I’m enjoying the book Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. In sum: talent does not exist. People excel through “deliberate practice”: hard, focused work on key skills that stretch their growth, repeated with feedback for a lot of hours; followed by similar work on the next set of skills to extend their growth. It is hard; it is time intensive; it is self-aware; it is rare.
Reading the first part, I thought to myself “okay, how can I apply this to my life?” because that’s what I do with all self-improvement: I try to do it. On the bandwagon, instantly! About half way through I started to ask, “do I want to do this?” And now I feel like it may be the only reasonable choice, though I am not really trying to excel or become world class – I just want to do well and grow.
Reflecting on the principles helps me understand better people who do excel: who hold high level positions, have extraordinary jobs or do anything with incredible skill. You learn how to improve yourself; you get on an improvement track; you start becoming who you want and it is, I imagine, hard to stop the momentum in spite of the hard work it takes. If you make a habit of working, and those habits are designed for maximum learning, then you may have set yourself up to succeed in spite of your best efforts. I can now wrap my head around people who climb the academic ladder, for example: they start learning, growing and excelling and their progress fuels further growth.
Relevance to me: I spoke on the radio on Friday morning. Check out the Facebook page for the interview (scroll down to Friday, September 21, 2012 and the segment on diversity and Kelowna) and community comments. Honestly, though I knew there would be views on both sides, I expected at least a few more people to identify with the concerns I raised. Great learning opportunity, I must say, and a chance to check why I spoke out about the issue.
I’ve been on the radio & TV a reasonable number of times for someone who’s not in the media. I generally like public speaking and generally do pretty well. The Talent book has me wondering what I can do to do it not just well, but better. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
- General prep: in preparing for a specific interview, I can (as I did) consider the key aspects of the issue and have imaginary conversations in my head (or with friends), responding to a variety of questions. I could take this more seriously, generating a list of key questions – supportive and critical – and the key aspects of a response
- Study: I could do some research on the issue; look for similar stories or related studies that can support what I want to say.
- Set my message: I could, after the two above steps, highlight the top 2 – 5 points that I want to make. I then can expand on and condense them so I have a sense of different ways I could integrate those ideas into the interview. At that point, I could look back on my questions and find ways that they could fit into responses
- Practice: I could practice with a friend: fire questions at me, I respond!
- Speech therapy: I lithp. I’m okay with it, but it’s occasionally a bit embarrassing the way some words come out. I could take classes, get a coach or find a way to speak more clearly. This also could help me eliminate pauses and “ums” in my speech.
There you have it. The next time I’m in demand as the go-to speaker on a topic, I know what I need to do to make it not just “pretty good” but great.