Archive for January 2014

Cranking Out What We Already Know How to Do

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Quote by Geoffrey Colvin in chapter 5 of his book “Talent is Overrated: What really separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“:

…work, like deliberate practice, is often mentally demanding and tiring. But that’s typically not because of the intense focus and concentration involved. Rather, it’s more often a result of long hours cranking out what we already know how to do. And if we’re exhausted from that, the prospect of spending additional hours on genuine deliberate practice activities seems too miserable to contemplate.

Geoffrey Colvin goes into detail as why working as an employee for someone is not a substitute to having a personal plan to develop your talent. Hard repetitious work can be confused for skill development because both can drain you emotionally and physically. You are normally hired to do something you are already capable to do task wise. You just need a few pointers to get started and then after that, your employer’s goal, is to get you to be as productive as possible by doing the same thing over and over.

By definition, if you are repeating what you already know what to do very well, then you are not growing in your talent. This means that if a young adult does not have a plan for deliberately pushing the boundaries of what he does and knows outside of what he is hired to do, he will often get stuck for years on end at the same level of performance. This is why I recommend regular conversations with your child on how get himself to the next level of his performance. One way to do that is by getting him comfortable with looking at and owning the big picture of where his talent can take him through the use of a mind map.

The Ten Year Rule Applies


Bobby Fischer at the age of 17 playing world c...

Bobby Fischer at the age of 17 playing world champion Mikhail Tal – it took him ten years of training to get himself to the top. He was able to start very young. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Quote by Geoffrey Colvin in chapter 4 of his book “Talent is Overrated: What really separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“:

Even Bobby Fischer was not an exception; when he became a grand master at age sixteen, he had been studying chess intensively for nine years. Subsequent research in a wide range of fields has substantiated the ten-year rule everywhere the researchers have looked. In math, science, musical composition, swimming, X-ray diagnosis, tennis, literature—no one, not even the most “talented” performers, became great without at least ten years of very hard preparation. If talent means that success is easy or rapid, as most people seem to believe, then something is obviously wrong with a talent-based explanation of high achievement.

Geoffrey Colvin reports that if one is going to take seriously the desire to become good at something than you must embrace the expectation that it is going to take at least ten years to outdo and reach above the current generation of your peers. No exception. Except I will add here an exception to that rule, without actually invalidating the Ten Year Rule (also known as the 10,000 hour rule). If your child chooses to engage himself in a talent that is in a new field of human activity or in a new cross-over of skills that did not exist before, than I believe your child will not have to train ten years to get to the top.

In a crowded talent field where there are tens of thousands of accomplished practitioners, such as in the violin world, your child will have a very arduous journey ahead in order to be heard over and above all the other great performers. However if you think of a talent field that is new and combined with a way to serve the needs of people, then maybe five thousand judicious hours, instead of 10,000 hours, will allow your child to become one of the best in his field. This is why I recommend parents help their children find opportunities in interesting talent cross-over fields where the supply is not yet over-abundant.

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Spend More Time with the Component Skills of Child’s Talent

Jerry Rice signing autographs in 2006.

Jerry Rice signing autographs in 2006.He was one of the most famous football players of all time, yet his 10,0000 hours of practice time involved little actual football practice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Quote by Geoffrey Colvin in chapter 4 of his book “Talent is Overrated: What really separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“:

That’s about 1,000 hours a year, or 20,000 hours over his pro career. He [Jerry Rice] played 303 career NFL games—the most ever by a wide receiver—and if we assume the offense had the ball half the time on average, that’s about 150 hours of playing time as measured by the game clock; this may be overstated, since Rice wasn’t on the field for every play. The conclusion we reach is that one of the greatest-ever football players devoted less than 1 percent of his football-related work to playing games.

Geoffrey Colvin gives the example of Jerry Rice’s well-documented training regimen as an example of how practicing and training to be one of the best in your talent field does not mean performing the publicly recognizable part of it every hour of your practice time. What this example shows is that top people will break down the component skills of what they need in and then focus on improving those component skills.

