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Talent is Overrated

I think this is a very important point to make. People aren’t born good ultimate players. Good ultimate players are made out of people who are willing to put in the time to practice, those who are willing to travel to tournaments to challenge themselves to get better, those who are willing to learn from others and those who have the right attitude.

We’ve all heard the story of how Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team. So how did he end up in the NBA and become one of the greatest basketball players of all time?

This famous quote from MJ explains it quite nicely:

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

We must not be afraid to fail. We must understand that the only way to become better is to put in a lot of time practicing.

How much time? Well, according to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, roughly 10,000 hours. Just how much is that? Well, if you spend 3 hours everyday for the next 10 years, that’s roughly 10,000 hours. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Well, in order to be the best, you have to earn that title.

Think of the greats in history – Wayne Gretzky (ice hockey), Michael Jordan (basketball), Steve Jobs (Apple), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Mozart (composer) – the list goes on and on.

What do you think they all have in common? Surely time spent practicing.

There is also another “secret”. When you spend time pursuing what you love – when you spend time practicing your craft – you will meet people who will help you along the way and give you opportunities that you never could dream existed.

Think of this quote:

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

It’s so true because there is no such thing as “luck” really. Most of the people we consider “lucky” actually have worked very hard and spent many hours in order to have the opportunities to even be in the position for something “lucky” to happen to them.

As you start to think about this upcoming year of ultimate, start to plan how much time you are willing to put into your game. How much time every week are you going to spend throwing, catching, working out, running drills, learning plays and playing games? Because the more time you spend, the better you will become and the “luckier” you will become.

Oh, and the more fun you’ll have. Throwing a 70 yard full field forehand huck for a point is much more fun than not being able to throw. The better you are, the more you’ll appreciate the hard work you’ve done to get there.

2 thoughts on “Talent is Overrated”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. In fact been doing a lot of reading on the topic (seems you have too) :-). Top three books on the topic:

    – Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell, which you quote

    – Talent is overrated, Geoff Colvin

    – Bounce, Matthew Syed

    Part of the problem, I believe, is that we still have very little high quality practice routines for Ultimate (IMHO). Many practices I’ve been too, even at the competitive level, consists of a good warm-up, followed by a various drills, and then some playing. But what are the drills meant to improve? Is it really our weakest spot? Why do we scrimmage? Do we really get personal feedback, integrate and improve?

    Problem is, from these books it’s not just practice that counts, it’s *dedicated practice*. That means having a coach always pushing you just beyond what you are capable of. Because a lot of teams still have a mix of captain/coach/manager roles mixed up in a few people, I don’t believe we are setting ourselves up for true development. Now I’m sure it’s different in College teams, and in the top Elite teams, but we need to find a way to push ourselves at every level.

    1. @PierreLucBisaillon Great points. I’m also own Bounce and have heard of the book by Geoff Colvin so thanks for mentioning those.I agree with you. When I practice on my own, I get so much more out of it than a practice with my team since I’m focused on what I’m working on. At practice, the drills we do don’t emphasize deliberate practice and it takes much more than suggesting new drills. It’s planning your practices. When I go out on my own, I know exactly what I want to get out of it each time.

      I posted an article on Deliberate Practice a few years ago which speaks to your point:

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