I don’t have talent! – You might say. And yes, that is partially true. Have you ever felt like giving up because you don’t seem to have the talent for something? To feel it’s not going to happen because everyone else seems to be so much better than you and way ahead in the race. Don’t give in, there is still hope – thanks to a Swede.
Reading the book Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, about how successful people become successful. I came across a very interesting study called The Role of Deliberate in the Acquisition of Expert Performance,made by the Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues R. Krampe, and C. Tesch-romer. In the study, they take a look at violinists at the Berlin’s Elite Academy of Music and how they perform and the effort behind it.
The striking thing
Ericsson and his colleagues divided the group of violinists into three different groups: stars, good and “music teachers”. The starts would probably be world-class soloists. The good would be great musicians and the third would unlikely play as professionals. When reading the study, one thing is very fascinating and also lovely to read. Ericsson and his colleagues couldn’t find any naturals talents among the musicians. In other words, people, who performed at the top but practiced just fraction of what the others did.
The grind behind
What you can read from their research is that when you have trained enough and reached a certain level, so you can get into a top music school, the only thing that distinguishes one musician from another was how hard they worked. No innate talent – just hard work!
We find out that all the violinist started to play the instrument almost at the same time, around the age of five, practicing around two hours a week. Three years later, at the age of eight, differences between the three groups started to notice. The students that would be the best of their classes started to practice more than the others – six hours a week. When they were fourteen years old – sixteen hours a week. When the top achievers in the classes where twenty years old they practiced more than 30 hours a week. By this age, the top achievers had their 10 000 hours and more of playing the violin.
Looking at the good players, they had only trained for a total of 8000 hours and the third group, the “music teachers”, only had 4000 hours.
They did the same investigation with pianoplayers and the same pattern occurred as with the violinists. What we call amateurs only practiced only around three hours per week in their childhood while the ones turning professionals increased their amount of hours every year, so by the age of twenty they had their 10 000 hours of training.
Make the grind behind really count
To note, the training wasn’t just showing up and playing random tunes – but with the intent to purposely get better at it in every single way. This is crucial and vital in anything. You can play a competitive videogame for thousands of hours without being a pro, if you don’t have the right intent and purpose with the hours spent.
What the Ericsson and his colleagues noticed is that there is no innate talent – just hard work! The difference between the stars and the good ones was that the starts worked much harder than everyone else. They made sure their hours counted and spend more time playing their instrument with the intent of being better than anyone else.
Or as they wrote in the conclusion of their study:
“…People believe that expert performance is qualitatively different from normal performance. The expert performer must be endowed with characteristics qualitatively different from those of normal adults. This view has discouraged scientists from systematically examining the expert performer and accounting of their performance in terms of the laws and principles of general psychology. We agree that expert performance and even that expert performers have characteristics and abilities that are qualitatively different from or at least outside the range of those of normal adults. However, we deny that these differences are immutable that is, due to innate talent. Only a few exceptions, most notably height, are genetically prescribed. Instead, we argue that the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain…”
The creative takeaway
If you read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell you will read the same observation and conclusion with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. No denying that they are geniuses in their own way, but that they were born with the talents and ideas to start world changing companies? Not even close! They did their share of hard work, before they started their companies. Then they worked even harder.
The importance of always aim to get better, in all the details of your field is the key. To keep grinding your craft and make sure that every step and activity moves you forward in your craft. Because those 10 000 hours are true. But, it isn’t 10 000 hours of fun and play, but of hard training of deliberate practice to become better.
The study is extremely interesting to read if you aim to become better and a master in your field. In my upcoming blog posts I will diver in deeper in the study.
You can find the whole study here: https://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs/freakonomics/pdf/DeliberatePractice(PsychologicalReview).pdf
You can read more about the book, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in this blog post.
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