In the case of Jerry Rice this meant practicing separate skills like sprinting and weightlifting even though they weren’t visibly and directly related to holding a football. But he knew that by isolating certain skills, it would make a huge difference to his final talent. See if you can apply this to your child’s situation. Take a look at his or her current practice regimen: can you pull back on some of the outward visible performance part of his or her talent and instead use that time to develop more thoroughly a key component skill?


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Grades Matter But Caveat Emptor!

Ponder this excerpt of a blog post from the author Daniel Schwabauer. He is best known as the celebrated host of the online “One Year Adventure Novel” program for getting young people to finish their real first novel. He gives this cautionary bit of advice to aspiring writers about demanding and interesting, but in-the-end essentially irrelevant university degrees:

“I graduated from Kansas University with a Masters degree in Creative Writing, an experience from which I am still recovering. Not that I mean to disparage KU’s writing program. Science fiction notable and KU Professor Jim Gunn was one of the best instructors I’ve ever had.

What bothers me is the fact that I left KU having learned a lot about words, and very little about story. This is remarkable considering my experience with a wide variety of classes and teachers. I studied British and American literature, Shakespeare, drama, poetry, short fiction, novels, technical writing, ancient myths, medieval English, essays, even sci-fi. I studied every conceivable kind of writing. But…”

This candid reflection by a professional writer about college helps me to revisit this subject of grades in full context. Remember that in a previous post I disparaged the pursuit of good grades. Here I come back to add a disclaimer and clarification of what I mean. Good grades do matter, but in specific situations only. You need to be sure that your child fits that specific situation or you might be missing out on having your child construct a real life-long talent that will change your son or daughter’s life.

Follow with me the chain of reasoning as to why good grades do matter for some children:

  1. Your child getting good grades matters now if you are intending for your child to pursue a specific program of study at the university level.
  2. And you must have a researched plan that the university program is indeed preparing your child to do something directly related to his long term plan.
  3. And you must be convinced that the university program your child will pursue is the most efficient route to his success in the talent field he wants to be in.
  4. And some paths require you to go through university, such as to get medical training to become a doctor, and an engineering degree for certifications in order to be allowed to work.

However many children intending to go to college, do not fit the above criteria. Be careful as your child may find himself seduced by the idea of campus life as an easy answer as to what he is going to do with his first few years of adulthood. A talented young writer for example should probably do everything in his or her power to stay away from college.

If your child is already very good at producing work others want to read, universities will want to recruit your child to beef up their star status in hopes of recruiting other students who can and will pay full tuition. This come-hither inducement with scholarships and preferential tuition rates can be dangerous to your child’s talent development. Why? Because the skills acquired during the course of a university English degree are designed for consumption and analysis of the works produced by others – not for teaching your child how to create amazing new works. So unless your child is intending to become a high school English teacher, the college degree will set him back severely in both time and money. This time set-back is often serious enough that your son or daughter may never get back on track to the original aspirations. Caveat emptor!

Good Grades – So What?

English: Siemens Velaro D at InnoTrans 2010 af...

Don’t let the pursuit of good grades distract you from where your child should be spending his precious time in order to move into the talent zone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good grades in schoolwork are good for your child right? Yes…or maybe not. Here’s very often why not. To get grades in traditional courses, your child will have to study very diligently and consciously to memorize the details and understand the principles. So far so good, as far as demonstrating that you and your child are not slackers and can take in what others dish out.

But here’s the problem:

In the pursuit of grades, you don’t stop to think about why you are deciding for your child to become that well taught in that very specific narrow course that was handed to you. This is dangerous because he is spending all his time becoming very good at something that is irrelevant for his adult life. Your child’s opportunity to find a talent early enough in life can slip away while you weekly and monthly spend hours becoming very good on all the fine points of English grammar. Yes, your child will never later be stumped on any difficult point of grammar. But then the adult world will stun him later with the message “So what? Just use the PC spell checker. By the way, what can you do to bring value to my company before I hire you?”

