By Maya K.
As I have recently discovered a sudden surplus in time, I have gotten back into my beloved habit of reading. Recently, I have started Peak by Anders Ericsson. The novel delves into the mystique surrounding gifted individuals and seeks to determine whether talent is innate or learned. I’ve become fascinated with the book and wanted to delve into other opinions on the matter. As a result, I bring to you this week’s blog: can we all be really good at stuff? Or is it all our parents’ fault?
To be or Not to Be (Great)
Firstly, what does talent even mean? It’s a rather subjective term when you think about it. For example, I make extraordinarily foamy cappuccinos, but I wouldn’t list this as one of my talents. Psychologist Angela Duckworth defines talent as “the rate at which you get better with effort”. You can be talented at any skill as long as you are consistently improving. As detailed by Duckworth in her novel Grit, talent encompasses the quality of persistence. Someone who can suddenly play complicated piano arrangements may be extraordinary, but not talented (as defined by Duckworth). Rather, it is the student who has worked hundreds of hours to flawlessly master her songs who is talented. Right away, we see that talent has become a more encompassing term. But can this persistence to achieve be traced to a specific gene?
Ericsson found that practice alone is what creates talent. No one is born “gifted”. All skills are (and can be) acquired through dedication. For example, one study in Japan looked at perfect pitch in children (the ability to identify any note). It’s a common belief that perfect pitch is something people are born with. However, the study found that all participants who did not initially had perfect pitch were able to acquire the skill by the end of the study. This study proves that we can all possess talents if we dedicate ourselves to do.
However, Ericsson was able to identify one key difference between those deemed “gifted” and those who are not: deliberate practice. It has often been thought that if you do something for 10,000 hours, you will master it. But Ericsson proved this infamous theory wrong. In several studies, Ericsson discovered that meaningful practice is the key to success. You can poorly play the same song on the violin 100 times and never improve. But if you were to practice until you played the song perfectly 100 times, you are effectively mastering violin. This sense of persistence and thoughtful effort is what generates talent.
Given that most of us are stuck at home during this time, now is the perfect time to explore a new skill. Pull out those knitting needles, grab your Rubik’s cube, or seek out the perfect chocolate croissant recipe. After all, if you’re willing to work at it, it may just become one of your talents!
Are you a high school student who dreams of a life in science, technology, engineering, art & design, math, or all of the above?
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