Dr. Muriel M. Brennan
April 24, 2015
Talent versus. Hard Work
Natural talent vs. hard work is a topic that has been debated by people of all professions throughout history. It’s also known as Nature vs. Nurture, the difference between one’s innate ability vs. ability affected by personal experience.
In a study, the Florida State University psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues asked violin students at a music academy to estimate the amount of time they had devoted to practice since they started playing. By age 20, the students whom the faculty nominated as the “best” players had accumulated an average of over 10,000 hours, compared with just under 8,000 hours for the “good” players and not even 5,000 hours for the least skilled.
Summing up Mr. Ericsson’s research in his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell observes that practice isn’t “the thing you do once you’re good” but “the thing you do that makes you good.” He adds that intellectual ability — the trait that an I.Q. score reflects — turns out not to be that important. “Once someone has reached an I.Q. of somewhere around 120,” he writes, “having additional I.Q. points doesn’t seem to translate into any measureable real-world advantage” (164).
David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, restates this idea in his book The Social Animal, while Geoff Colvin, in his book Talent Is Overrated, adds that “I.Q. is a decent predictor of performance on an unfamiliar task, but once a person has been at a job for a few years, I.Q. predicts little or nothing about performance”(32).
Of course there is natural talent; it is not a myth. This can be seen from the achievements of people like Mozart, Michelangelo, and Einstein etc. These people have more natural aptitude than others in certain areas. However, talent can only get them so far; instead, hard work and dedication is what has turned them into the ‘greats’ that we know them as now.
The term talented or gifted is often mentioned in the artistic field. When we see a fine piece of art or music, we often conclude that the artist must be really gifted. We come to this conclusion because we are judging the end result – the art work itself. We tend to forget about the process and the journey of getting there. The artist may have been practicing for many years to get to that point. In which case hard work plays a huge role, regardless of whether he/she is naturally gifted or not.
Many of those arguing in favor of talent base their opinions off research like the one done in New York Times article “Sorry, Strivers: Talent Matters”. In this article written by David Z. Hambrick and Elizabeth Meinz say that in their studies, they have “discovered that ‘working memory capacity,’ a core component of intellectual ability, predicts success in a wide variety of complex activities” and that “if you took two pianists with the same amount of practice, but different levels of working memory capacity, it’s likely that the one higher in working memory capacity would have performed considerably better on the sight-reading task”. Despite their research into the working memory capacity and how it can apply to an SAT score, they never delve into how talent compares to hard work on a personal level.
Article Weekly compared hard work and talent in the work place. While receiving mixed reviews on which was more important, the general consensus was that hard-working, talented people make the best employees. But while employees cannot control the amount of talent they have, they can control how hard they work and how hard they persevere when times get tough. The article continued its examination by looking into five character traits that employers consider.
The first one was “Reaction to Praise”. Studies have shown that when people are praised for their intelligence, they tend to avoid risk when given a choice of their next assignments. Why? If they are less than perfect in the future, they are...
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