This is Awesome!

This was in the opinion page of the Stanford Daily (http://daily.stanford.edu/article/2007/10/26/). Jim Richardson, the women’s swim coach at Michigan told me about it, thanks Jim.

Oddities & Katie-o-syncrasies: I don't believe in talent

October 26, 2007
By Katie Taylor

I hear it all the time, I swear. He’s a genius. He aced his chem final. She is brilliant. She ruined the curve in every math class.

She’s a mind-bogglingly gifted painter. He’s implausibly good at soccer. She’s a bona fide Lisa Simpson when it comes to the sax.

They are all so talented.

My dictionary tells me that “talent” pertains to a person who possesses unusual innate ability. I’m here to tell you, folks, that I don’t believe it for one minute. I don’t. Granted, there are a whole lot of intelligent, thoughtful, creative, athletic people on this campus. (Often, for my self-esteem, I wish there were fewer.) But geniuses and brilliance? You want to know how 4.3 GPA got those damn A+s? Or how Jazz Combo Pianist got those magic fingers?

They friggin’ studied their brains out.

The authors of Freakanomics (a great, quick read, btw), Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, published an article in The New York Times Magazine entitled, “A Star Is Made: Where Does Talent Really Come From?” The two economists reference current research that explores what makes people good at things they do.

One group of researchers analyzing experts at Scrabble, darts, golf and surgery agree that talent is overvalued. Instead, the researchers point to the power of “deliberate practice” — practice that includes goal-setting, immediate feedback, and focus on technique, as well as the outcome.

Studies have shown that memory isn’t linked genetically — incredible increases in random-number memorization can be achieved through studying how to memorize and with memorization practice. In a look at elite soccer players, it was found that a vast majority of European World Cup players were born in January, February and March — Jan. 1 cut-off dates for youth leagues favor older and more experienced players.

Florida State Psychology Prof. Anders Ericsson writes on the new findings: “A lot of people believe there are some inherent limits they were born with. But there is surprisingly little hard evidence that anyone could attain any kind of exceptional performance without spending a lot of time perfecting it.”

So, stars aren’t born. The self-made man is truly self-made. And practice does make perfect.


At 11/9/07, 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eye opener the things we don't see. Years and years of sacrifice. Athletes working on their craft before the crowds show up.

At 11/12/07, 4:57 PM, Anonymous Bryan Baldridge said...

I see the problem of age cut-offs for youth leagues all the time. Children will stop playing a sport entirely becuse they are among the youngest and therefore not among the best. Furthermore, they will not be selected for all-star teams and traveling teams. These teams often have better coaches and more focused teammates. Thus children who may potentially thrive in a particular sport are turned off to it purely because ot their birthday.

Every sport has different cut-offs which are usully tied to the start of the season. It's been interesting to see how my two boys with birthdays in Jan and Dec have been impacted.

We are in a baseball league that recently changed the cut-off date. The result was that my son instantly went from being the 3rd pitcher to being the 5th. Needless to say he didn't much time on the mound and one tenth of his basball life was forever lost. He's now gravitating away from the sport he'd loved since age 2, to other sports with better cut-off dates.


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