Mastering Your Craft Beyond Innate Talent

Saurav Singh
9 Min Read
Mastering Your Craft Beyond Innate Talent

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his popular novel Outliers that “for nearly a decade, psychologists from around the globe have been engaged a lively debate over a topic that many of us would have thought was settled years ago.” Is there such a concept as innate talent or not? Yes, there is an obvious answer. Gladwell says that we think “achievement” is “talent plus preparation.” Is this true? In this article we will get to know How to Become the Best at What You Do.

The Myth of Innate Talent

Everyone naturally assumes that the most successful people they know possess some sort of innate talent which allows them to be above the others. There are likely many successful people who have barely lifted a finger in order to be as good as them. It’s likely that they were born with this talent, and the rest of us couldn’t do anything to achieve their level. If we want to be the best in our field, we’ll need some natural talent. Right? Gladwell goes on to say that “the problem with that view is that, when psychologists examine the careers of gifted people, they find that preparation plays a much larger role than innate talent.”

The Ten Thousand Hour Rule

In a recent study at a music school, it was discovered that students who excelled in violin not only practiced more, but also much more, than those who were just good or so-so. The excelling violin students began taking lessons at the age five. By the time they reached the age eight, these students were practicing much more than their peers. The not-so-musical peers? Each of them only practiced for about four thousand hours. The study was repeated with a few different scenarios and the conclusion is the same: those who reach the top are the ones who put in the time. It’s not only the gifted that rise to the top. Not everyone has a natural talent and can put in 10,000 hours. Gladwell says that they found no ‘naturals’ in all of these studies. They also couldn’t find musicians who rose to the top with ease, despite practicing only a fraction as much time as their peers. They also couldn’t find any “grinds,” people who tried harder than anyone else but still didn’t have the skills to make it into the top ranks. It’s a very useful discovery. If you want the best violinist and, most likely, the best at anything, you just have to work harder than everyone else. You won’t reach the top if you have innate talent. If you work those ten thousand hour? You are almost guaranteed to be on top. It’s not easy to put ten thousand hours of work into your job. It’s easier to do than it is to have a set of skills that you were born with. The principle that you only need to put in more hours than anyone else to be the best is something you can control. You can do this every day. Understanding this concept will give you a huge advantage, but it doesn’t mean putting in 10,000 hour is going to easy. It’s incredibly difficult and takes a lot mental toughness and grit.

Rewiring Your Habits

David Goggins is an ultramarathon runner and ultra-distance triathlete. He also speaks publicly and writes in his book Can’t Hurt Me, Master Your Mind and Defy The Odds. It’s just as natural as the sunset, and as fundamental as gravity. It’s the way our brains work …” Habits make us who we are. We make decisions based on habit when we decide not to practice violin or our other passion. We are used to not doing things that make us uncomfortable. We avoid. Avoid anxiety and the fear of failing or not being good enough. Malcolm Gladwell’s work shows that failure is impossible if you practice and dedicate the necessary time. Failure is only possible if you give up before reaching your goal. You will succeed if you put in the effort. It’s better to change your habits than to let your fears dictate your actions. New routines. New reactions in difficult situations. Instead of giving up when things are tough, you should lean forward to continue. Rewriting your habits is the only thing that will help you reach your 10,000-hour goal and get to the top.

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The Path to Excellence

Tony Robbins explains in his self-improvement guide that you must first associate negative emotions or pain with your old patterns to rewrite them. We humans are naturally drawn to pleasure and avoid pain. If we associate negative emotions with old patterns of behavior we can change them much more easily than by pure willpower. Robbins says that you must ensure “that pleasure is completely associated with the pattern of behavior.” It is hard to believe that violinists, who have put in 10,000 hours, didn’t enjoy their work. It’s likely that they were excited to practice each day. It would have been very difficult to get in 10,000 hours if they didn’t enjoy their work. Many of us are just too comfortable in our own lives. We all know that we are capable of so much more, but we don’t want to face the discomfort of changing our habits.

Heraclitus Quote
Out hundred men, only ten should be there. Eighty are targets. Nine are real fighters and we’re lucky to have them because they win the battle.” Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.

Goggins uses a quote by Heraclitus who was a Persian philosopher in the 5th century BCE to describe this phenomenon. Heraclitus said: “Out hundred men, only ten should be there. Eighty are targets. Nine are real fighters and we’re lucky to have them because they win the battle.” Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” Yes, everyone has the opportunity to work 10,000 hours, and achieve far more than anyone else. You don’t need to be born with anything special. You don’t need talent or “spark” to succeed. It takes just time. Rare are the people who actually invest that time. Who will be the exceptional one out of a hundred? You will have to do something that no one else is willing to do if you want to be at the top of your field. The top performers have given their all. They have tried and failed repeatedly, but they’ve always gotten up and tried again. Failure is not failure for those who have put in 10,000 hours. This is just a small setback in their journey to 10,000 hours. Let go of your need to view success as a straight line that moves up and down. It’s unlikely that you will see victory after victory. Sometimes you’ll lose too. It doesn’t really matter because the goal is not to receive constant positive feedback, or to achieve great things, but to simply put in your time. Enjoy the journey! Do your 10,000 hours, and don’t stop until you reach where you want. This is the only method to excel at your job, or to be the “one warrior” as Heraclitus called it.

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