The talent myth and the science of success

Yesterday evening, driving Abe home from his soccer practice, I heard something interesting from an interview on NPR: Some one said that no chess players had reached grandmaster quicker than 10 years.  I had an immediate doubt whether it’s a fact.  I knew some recent chess prodigies got the GM titles when they were younger than 15 years old. Probably they achieved that in less than 10 years?

Then I was more surprised hearing the recommended message by the host to all parents:  stop calling your kid a genius and instead say, hey, good job for studying. Why? As a parent, do I have to agree with it?

The interview is short but fascinating. You could also be captivated with the followings:

  • Mozart clocking 3,500 of practice by his sixth birthday.
  • David Beckham kicking a soccer ball from the same spot for hours on end.
  • If you don’t approach it with a voracious appetite, if you don’t clock up the deliberate practice, it’s not going to get you anywhere.
  • We must praise young people for their effort and not for their talent, and try to embed the growth mindset.

If you want to read more about the interview about what lies behind success and excellence in sports and other endeavors, check here.


2 Comments to “The talent myth and the science of success”

  1. By ppmint, April 29, 2010 @ 12:49 pm


    Thanks for sharing this interview. I listen to NPR news from time to time, too. They always have an interesting angle on many current issues/topics.

    I told my own kids that we all born with some sort of talent, but talent without hardworking takes you nowhere. We all need to work hard to let our talent shine through. However, I have to argue that in some areas, it’s extremely hard to reach to the top if one doesn’t have a talent at all (chess, for example). :) Strong work ethics + talent are the true formula for success.

    BTW, Ray Robson learnt chess at age three, became a GM two weeks before turning 15, so it did take him more than 10 years to achieve the GM title.

  2. By TheChessDad, April 29, 2010 @ 11:35 pm

    Yes, strong work ethics + talent are the true formula for success. The strong work ethics should include self-discipline and the ability to tolerate delayed gratification.

    I have a related post you may want to check out: The myth of the gifted child: how high the IQ score should be

    As parents, we know that constant pushing kids might not bring the success to kids. The reason is that kids may fail to practice the strong work ethics by themselves. If some parents are lucky to raise a successful kid, I think, the reason is, the kids learns to have a strong work ethics by themselves at the initial help of the parents.

    I have some related posts you might be interested:
    “A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit”. – Hebrew Proverb

    The Andre Agassi: I did not choose tennis when I was young

    Let’s talk about Josh Waitzkin

    There is no much the parents can do to let the kids have a strong work ethics; however, there is a little help the parents can provide, with the right technique, which is called parenting. Let’s remember the purpose of any helps from parents is not to bring success to kids, but let the kids learn how to have a strong work ethics. And I think there is no way the parents can improve the talent of the kids, therefore, it should not be the parents’ job to worry about it.

    Thank you for sharing your insights. I am glad that, like many of us, you have a passion on the topic of parenting.

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