Talent is Overrated

I just finished the book, Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. This is a must read for aspiring musicians and parents of musicians. It dispels the myth of innate talent and uses research to show that drive and environmental factors are the real path to greatness.


  • Okay: Talent is a bad word. Let’s call talent a romanticized version of aptitude. I don’t think aptitude, drive, support, and good environment factors are enouph for continued progress and success. Human beings are capable of taking several negative external factors and spontaneously coming up with a creative solution that goes beyond the simple problem at hand. You might see it as that sparkle in their eyes. It is more than aptitude. There is a reason that we still have pilots in the cocpit. Computers can do everything except come up with instantaneous solutions like landing in the Hudson after a bird strike. That kind of solution doesn’t come from experience. The successful landing did. I don’t even think landing in the Hudson is a program in their simulators. At this point using the right words doesn’t seem to matter that much. We must endeavor to see the meaning beyond the words.

  • Talent is a horrible word and in the book the author discusses that at great length – mostly with music examples!

    The word itself implies an evolution in the species towards a specific item such as a violin. This is just not possible given the short time span in history. Yes, some people may be wired in certain ways but that is more Darwinian survival than talent for a sonata.

  • I feel exactly the same as the word ‘love.’

  • Talent implies nothing with regard to evolution. Love on the other hand has everything to do with the selective breeding. In my world, talent means nothing with the exception of coming up with some creative solutions to problems. Talent furthers the indiviual, but not the species. Love and concious choice effects evolution as well as de-evolution. We even see how the love of money and disregard of our environment has tragic consequences. I find it peculair that anyone would take such offence to a word like talent when it is so meaningless compared to the effects of any kind of social support. Discipline rules over talent. Most people that have a talent for making huge amounts of money are also destroying our planet. I have taken lessons in music and martial arts where my brand of talent was looked down apon. It was seen as a weakness. I’ve studied with Eugene Levinson who thought I was an idiot and with Jeff Bradetich where being creative was rewarded. I’ve also studied with Warren Benfield where the whole point was to land a job. Talent is not a horrible word. It’s just not that important. Much more important is the ability to get along with others. If you can do that without losing yourself the rest will fall into place.

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