There is a place for grades and a place for courses, but you must never let them dictate the time and depth to impose on your child’s education. Instead, map out a talent course for your child, and then find those courses that fit your child’s trajectory. Sometimes you will want your child to aim for a C  grade even though your child could aim for an A – because he is too busy becoming great in this other area that is outside of the chartered waters.

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Mozart Trained for 18 Years for his First Amazing Score


Family portrait: Maria Anna ("Nannerl&quo...

Mozart started his training at age 3: Family portrait: Maria Anna (“Nannerl”) Mozart, her brother Wolfgang, their mother Anna Maria (medallion) and father, Leopold Mozart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Quote by Geoffrey Colvin in chapter 2 of his book “Talent is Overrated: What really separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“:

“Mozart’s father was of course Leopold Mozart, a famous composer and performer in his own right. He was also a domineering parent who started his son on a program of intensive training in composition and performing at age three…Wolfgang’s first four piano concertos, composed when he was eleven, actually contain no original music by him…Mozart’s first work regarded today as a masterpiece, with its status confirmed by the number of recordings available, is his Piano Concerto No. 9, composed when he was twenty-one. That’s certainly an early age, but we must remember that by then Wolfgang had been through eighteen years of extremely hard, expert training. This is worth pausing to consider. Any divine spark that Mozart may have possessed did not enable him to produce world-class work quickly or easily”

In case after case, Geoffrey Colvin goes on to explain that the famous people who are known worldwide for their amazing skills had to work very hard at being that good. Their work regimen contradicts the popular notion that such people are born talented. It is also true that they usually started very young and were strongly guided by their parents hopes and plans. It is their parents oversight that allowed them to focus with such intensity without too many distractions from the normal school routines that other school children would have to follow. This is good news because it implies that parents can deliberately copy the parental pattern of encouraging talent in their own child, starting in their home. That difference in time between starting at age 12 and age 22 can be a good ten years of talent creation. Your child could easily fit his 10,000 hours of deliberate practice by the time other adult children are just beginning to look for a productive output.



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Not a Random Process for Talent Discovery

de: Doktor Livesey und Squire Trelawney unters...

Do you have a map for discovering the talent in your children or are you going to randomly check out several thousand beaches? Get your Talent Guide! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once you understand that you can start deliberately planning for a life long talent in each one of your children, it becomes a very exciting lifestyle for everyone in the family. It is no longer a random process for the parents or the child.

In order to get started working on a talent, the key is to latch onto something tangible for your child.

Therefore, creating a focus of interest on which your child can build the first 100 hours of a talent is the outcome of the workshop I provide in the guide “How to Discover and Develop Your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent.”

When you have a process, then you will not have your child waste his time with what might really turn out to be:

  • a party trick
  • a quaint hobby
  • or a distraction to fill your child’s spare time

Instead with the right plan on how your child can build himself a real talent, he is  going to at the same time be able to:

  • create value for other people
  • rise above the crowd
  • and live a professional life with passion

Don’t invent the process from scratch, because you can get the right process now from here:

“How to Discover and Develop Your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent”


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The Precocious Must Work Just as Hard for Talent

Chica tocando el violín

To get to the top, both average and early “talented” children have to go through the same grueling 10,000 hours of training. There is no break for the precocious. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Quote by Geoff Colvin in chapter 2 of his book “Talent is Overrated: What really separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“:

“By age twelve, the researchers found, the students in the most elite group were practicing an average of two hours a day versus about fifteen minutes a day for the students in the lowest group, an 800 percent difference…nothing it turned out, enabled any group to reach any given grade level [of musical ability] without putting in those hours…To put the results in their starkest terms: Shown five groups of students, one of which won positions at a top-ranked music school and one of which gave up even trying to play an instrument, we would all say that the first group is obviously immensely more talented…but…they were not.”

