Saturday, September 26, 2015

Talent is Overrated by Colby book review

title: cute young girl on track field; taken by: Benjamin Miller; source:freestockphotos.bizBeing the heirs of the Judeo-Christian tradition, we Westerners conceive of talent as a divine gift stemming perhaps from the Parable of the talents in Matthew. It may come to a surprise that talents, in the modern sense of the word, have a dominating component of behind-the-scenes thought & effort.

In Talent is Overrated, Colby makes a quite convincing case that talent is not the result of luck or grace but rather from directed effort towards a goal. In the first four chapters he examines the evidence bringing many specific cases to bear, such like that of Mozart, and puts forth an alternate hypothesis to the gift/luck scheme that, in its core, consists of conscious, deliberate practice.

Once he has convinced the reader he minutely looks at the specific components that makes talent happen in chapters 5-7 and, what may be the best part, how to do that for oneself.  These chapters warrant careful combing. For these I'd recommend have take pencil & paper close at hand to unearth all the treasures.

The application doesn't end with the individual as Colby expands the framework to include organizations. In chapter 8 he shows that this can be done and what steps might be necessary to incorporate the framework to larger scale entities.

On the closing chapters he addresses some miscellaneous topics, such as creativitity & innovation, youth & age and the sources of passion.

For someone who simply wants to get better at something or excel at top levels or who coaches someone else on physical or mental skills, this book might refocus your efforts for the better or reinforce what you already believe works.

If you're in a hurry, some of the very same concepts, but without the application component, are explored in the Scientific American July 2006 cover article, Secrets of the Expert Mind by Phillip E. Ross. Now, If you want an even deeper understanding on how this stuff works there is The Mind And the Brain by Sawyer. The Willpower Instinct is also a good companion to any of these.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Way to Willpower book review

It is reasonable to suppose that once that you have struck gold, the neighboring lots might be valuable as well. Same thing happens with authors: once you have found a great book from one, it is not too far off to think that he or she might have others. Having greatly enjoyed Thinking As a Science by Henry Hazlitt I came across his bibliography on Wikipedia and discovered that he had a book on willpower as well. I immediately went on to acquire it and it also is great stuff.

As with Thinking, Hazlitt goes with great care dissecting the subject and making it accessible to the reader. This book, having been written in the early 20th century lacks all of the recent scientific developments of which The Willpower Instinct (the other great book on willpower I've read) bases itself on. Notwithstanding,  Hazlitt builds his program on the philosophy and psychology from his time and ends with commendable results. The founding stone for his method, and a very controversial one at first, is the negation of the existence of the will.  Allowing that, he builds on it by adding the costs of exercising willpower and the way of habit formation. This trio allows him to offer methods and recommendations that if, are unexplored by The Willpower Instinct, are no less powerful.

Once more, as in Thinking, one is very well rewarded by taking notes.