Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from EverybodyElse

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Expanding on a landmark cover story in Fortune, a top journalist debunks the myths of exceptional performance.

One of the most popular Fortune articles in many years was a cover story called 'What It Takes to Be Great.' Geoff Colvin offered new evidence that top performers in any field—from Tiger Woods and Winston Churchill to Warren Buffett and Jack Welch—are not determined by their inborn talents. Greatness doesn't come from DNA but from practice and perseverance honed over decades.

And not just plain old hard work, like your grandmother might have advocated, but a very specific kind of work. The key is how you practice, how you analyze the results of your progress and learn from your mistakes, that enables you to achieve greatness.

Now Colvin has expanded his article with much more scientific background and real-world examples. He shows that the skills of business-negotiating deals, evaluating financial statements, and all the rest-obey the principles that lead to greatness, so that anyone can get better at them with the right kind of effort. Even the hardest decisions and interactions can be systematically improved.

This new mind-set, combined with Colvin's practical advice, will change the way you think about your job and career-and will inspire you to achieve more in all you do.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Geoff Colvin has written a fascinating study of great achievers from Mozart to Tiger Woods, and he has brilliantly highlighted the fact that great effort equals great success.I agree, and Talent Is Overrated is not only inspiring but enlightening. It's a terrific read all the way through."-Donald Trump

"Talent Is Overrated is a profoundly important book. With clarity and precision, Geoff Colvin exposes one of the fundamental misconceptions of modern life-that our ability to excel depends on innate qualities. Then, drawing on an array of compelling stories and stacks of research, he reveals the true path to high performance-deliberate practice fueled by intrinsic motivation. This is the rare business book that will both prompt you to think and inspire you to act."-Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591842248
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/16/2008
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 215,509
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoff Colvin, Fortune’s senior edi­tor at large, is one of America’s most respected journalists. He lectures widely and is the regular lead modera­tor for the Fortune Global Forum. A frequent television guest, Colvin also appears daily on the CBS Radio Net­work, reaching seven million listeners each week. He coanchored Wall Street Week on PBS for three years. He lives in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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Table of Contents

1 The Mystery 1

Great performance is more valuable than ever-but where does it really come from?

2 Talent Is Overrated 17

Confronting the unexpected facts about innate abilities

3 How Smart Do You Have to Be? 36

The true role of intelligence and memory in high achievement

4 A Better Idea 52

An explanation of great performance that makes sense

5 What Deliberate Practice Is and Isn't 65

For starters, it isn't what most of us do when we're "practicing"

6 How Deliberate Practice Works 84

The specific ways it changes us, and how that makes all the difference

7 Applying the Principles in Our Lives 105

The opportunities are many-if we think about our work in a new way

8 Applying the Principles in Our Organizations 126

Few do it well, and most don't do it at all; the sooner you start, the better

9 Performing Great at Innovation 145

How the principles we've learned take us past the myths of creativity

10 Great Performance in Youth and Age 167

The extraordinary benefits of starting early and continuing on and on

11 Where Does the Passion Come From? 187

Understanding the deepest question about great performance

Afterword 207

Acknowledgments 214

Sources 216

Index 227

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 63 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 63 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Well-researched, easy to read, and motivational

    This book answers a seemingly simple question with lots of well-summarized research results from academic studies. Compared to Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers", this book is a bit more academic, but it is still very easy to read, as it is written for the general public.

    What started as a book on finding out what constitutes success in the business world, the book evolves into the topic of parenting at various places along the way. Our upbringing, our motivation to excel, and our focused practices to overcome our weaknesses explain more about our success than our pure intellect. Finally, although our genetic makeups don't explain who of us are more likely to be successful, there is still the unexplained question on why some of us are so much more motivated to withstand the painful process that is necessary to become successful. Perhaps what differentiates the successful from the non-successful is how much we are able to 'enjoy' or 'tolerate' the process of long hours of purposeful training and practices to become experts.