As it turns out even for children whom people would normally label as precocious in their early childhood ability to carry out a tune, that it would have little to no impact on their future ability to be world-class instrumental players. It seemed that without severe and extensive training, no amount of preciousness or innate ability in a child could allow him to avoid the same amount of effort that an otherwise average child would need to in order to become just as amazingly great. The conclusion therefore is that the super-talented are grown, not born, into their superhuman performance abilities. This principle of talent applies to all other fields of human talent.

My personal (not the author’s) added caveat to parents is to be careful about investing yourself in a skill-set for which you think your child has innate talent when it might have no practical future or use in their adult life. To become outstanding in some fields, your child would still have to put in 10,000 hours of hard dedicated work, but there might be little room to make a living or even to perform that talent for others for free. There might already be too many people that good and adding your child to that crowd is not adding much more to the world. That talent pursuit in an already crowded room of performers is not a “free” opportunity to your child as pursuing it would mean not having time becoming great in a field where others wholeheartedly welcome your child.

So when I recommend developing talent, I mean it should be talent that will bring great ADDED value to others. This is why I recommend you work through the guide “How to Discover and Develop Your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent” so you avoid the pitfalls of latching on to a flamboyant, but completely irrelevant talent.

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Better Than Before

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Quote by Geoffrey Colvin in chapter 1 of his book “Talent is Overrated: What really separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“:

“When Tchaikovsky finished writing his Violin Concerto in 1878, he asked the famous Leopold Auer to give the premier performance. Auer studied the score and said no – he thought the work was unplayable. Today every young violinist graduating from Juilliard can play it. The music is the same, the violins are the same, and human beings haven’t changed. But people have learned how to perform much, much better.”

Geoffrey Colvin reports that in most areas of human performance, when people apply themselves with deliberate practice, they easily outperform, even at a young age, the masters of just a couple a generations ago. This is because no one is born a violinist, or a doctor, or an accomplished science-fiction writer, but rather they are taught specific skills and train themselves deliberately over many years with the latest techniques in skill development. This increased achievement is widespread across all human endeavor and reminds us that GREATNESS can indeed be achieved in your child – that is IF you stop letting yourself be misled by the idea that greatness is simply “discovered” wholly-formed in your child. Rather greatness in a talent is developed through hard planning, hard work, and with a lots of support by the parents during the early years.

They Will Be Just Fine (and no more than that)

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Quote by Geoffrey Colvin in chapter 1 of his book “Talent is Overrated: What really separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“:

“We tell our kids that if they just word, they’ll be fine. It turns out that this is exactly right. They’ll be fine , just like all those other people who work at something for most of their lives and get along perfectly acceptably but never become particularly good at it”

Geoffrey Colvin goes on to report that the research he looked at shows that the number of years of hard work spent in a particular field of human activity has NO relationship to the level of excellence by individuals in many, many different fields, including for example medicine and law enforcement. It seems that straight-forward experience is a very poor predictor of outstanding ability. And it seems that any innate talent that one may have at birth has very little predicting power as to how good one will be in adult life.

So what does Geoffrey Colvin say will far outdo any gifting at birth and outdo just years of hard work?


Arrival of the DJI Phantom Drone

My 15, soon to be, 16 year old son Jonathan jr. has been very excited about the new tool he just acquired from his work savings: a DJI Phantom drone with GoPro3 camera. Why am I sharing this with you? To encourage you with an excellent example of how to be flexible in the development of talent in the life of your older child. Because, remember that if you try to fully identify your child’s talent early on, it is likely too crowded already for your son or daughter to bring significant extra value to others.

There are several skills being deliberately developed in my oldest son’s life, some of them heavily tied to our family’s business so he can develop business acumen.

One of those skills he uses in the business involves basic photography as we have had to use a good camera for taking product shots and take short videos for my wife to promote our business. From there, we gradually called on him to do more and more of the advanced product shots. By frequently working with the camera, he gradually got comfortable enough to want to do several short fun films on his own, using neighborhood friends as an experiment. It made him quickly realize that though the filming was good experience, it was not easy to get many young people to work consistently together. This prompted him to read up on professional storyboarding and to have a plan for filming each scene instead of leaving too many things to chance. He was also was becoming aware that shooting clever films was not sufficient in itself to bring value to others beyond his immediate circle of friends. His desire for wanting to fulfill some market value for others grew with it.

