Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Talent = Persistence

Before I get into the post, one quick note.

I've accepted a challenge from Stephen, who is an all around bada$$ dude that I'm certain will eventually be a bada$$ Venture Capital dude, to see who can get 200 unique visitors in one day to their blog first. The loser has to buy the winner a box of delicious donuts.

He just put up a great "Day In the Life of a Kellogger" post, so if you haven't checked out his blog, make sure to send some love his way.


Today we discussed a concept in my MORS-441 class, Managing People for Competitive Advantage, that I hold near and dear to my heart.  I couldn't wait to get home and write something about it because of how much I believe in it.  It's a simple concept, but I think that if you are able to accept it into your core beliefs it becomes a ridiculously potent source of motivation and individual competitive advantage.  It's the idea that
You can become better.
Regardless of the nature of the activity, you can become better at it by being persistent, making mistakes, and practicing.  I'm sure that you've come across the same concept worded differently at some point in your life, but that is how I have assimilated it into my life.  In class, we discussed the concept as it pertains to the conventional management wisdom on "talent" and "being smart."  The underlying motivation was to dispel the widely held and perpetuated belief that "superstars" excel in their respective activities because of some natural talent (X Factor) that they were born with and people that underperform do so because they are stupid.  The main takeaway in our course was that an organization with great systems in place and "average" employees can outperform a crappy organization full of "superstars."

Of course, there are some things that are out of your control that make you better suited for one activity or another.  For example, being really tall may give you a huge advantage for getting into the NBA, but that isn't enough to get you there.  You still have to put in a ridiculous amount of practice to make it.  Case in point, Michael Phelps is amazing at swimming, in part because his body is well designed for the sport, but more importantly, because he has a ridiculous daily training schedule that he adheres to and has done for years.  One of my classmates mentioned a supporting point from the book Outliers: The Story of Success; according to the author's research, becoming a virtuoso at something takes 10,000 hours of practice. That is the key to becoming better and improving: PRACTICE.

As I mentioned above, this belief has been one of my primary sources of motivation and advantage, compelling me to work as hard as possible to improve.  I have alluded to it in a number of previous posts, such as in my post about TurboFin, where I wrote
I stuck with my decision, in no small part due to my stubborn pride, which is constantly whispering in my ear that I can do well in anything as long as I bust my butt, and I am happy to report that I made the right call (for me at least).
In my life, I have used it as inspiration on countless endeavors with overwhelming success.  Here are just a few of my favorite success stories.
  • Throughout most of my childhood, I was terribly unathletic.  I still remember that in 8th grade, I couldn't run a mile or do 10 push ups.  In high school, I decided to do something about it and began exercising regularly.  That kickstarted a long string of experiences that would easily lead someone to believe that I was an athletic kid: played Lacrosse my senior year in HS, played rugby in college, and sparred (and survived) against a pro boxer at Lord's Boxing Gym.
  • I didn't finish the GMAT the first time I took a practice test; in fact, I scored in the low, low 500s.  I quickly enrolled myself in a prep course, spent 2 months preparing everyday for the test, and then went in and scored significantly higher on the actual GMAT.  I was originally trying to get into UT's night program. This was the catalyst that led me to apply for other schools, eventually getting into Kellogg.
  • Speaking of Kellogg, I went through 3 rounds of applications before getting into one of my target schools.  I consider the first 2 rounds practice for the one that counted.
As a final thought on the subject, I may not be good at public speaking right now, but give me a few years; I guarantee that you'll eventually think that I'm a natural :)

3 comments:

  1. What was your final GMAT score. How much did you improve by?

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  2. @Anjani - Thanks a lot! I took a quick look through your blog, and I like the theme of your posts!

    @Anony - Sorry mate, but I'd prefer not to give my actual GMAT score; at least, not until I'm done at Kellogg. It was between 700-800 though.

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