    For those who would like to raise successful children, this book provides recipes and the underlying principles. I was not expecting this book to be much of a parenting book when I first started to read the book. As it turns out that upbringing constitutes a big deal towards our success as adults, I have recommended this book to young parents.

    I also recommend Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers", which is even more readable, though less authoritative and less well-researched than this book.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A must read before any self-help book!

    All self-help books give stories of great people overcoming their difficulties. These stories are inspiring and worth the read. But, what is it that makes the world call people talented like Tiger Woods or a Mozart? The answer is found in this book. I read the book and then bought the audiobook because I needed to listen to it everyday. The material is easy to read, and very exciting. This book is not filled with a bunch of technical jargon, but is broken down very simply for any reader. If you are on the pursuit of being great, learn what made people "talented." The answers are going to surprise you. This is highly recommended.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    If I'm so smart, why ain't I rich?

    If you started out highly praised for your talent but wound up ordinary, this book will help you understand why.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Good old-fashioned practice

    It's about time this book was written. The author, Geoff Colvin, writes for Fortune and if you saw his piece called "What It Takes to Be Great" you know why it was such a sensation. Colvin shows that perseverence and practice are what set the truly great individuals in any endeavor apart.<BR/><BR/>But there's more. Colvin postulates that it isn't how hard you work, but how you practice that leads to greatness. It's the analysis of your progress (en route to perfection) that you can learn from your mistakes, improve and become great. The book uses ample real-world anecdotes and some scientific analysis to bolster this theories. In the end the book is an empowering look at what you can do to achieve greatness in your work and anything you put your mind to.<BR/><BR/>Another book I enjoyed deeply this week (I read a lot) and I highly recommend, though this one is based on the author's Harvard Business Review article, is The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2015

    Awful and worthless. If you enjoy business-speak, platitudes and

    Awful and worthless. If you enjoy business-speak, platitudes and simple concepts explained to you as if you were a 6th grader, then this is the book for you. While the premise of the book is true, that talent is overrated, there's nothing in this book that has not been said before by a thousand fluffy magazine articles, or that you cannot get by reading the synopsis. I was lucky enough that Barnes and Noble take returns.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2013


    In each result are two clan names. Just state your opinion on the clans. I believe that this will let every clan leader know what they need to work on to gain respect and prosperity in the rp world. Please refrain from any rude comments about the clans. If you have a comment, please state it using nice language. Thank you! (Clan names in the following results)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2012

    Excellent Book...

    I've always believed this was true and now I know it. Talent is overrated. It does take specific practice to move to the world-class level.

    Thanks Geoff...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011


    Very Thorough analysis of the concept of practice

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2011

    a bit dry

    Its informative but I cant say I'm REALLY enjoying it. Very reminiscent of Outliers.

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  • Posted May 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Telling examination of the power of practicing

    Author Geoff Colvin rejects the popular notion that the genius of a Tiger Woods, a Mozart or a Warren Buffett is inborn uniquely to only a few individuals. He cites research that refutes the value of precocious, innate ability and he provides numerous examples of the intensely hard work that high achievement demands. Best performers' intense, "deliberate practice" is based on clear objectives, thorough analysis, sharp feedback, and layered, systematic work. getAbstract finds that Colvin makes his case clearly and convincingly. He shows readers how to use hard work and deliberate practice to improve their creative achievements, their work and their companies. The author's argument about the true nature of genius is very engaging, but, in the end, he makes it clear that the requirements of extraordinary achievement remain so stringent that society, after all, turns out to have very few geniuses. Colvin admits that the severe demands of true, deliberate practice are so painful that only a few people master it, but he also argues that you can benefit from understanding the nature of great performance. Perhaps, he says, the real gift of genius is the capacity for determined practice. You can improve your ability to create and innovate once you accept that even talent isn't a free ticket to great performance. It takes work.

    To learn more about this book, check out the following Web page: http://www.getabstract.com/summary/11399/talent-is-overrated.html

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Solid Message in an Easy to Digest New Size!

