No one is born GREAT, it takes work. When I think of greatness, it is easy to think of sports figures who have stood out from others in their respective sports: Wilt Chamberlin, Ted Williams, Jerry Rice, Muhammad Ali and a host of others. I also think about Professionals in entertainment, Elvis, The Beatles, Oprah, Elton John, Bob Hope etal. In business, it is the same: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Henry Ford are names that come up a lot. These people have all excelled but were they born great? No
I will submit that each of these people were born with extraordinary natural talent. At over 7 feet tall, Wilt was an unstoppable force on the BB court. Growing up in the 60’s, watching him go against Bill Russell was a weekly treat when it seemed that every Sunday, the Sixers and Celtics would play on TV. In most sports today, there is definitely a certain physique that you are born with that will make a big difference in overall results. You can’t be a 150 lb lineman in the NFL nor could you be a 7 foot tall gymnast. Beyond Natural talent, there are some skill sets that need to be developed in order to be GREAT. In Music, no one would dispute that John, Paul, George & Ringo had the ability to play their respective instruments and bring a whole new musical genre to us. How often did they practice? Years! Warren Buffett claims that he was “wired at birth to allocate capital” and thus was born with that natural ability! Mr. Buffett, you are not wrong a lot of times but in this instance, don’t quit your day job!
It brings me back to the need that all people need to hone their natural skills by a relentless approach to hard work that stretches you to the next level. Warren Buffett was recognized as one of the greatest investors of our time, he worked hard in his investigation of various business targets and was persistent in his abilities to interpret financial statements. As the Oracle of Omaha, he became famous for his discipline and the countless hours that he would devote to accounting principles and financial analysis of his prospective buyouts.
In the book Talent is Overrated, Fortune Magazine editor, Geoff Colvin highlights recent studies that show that greatness can be developed by any man, in any field, through the process of deliberate practice. How does one practice deliberately? There are three key descriptors that differentiate Deliberate Practice from Practice itself.
1. Deliberate practice is an activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help.
Carrying out practice sessions in this deliberate fashion is a skill that takes time to develop. That’s why having a teacher help you design your practice sessions can be invaluable. Think about the PGA tour and the world’s greatest golfers all having a teacher. Dirk Novitski of the 2011 world champion Dallas Mavericks has his own shooting coach.
2. The practice activity can be regularly repeated.
The world’s top performers spend years of their lives practicing. Ted Williams, the greatest hitter in baseball history, would practice hitting balls until his hands bled.
To be the best, you have to put in the time. In fact, as noted in one of my earlier blogs, if you want to become an expert in your field, you’ll need to put in at least 10,000 hours or 10 years of practice first.
3. The practice activity provides feedback on a continual basis.
Constant feedback is crucial for improvement. With some activities, getting feedback is easy. For example, if you’re hitting each 3 iron 210 yards and within 20 feet of target, you are on track. If every 3rd shot duck hooks into OB, you are not.
You might have a more difficult time getting feedback for activities that require a subjective evaluation. Business activities such as Presentation skills, coaching, analysis, delegation, problem solving, decision making etc..are examples of this type of activity. Lean on your manager or mentor for feedback as you strengthen these skill sets.
The ability that one has in taking God’s given natural talent and the hard work in development by Deliberate Practice can help you excel. Don’t get the wrong idea. These studies don’t say that just because you spend a lot of time deliberately practicing a skill, you’ll become a master at everything you do. If you’re 7’3”, no amount of practice will allow you to be a graceful ballerina nor would a 5’1” BB player aspire to be a slam dunker like Michael Jordan.