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For some, the equation is simple enough. To get a genius, you need to add hard work to the already exciting natural talent, and the magic is done.
Not so fast. Swedish psychologist Anders Ericsson, together with colleague Robert Pool, worked together on a book called Peak. For it, they studied child geniuses and after having a tough look on what made, say, Mozart great, they argued that the notion of having a natural talent can be, in fact, damaging to us. It is wrong – they believe – to expect to “find” your natural talent as nobody actually “finds it” – you work to achieve your goals, put a lot of time and effort in it, and then quietly smirk as people compliment how “talented” you are since you now you made it thanks to those 98% perspiration. Mind you, this is not some undercooked thesis, but the result of 30 years of research on child prodigies. As he said:
“This is the dark side of believing in innate talent. It can beget a tendency to assume that some people have a talent for something and others don't and that you can tell the difference early on. If you believe that, you encourage and support the 'talented' ones and discourage the rest, creating the self-fulfilling prophecy. ... The best way to avoid this is to recognize the potential in all of us — and work to find ways to develop it.”
Inspiring – isn’t it, knowing you can achieve whatever you set your mind to? After you release yourself from the actually crazy idea that you need to be born with a special sign on your forehead reading T for talented, you can work towards achieving your goal, give it everything you’ve got and expect good results. Once on your path, says Ericsson, the thing you actually need is a good guide – or teacher – that can help you, but mostly, you just need to put time into your goal.