Talent is overrated

by Wojciech Adam Koszek   ⋅   Jan 4, 2013   ⋅   Menlo Park, CA

Explanation why hard and systematic work is really what matters more than "talent"

This book delivered a confirmation to my belief. If you have ever played a musical instrument, this book will also deliver very solid background on why you can only succeed in playing well by practicing regularly.

Colvin completely overturns the vision of talent. Due to his research in psychological and sociological tests done over the years it seems no such a thing as talent can be proven to exist. Thus, want it or not, “all people are born equal” seems to be the case. Blaming yourself now, huh?

Well, you should.

The thing is that all people mentioned in the book, starting from sportsman to musicians had a very supportive parents. Those, who show you whatever they’re interested in and help you after that.

Mozart didn’t create his ultimate masterpieces at the age of 4-6. These were things he consolidated from existing pieces. And they weren’t ready from the 1st release: they were corrected many, many times. Various other examples were provided too.

Tiger Woods wasn’t a born a genius of golf–his father showed him all the stuff and had him watch himself perform thousands of times. Tiger was handed the gold stick at the age of 7 months and was carefully supervised by his father.

It’s interesting how these things related to my personal story.

I did have supportive parents, however I didn’t really inherit any of their “skills”. They didn’t have any that I was interested in. Coming from the teachers’ family we had no real skill-set at home, except my father, mechanical engineer, who’s a known gold-hand in terms of house work. And maybe my grandfather, who was a tailor with little formal schooling, but who was known in the neighborhood for his craftsmanship. I think I inherited some of the both, but only partially due to them. And maybe I inherited a mindset of study and value of knowledge. The rest had to be learned in pain.

Unfortunately I’m amazed how more lean other cultures are. In Poland there’s this mindset of getting education, good degree, maybe even PhD. If work, then only for the government. If not, then the bigger the company, the better. Of course we’re talking about people from 2nd and 3rd generation behind. New people are more like anywhere else. But the mindset of ‘alternative’ approaches of life is uncommon.

Anyway, looks like great drummers like Virgil Donati or Dennis Chambers wouldn’t have been great if they hadn’t have parent willing to let 3 year old play drums. Buddy Rich was the same–playing drums all his life, starting from his family’s band..

Book explains the most important factors for achieving a success are:

  • clear goal
  • interest and passion
  • motivation
  • willingness to come back after the failure

Out the list motivation is the most mysterious. It may be the only thing that is somehow “random”. Just like some kids like to sleep in bed and watch TV all days, some prefer to listen to birds singing or draw things with the pencil. And these little things, at the age of 2–3 may have a tremendous impact on the future lives. If you’re a father reading this, beware!


You see, my grandfather’s passion towards polishing details was exceptional. It was present in everything, including onion slicing, where every portion of delivered sliced onion was consisting of perfect cubes 3x3x3mm, no matter how long it took to deliver it done in a such a way. Back then it seemed interesting but unnecessary. However now it just seems like he was having a great time doing things that well. Maybe this was his favorite open-source projects? I know he didn’t want to touch things until he was sure they’re ready and he’s ready. I think sometimes he might have been procrastinating–something I inherited unfortunately.

“The Willpower Instinct”
“How to Gain 2 Extra Hours a Day”

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About the author: I'm Wojciech Adam Koszek. I like software, business and design. Poland native. In Bay Area since 2010.   More about me