I finally finished the book "Talent is Overrated" by Fortune Editor-at-Large Geoff Colvin, which explores the question of whether pure talent or hard, focused work is the key to becoming a world class performer in any discipline. As you might expect, the book concludes that you can't become world class at anything without putting in tons of hours on your craft, and making sure those hours are focused in a certain way. I read it. I'm a believer.
The following is one of five quick primers I'll do on the book focused on the following concepts: 1) what Deliberate Practice is, 2) applying the concepts of Deliberate Practice to the workplace and your organization, 3) why creativity is a myth, 4) why great talent continues to perform as it ages, and 5) where passion comes from and the "multiplier effect".
However, we're interrupting the series today to talk about deliberate practice in a practical, yet miraculous way. The incredible story of a life's preparation for a moment in time - the case of US Air pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger, the pilot who recently executed the emergency landing of the US Air jet in the Hudson River.
Primer #2 - The Concept of Deliberate Practice for "normal people"...
When you read "Talent is Overrated", one of the hardest things to get your head around is how the average person can apply the principles of deliberate practice to their life. After all, the vast majority of us aren't going to be world-class musicians or athletes, so how can we apply the same principles to our lives in the office park.
The reality is that the 10,000 hour rule, which stipulates you have to put 10,000 hours into a craft in order to become world class, can occur over a lifetime. The tricky part is you have to be mindful of the knowledge, skills and abilities that constitute your career or "craft", then set out to gain experiences that make those better week by week, month by month, and yes, year by year.
Do it long enough and pretty soon, you're approaching 10,000 hours and have a competitive advantage that no one can take away from you.
No career illustrates this better today than that of Chesley B. Sullenberger, the pilot who recently executed the emergency landing of the US Air jet in the Hudson River. Consider these markers of deliberate practice related to his career offered up by Time:
• Since 2007, he has run a safety consulting firm, Safety Reliability Methods, Inc., in addition to flying commercial aircraft
• Has been a US Airways pilot since 1980
• Served nearly seven years as an Air Force fighter pilot, attaining the rank of captain
• Served as a flight instructor, Air Line Pilots Association safety chairman, accident investigator and national technical committee member
• Has investigated aviation accidents for the Air Force and National Transportation Safety Board; helped developed new protocols for airline safety
• Recipient of a 1973 bachelor's degree from the Air Force Academy, where he majored in psychology and basic sciences and accrued an array of academic awards
• Has two master's degrees, one in industrial psychology from Purdue University (1973) and one in public administration from the University of Northern Colorado (1979)
• Recently named a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Center for Catastrophic Risk Management
So, not only did he fly a plane a lot (29 years, assuming 1,000 hours in the air each year, 29,000 hours), but he actively sought out related experiences in teaching others in his field, gaining domain expertise in safety, forming his own niche company related to safety, securing advanced degrees, etc.
Sound like luck? Sounds like a great example of deliberate practice to me. Average guy cranks out the work, chases it with passion, then gets the opportunity to save hundreds of lives based on his skill that developed through the deliberate practice.
Still unmotivated by your work? Then get out and do something you have a passion for.
Early success=passion=hard work=expert status over time=the chance to do something truly exceptional
Like our boy, Chesley B. Sullenberger, the poster child for deliberate practice.