Interstitial Moment:

My friend Steve Sunderland sent on an essay about talent and hard work that resonated with me. It  is by David Shenk and is based on his upcoming book, The Genius in All of Us. Here are some excerpts:

“Baseball legend Ted Williams was widely considered the most gifted hitter of his time, endowed with spectacular eye-hand coordination, exquisite muscular grace and uncanny instincts. ‘Ted just had that natural ability,’ said Hall of Fame second baseman Bobby Doerr.

“But to Williams himself, all that innate miracle-man stuff was just ‘a lot of bull.’ He insisted his great achievements were simply the sum of what he had put into the game. ‘Nothing except practice, practice, practice will bring out that ability,’ he explained. ‘The reason I saw things was that I was so intense…It was discipline, not super eyesight.’

“Such comments may once have been cast aside as a form of false modesty, but now scientists are coming to recognize their essential truth. In recent years, a mountain of scientific evidence has emerged that overwhelmingly suggests a new paradigm of success: not talent scarcity, but latent talent abundance. In this conception, human talent and intelligence are not permanently in short supply like fossil fuel, but potentially plentiful like wind power. The problem isn’t our inadequate genetic assets, but our inability, so far, to muster all the necessary resources and attitudes needed to tap into what we already have.

“. . .The first and most important lesson is that intelligence and talent are not innate or static. Fixed abilities are not biologically possible. Instead, all abilities (while strongly genetically influenced) are dynamic skills that get developed over time.

“Let’s be careful not to overstate this point moment of conception, is a result of this nature-nurture interactivity. Genes guarantee that differences will exist, but the actual end-result will emerge from a dynamic developmental process.

“Separately, there’s also strong recent evidence to suggest that few of us ever reach our true genetic limits. The vast majority of us do not come close to tapping what scientists call our unactualized potential.”

Or as I tell my writing students, “Fully half of you in this room are as talented as I am. A quarter of those are more talented. But I doubt anyone here works as hard at his or her writing every day as I do. Every day!

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