Next he met a distant family friend who happened to have a camera drone in his possession. This family friend showed him some of the possibilities of areal photography. This greatly piqued my son’s curiosity to the potential to film interesting video that adults would also find very attractive. He quickly became an even bigger follower on YouTube and Instagram of a new crop of videographers who were using drones for commercial shots. In addition to this, I agreed to a monthly subscription of Adobe Creative. That subscription is giving him full access to all the graphic and video editing software that he could possibly use at this stage of his talent growth. Additionally, as part of his normal homework assignment, he has to create at the end of each of his daily Western Civilization lectures, a graphic capturing the summary and intent of the lecturer’s purpose. This daily and consistent output has built up his confidence that he could handle editing the video footage from a drone. This motivated him to work work extra hard this past fall in order to save up money to buy a drone for himself. Now he has it! And he filmed his first test video for what he could do to showcase real estate that is for sale. Perhaps there is some space in that market into which he can bring value to others and he is going to explore the possibility. Day after day, he has been getting up early or going out in the evening to test the capabilities of his tool.

What I hope others will see in the recount of this example, is that they can also imitate this flexibility in order to start skills now that don’t fall within a the scope of a textbook or store-bought curriculum.

Following the principles in the guide “How to Discover and Develop Your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent“, here are some actions my son took to get him where he currently is:

  • he used an asset that our family already had: a high end digital camera
  • he practiced simple photography skills by providing value to our home business: through product shots and talking head videos. This gave us, as parents, the emotional desire to keep seeing him spend time getting good in this area, because the home business is important to our specific household.
  • he combined his video and graphic editing into his normal school time: this reinforced his learning of otherwise dry material and it built up his ability to manipulate software editing tools for graphics and video.
  • this motivated him to follow closely over the Internet and start chatting directly with professionals using a new technology that is opening up a new, uncrowded market into which a young person has space to potentially make videos that others will pay him handsomely for.

Your Call to Action: If your son or daughter has followed an interesting talent development path of his own, using the changing environment of his assets and your family’s people connections, please email me your story so I can share it with others.



Reeling-In the Solution to Fix Lack-of-Motivation

Fishing reel

By unraveleing the source of your child’s lack of motivation, you can reel-in the solution to your problem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unraveling the problem backwards:

  • My child has no motivation to study
  • Because there is no unifying theme to do the study work
  • Because is there is no clear purpose for the study
  • Because there is no talent goal to give it purpose
  • Because there is no time spent planning for a talent
  • Because there are too many group-activities and side-hobbies that clog the mind and use up the time
  • Because as a parent I’m worried about what other parents will think if I don’t have my child experience all the same group-activities that everyone else is doing

Reeling it all back in, we find that we have the solution to your child’s lack of motivation:

  • As a parent, I will deliberately read-up and follow what the best minds have to say about talent development
  • To give me strength and confidence to know I am putting my child on a much better path
  • To emotionally allow me to pull back on group-sports and miscellaneous hobbies
  • To free-up time to truly explore the potential for a viable long-term talent in my child’s life
  • To give me the fodder needed to come up with a talent development plan for the next few months
  • To give my child something into which he can really sink his teeth
  • To give me the framework needed to help me eliminate, re-organize, and re-purpose our existing curriculum to support my child’s talent
  • To finally give my child that deep motivation I so badly want for him to have in his life.
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Talent Books to Pump You Up

These four books on the topic of talent development will set you on fire and make you believe that you as a parent can in fact craft a future for your child that is full of hope and possibility. Beyond hard work, there is a strategy and system to developing world-class talent and it is clearly explained in these books. Click on my affiliate links below to get them shipped to your home today.