The Myth of Talent & Achievement Takes Another Blow: San Francisco Giants Win World Series

The myth that talent leads to achievement took another hit to credibility this week. The San Francisco Giants –  a crew of “misfits and outcasts” –  brought the ultimate symbol of North American professional baseball achievement and winning in the form of a World Series pennant back to the City by the Bay.

Talent, it turns out again, is overrated.

In a baseball world where it’s assumed that better talent leads to more wins (and higher salaries), the Giants team payroll was decidedly middle of the market; $100M from the top (the New York Yankees) and $65M from the bottom (the Pittsburgh Pirtates).

Instead the Giants won by grit and perseverance. Angela Lee Duckworth, Ph.D. has a great take via TEDxBlue on the relationship between intelligence, talent and achievement in the business world here. Edgar Renteria, Most Valuable Player of the World Series said it even better: “I’ve been hurt all year, but I keep myself in shape, keep working hard, and keep telling myself, ‘Let’s be patient.”

Anders Ericsson, the “10,000 man”, has done extensive research on talent and achievement and turns out that the main factor in achievement is time pursuing what he terms “deliberate practice.”

Deliberate practice is composed of three elements – all the type of stuff you realize from knowing how to get great feedback (and getting it on a continual basis) and / or working with an effective executive coach:

  1. Setting specific goals.
  2. Obtaining immediate feedback.
  3. Concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.

So while I’m a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball fan (and a citizen of San Francisco), I take great pleasure in the Giants’ triumph, and seeing another chip knocked off the myth that talent – rather than hard work, trying different strategies, and perseverance – is what it takes for achievement.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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