Why Talent Won’t Get You There — Book Review: Talent Is Overrated

Geoff Colvin, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (New York: Portfolio, 2008).

In Talent is Overrated, Geoff Colvin argues that despite common belief that raw talent and hard work produces great performance, years of studies show that direct practice is actually the key. As Senior Editor at Large of Fortune, as well as one of America’s most respected journalists, Colvin is well positioned to collect and synthesize the studies needed to write such a volume.

The author states that dedicated, diligent and repetitive work on items that need improvement is really the key to great performance. Part of this has to do with identifying what needs to be worked on and getting immediate feedback on your practice—this can come from a teacher, or the individual performer critiquing their own work.

Colvin states that despite the fact that genetics come into play at some point, anyone can be a great performer in any field. It seems obvious, but is often overlooked, that Mozart, Yo-Yo Ma, Jerry Rice and Donald Trump had to do something along the way that distinguished them from everyone else. All of the studies Colvin cites suggest that what they did was focus continually on improvement of areas that were lacking, and furthermore they never believed they mastered their field, but instead obsessively sought to be better.

Talent is Overrated ends with Colvin asking two questions: (1) What do you want (out of work and out of life)?; and (2) What do you believe (about your work and performance)? The answers to these questions help one decide if they have the kind of passion and dedication it takes to be a great performer—just working hard isn’t enough if you don’t want (or believe in) what you’re working towards. Lastly, the author cautions that great performance almost always requires sacrificing finances, time, family and other social relationships.

I highly recommend this thought-provoking book. 5 stars.


(I read this book as part of Logos Bible Software’s “Read for Cash” program. The publisher and/or author in no way influenced my review. However, the above links are affiliate links, so if you click them and then make a purchase, I will receive a small amount from Amazon.)

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