The Triumph of Effort over Talent
It used to be thought that ‘intelligence’ was something you were born with, but many studies show it can be developed like any other skill. I’m also a great believer that most skills can be learned too and are not just ‘innate’ talent (although it does help to start at a higher level). In fact, research into ‘talent’ versus ‘effort’ shows that those putting in time and effort can soon overtake those relying on talent alone in a variety of fields (see BBC article quoted at the end).
For example, one ‘talent’ or ‘skill’ concerns how to learn and remember things easily. Those that are great at this usually remember numbers by picturing them. A number such as 8419 could be a snowman (8) sailing a yacht (4) with a huge candle as its mast (1) and a balloon on a string tied around the candle (9). If you visualise that, isn’t it easier than just repeating the number? There’s no doubt you can learn how to remember things easily (just ask Dominic O’Brien – with whom I was lucky enough to work about 15 years ago – who developed the skill from scratch and went on to become 8 times world memory champion).
It’s often said that we only use a fraction of our brain’s capacity, so how can you access more of your ‘hidden’ potential and open up more possibilities for yourself? The key is to develop the right Attitude, Skill and Knowledge. Attitude is about purpose and motivation – do you know what’s in it for you? Skill is about learning and practising – for example, to remember things more easily for exams etc., use relaxation, visualisation, mind-mapping, speed reading and other brain-based learning techniques. Knowledge is deepened when you apply the right attitude and skill to your chosen subject. You could, if you wanted to, learn how to apply all of these skills.
We are all born with a similar number of brain cells – it is how we connect them together that makes the difference. Often new ideas come from ‘making a connection’ – and making connections with things we already know is a powerful memory technique, like the snowman example above.
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In addition, we are all intelligent in many different ways – manual dexterity, athletics, co-ordination, creativity, inter-personal skills, musicality, logic or language skills. So how are you intelligent? How do you learn most easily? Where and when are you already a good learner? Do you like to read or be shown, listen or try for yourself? Do you like music and rhythm? Do you prefer to sit still or move around while learning or thinking? Are you more logical or creative? Do you relate to people easily?
Your answers can give you clues to your preferred styles – and which ones you could develop. To thrive in the fast-paced world we live in, we need to become better learners. Many education systems are concerned with knowledge in the form of information and data, but we need attitude and skill to be really effective. These can be developed, and the application of effort over time will soon outstrip initial talent. As the saying goes, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
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With much appreciation – and remember… Anything’s Possible!
Dave Smith – The Possibility Professor
See this BBC article for further details of The Triumph of Effort over Talent:
‘The words that could unlock your child’ – BBC Article
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