long time to perfect something! But the man makes it look so simple and elegant every single night he’s on the floor with the crowd cheering. Again, his 10,000 hour journey began 20 years ago when he decided to refine his shot.

The article from the Wisdom Group goes on to talk about the story of Bill Gates. Bill and Paul Allen had spent thousands of hours coding before they started Microsoft. Gates would sneak out at night when he was in the eighth grade to borrow the university computer so he could code through the night. It states: “the elite don’t just work harder than everybody else. At some point the elites fall in love with practice to the point where they want to do little else… The elites are in love with what they do, and at some point it no longer feels like work.”

What are you passionate about? Have you turned in the 10,000 hours you need to become an expert?

I get carried away sometimes but since this is a company blog, I must say something about the company. Don’t tell my boss that I wrote about basketball and tech gurus in a landscape blog. 🙂 We use a similar rule of thumb to the 10,000 hour rule when hiring. Our employees have at least 5,000 hours of experience in the field of landscape maintenance before we hire them. Then they spend the other 5,000 hours learning how to do things the Kingreen way…the right way. They learn the basics before coming to refine their skills in our landscape academy.

Find something you love to do and do it…for at least 10,000 hours before giving up.

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Wisdom Group –

Mark Cuban’s Book – “How to Win at the Sport of Business”

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