There is no such thing as talent. Talent is greek for “divine gift”, and since I do not believe in anything divine, I do not believe in predisposed skills. Hard work, persistence and interest can get you anywhere, though.
The article, entitled “A Star Is Made“, details psychology professor Anders Ericsson’s efforts to prove the age-old statement: “Practice makes perfect”.
From the article:
the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers ? whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming ? are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect.
The article elaborates:
This success, coupled with later research showing that memory itself is not genetically determined, led Ericsson to conclude that the act of memorizing is more of a cognitive exercise than an intuitive one. In other words, whatever innate differences two people may exhibit in their abilities to memorize, those differences are swamped by how well each person “encodes” the information. And the best way to learn how to encode information meaningfully, Ericsson determined, was a process known as deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice entails more than simply repeating a task ? playing a C-minor scale 100 times, for instance, or hitting tennis serves until your shoulder pops out of its socket. Rather, it involves setting specific goals, obtaining immediate feedback and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.
While I have always felt this was true, as James also says: “scientific backup is always good to have”.