Hard work beats talent

I’ve been listening to the audiobook version of Grit over the past week. I finished it once and have started listening a second time through. I haven’t written book notes for an audiobook before. I’ll try to write 2 or 3 posts based on Grit. Here’s the first.

In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth writes about the importance of grit in life. She explains why grit is something worth striving for and suggests how to build grit.

One concept discussed, of course, is deliberate practice. She shares this quote from a basketball player, “I probably spend 70 percent of my time by myself, working on my game, just trying to fine tune every single piece of my game.”

There’s a section about deliberate practice and flow. Some think the two concepts are at odds with each other. Her take is that deliberate practice is for improving skills. Flow is for performance.

I remember reading about the same basketball player a few years back. Something I remember sticking out was that he avoided pickup games when he was younger. For a lot of people, pickup games are all they do, so it’s both practice and performance. And probably bad forms of either one.

I looked around and found some of the things his coach made him do instead of playing pickup games. It sounds an awful lot like deliberate practice:

He made the boy write basketball essays, diagram the mechanics to jump shots and told him to memorize a quote that has shaped his life: Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.

That player, of course, is recent nWo member Kevin Durant. That excerpt is from the Seattle Times, a few months before the Sonics (RIP) drafted him. Some more from the same article:

Brown forbade Durant from playing pickup games or scrimmaging. He stressed conditioning and an array of shooting, dribbling, passing and defensive drills. Every day was boot camp. Brown taught Durant three basic moves — a pull-up jump shot, a two-dribble jumper and a baseline drive — that formed the foundation of Durant’s repertoire.

On the other side of that memorized quote: hard work meets talent and now you have Kevin Durant.

As far as how this applies to writing, I’m not sure what the performance would be for a writer. You’re rarely watched during the writing process. Maybe it’s just that you aren’t watched during your performance, because you can certainly enter a flow state while writing. It’s probably what Malcolm Gladwell means when he describes the actual writing as blissful.

The thinking and organizing and editing is the hard part. That’s the deliberate practice.