    Colvin deconstructs much of the conventional wisdom which has haunted many of us (12 twelve years of Catholic school speaking here). A worthwhile read for adults, and better yet, teens and young adults. Consider this a fine gift for people about which you care, or those who you care to enlighten. The only question: should you read Gladwell's "Outliers" first, or begin with "Talent is Overrated"?
    Tops on my Christmas gift list this year.

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  • Posted July 13, 2009

    Greatness is your choice.

    This book dispels the great myths about talent. It explains how anyone can be great. The research was exhaustive and compelling. My friend recommended listening to it on the audio version. He was so right! Listening to it had a much greater impact than reading it would have done.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 29, 2009

    Thought provoking premise

    I have been accused of being "talented" in my business activities, especially writing, and hobbies, e.g., oil and water color painting. I've always argued that anyone (almost) could do the same with hardwork, and point to early examples of my efforts as proof. Then along c to tomes "Talent Is Overrated" by a sr. editor of Fortune, Geoff Colvin, who supplies data, studies and examples to support what I've always intuitively felt. Not only that but he focuses on "deliberate (focused) practice", what it is and isn't, and a ten year plus time frame, in order to get the point of becoming "world class". Many dismiss these points but I found them supported by my limited personal and other experiences. Once one gets over this premise, then the remaining points in the book assume major usefulness in one's own desire to excel in a chosen endeavor(s). I recommend the book as thought-provoking to all, no matter what their preconceptions, which will be challenged. After all, "talent" or "it's lack" can become a convenient excuse for not trying or for quiting.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    Talent is Over rated.....

    This book was awesome. It will help you to improve on the skills which you already have. This is a very motivational book.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    Great read..eye opener

    If you are interested in being great at what you do and need to understand what is required and how others have done it...then this is your book.

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  • Posted January 11, 2009


    Geoff Colvin clearly and in detail brings home to old and young that it is what you do with what you have that determines success and stresses that it is the dedicated practice, dedicated hard work to perfect one's skill that is the reason for success. It is a lesson we of all ages need in the light of the attitude that there is an easy way and contacts are the way to success.<BR/>It is the book needed by everyone who has been branded by the 'normal curve' in education.<BR/>It is a book to be read and studied by anyone interested in fulfilling himself.

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  • Posted December 15, 2008

    Warren Buffet is not a talented investor, because of his supporting environment, deliberate practice and domain knowledge, Warren Buffet became talented at investing.

    Ways to introduce the concept of deliberate practice into a business or non-profit operation:<BR/>¿ Preparation around presentations ¿ thinking about and practicing how to communicate the most important points (over and over again) until the communication is vivid and blessedly quick. Get feedback from a coach (your manager or peer) or from a video recording of your practice session. Study other presenters via audio replay, for example of a corporation¿s analyst¿s call.<BR/>¿ Sales calls ¿ pre-planned objectives and questions can allow you to de-brief post call with yourself. Did you meet your objectives? How good were your questions in eliciting the information or response you anticipated? Your peer or manager could help in providing a perspective on your call.<BR/>¿ Problem Solving /Analytic Skills ¿ Review past strategic plans, account proposals, business plans, negotiations ¿ either completed by you or someone else. Think about and write out particularly effective or overlooked approaches and how you would have addressed the issues. Read business publications with a focus on particular company or industry¿s challenge(s). Write out how you would address a revenue, profit or management issue as if you were in that situation. Continue to follow the story and what those involved did and how it what resolved (or was attempted to be resolved).<BR/><BR/>Linking types of deliberate practice actions into ways to obtain relevant domain knowledge will move an organization collective performance to a much higher level.<BR/><BR/>Think about the impact on a insurance underwriting or stock analysis unit if their staff¿s analytic abilities improved even 3%. How about the performance improvement of that, coupled with a 5% increase in their knowledge of underlying profitability or growth drivers? The likely outcome would be an order of magnitude improvement rather than an incremental.<BR/><BR/>The challenge:<BR/>The management challenge presented by this books findings and themes is for leaders of organizations to find ways to link deliberate practice with domain knowledge improvement in their day-to-day business processes and staff development practices. I intend to try it. How about you?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

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