Talent or Effort?

I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others. Muhammad Ali

Talent or Effort?

Is there such a thing as innate talent? For many years we have assumed there is.. We see the superstars of today and we know many of them were "gifted children". We see video footage of Tiger Woods when he was two years old swinging a golf club, Lionel Messi playing football at a really young age...But is it really about talent alone or is there another ingredient that makes success inevitable?

I have met numerous young "talented" athletes who believed their talent would see them through, but as they got older they slipped from their lofty perches because other "talented" individuals had been working consistently on improving and they believed the few hours they spent was all that was necessary because they were "talented". Recent research has shown us that our Genes are the starting point for all our skills and abilities and that it is how we interact with our environment which determines how well our "talent" is expressed.

In fact a study completed in the early 1990s by psycologist Ericsson at the Berlin Academy of Music divided the schools violinists into three groups. Group one, were the stars (those with potential to become world class soloists). In group two were those who were just "good". In the third group were students who were never likely to be good enough to play professionally. Every violinist was asked the same question: over the whole course of your career, since you first picked up a violin, how many hours have you practiced?

They discovered that all of the violinists had started playing at roughly the same age, about five years old. they all practiced for about the same amount of time, around two to three hours a week. By age eight was when the real difference occurred. Those who would become the best began to practice more, six hours a week by age nine and an incredible thirty hours by the age of twenty. In fact these violinists had amassed an amazing ten thousand hours of practice by this time. By contrast the merely good violinists had clocked up only eight thousand hours practice.

Interestingly, Ericsson couldn't find any naturally gifted violinists who had just floated to the top whilst practicing less than their peers did. Their study seems to suggest that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, what set them apart from the rest is the amount of effort they put into it. It would seem that the very best work hard to get to the top and then seem to work much harder to stay there.

There is of course another element to the hard work and practice, and that is work hard and practicing the right things in the right way. It seems studies carried out across a variety of disciplines bare out the fact that it takes many hours of deliberate practice for us to become masters of our chosen discipline.

This of course raises other questions about desire, about having a genuine reason why we would want to commit so much to our endeavours, about learning, about failing, about mental strength and not least about why some people may seem to get more out of practice than others.

Accessing our talents and abilities can be fun when we are very young, unfortunately when that talent come to the fore and others notice, what was once fun can be very difficult for many with the weight of expectation baring down on them.

Our series of Mental Muscle Sports Programmes and coaching interventions are designed to build a solid mental and emotional foundation from which the performer can handle the inevitable challenges that will come their way,


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