Performance is not a factor of experience, specific inborn abilities or general abilities such as intelligence and memory.

According to the book, Talent is Overrated deliberate practice and time is what makes a top performer whether in sport, business or for that matter, any other field or discipline.

Why is deliberate practice so important?

Deliberate practice is carefully planned to hone certain skills and to develop the knowledge needed to excel in the chosen domain. Performance is objectively measured and feedback is readily provided to ensure progress is being made and learning is achieved.

Conversely, many people who practice regularly never improve because they are not stretched out of their comfort zone. The stretch is the important element of learning and growth.

Why is time so important?

The body of knowledge and required skills in many professions is constantly expanding. In most cases, it takes talented performers at least ten (10) years to master the material and even longer [20+ years] to perform their best work. Domain expertise is what enables top performers to anticipate changes and problems long before others.

Why do some people stick with it and others don’t?

Deliberate practice is hard work and not inherently enjoyable. It often requires hours of solo practice and results in repeated failure. To stay the course, people have to be intrinsically motivated to subject themselves to that kind of practice.

However, intrinsically motivated people are also highly creative people that enjoy solving problems for the sake of solving the problem rather than the potential reward for doing so. Consequently, they likely experience flow which is an optimal mental state that comes from being fully engaged in the problem.

How do you establish a deliberate practice?

Most people solicit the help of a coach, mentor or a teacher that can objectively assess their skills to identify the elements of performance that need to be improved, to develop practices that provide a stretch and to provide the regular and ongoing feedback needed to improve and excel.

Why don’t more companies promote mentoring or provide coaches?

Surprisingly most executives surveyed in a McKenzie study mentioned in book did not see the connection between deliberate practice and performance and/or innovation. Without executive buy in, developing a culture of performance and innovation is almost impossible. Most employees will not take the risks needed to raise and act on new ideas for fear of loosing their job.

How does passion factor into performance?

Passion doesn’t accompany us into the world, it develops. Leading edge companies understand that people will work most passionately on projects they choose for themselves and consequently, allocate time for employees to have personal projects. Many of those personal projects have turned into innovative new products for the company.

Can performance be sustained with age?

Deliberate practice is the antidote to decline in performance associated with age whether in sport, business or other domain. Well designed practice, pursued for enough time enables a person to circumvent the limitations that would otherwise hold back his or her performance and circumventing limitation is the key to high performance at an advanced age.

If you believe that you can be a top performer, you will put in the work to be a top performer.