Identifying Talent: What Really Matters

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Mr Enigma
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Identifying Talent: What Really Matters

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Read this from the Supertraining yahoogroup:

Daniel Coyle provided the following insights recently on his blog (extracts provided):

Identifying Talent: What Really Matters May 5th, 2010

At my recent trip to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, I spent a lot of time talking to coaches about a small but profound question: can we identify talent?

In other words, can we assess a bunch of young performers when they're 14 or so, measure certain qualities, and figure out who will likely succeed and who will likely fail?

To our conventional way of thinking, the answer seems obvious. Of course we can. It's what coaches do – spotting the magic spark, the X-Factor.

But here's the surprising answer the Olympic coaches kept giving me: No, we can't.

In fact, the vast majority of the coaches said they were reliably surprised by who made it and who didn't in the long run — at how inaccurate their first, second, and third impressions often turned out to be. I should point out that these are not average coaches. They are world-class experts, with decades of savvy and experience, employing every diagnostic tool known to sports science, observing these athletes on a daily basis. And the closer they look, the more mysterious talent seems to be. And as the casino-like hits and misses of the NFL and MLB drafts faithfully confirm each year, the Olympic coaches are far from alone. So the question grows: when it comes to spotting talent, what do we look for? What qualities matter most?

The mindset? Core motivations, which contain three important ingredients:

#1: Obsession.
#2: A vivid vision of future self.
#3: A keen eye for making small improvements.

These qualities are more important than any measured skill level, because they operate on a higher plane. These qualities fueled and channeled the thousands of hours of intensive practice that built Saul's circuitry.

All of this is a roundabout way of making a simple point: we fail at talent identification because we're looking in the wrong place. We instinctively look at performance (which is visual, measurable) instead of mindset and identity, which are what really matter, because they create the energy that fuels the engine of skill acquisition. They are the nuclear power-plant for the 10,000 hours of deep practice. They are the the ghosts in the machine.

I've found that good teachers and coaches often dig around for mindsets, sort of like doctors looking for subtle symptoms of a disease. They inquire about long-term goals, they watch for telltale signs, they try to penetrate the glossy surface to find out the answer to that tiny but titanically important questions: why are you here, really? How much do you care? What are you prepared to give?

For example: one highly successful college basketball coach, who shall remain nameless, uses a simple litmus test in his recruiting: if the recruit makes an excuse for anything – for instance, their performance in a certain game, or their grades in math – the coach crosses them off his list, no matter what physical skills they may possess. Why? Because they have the wrong mindset.

Which makes me wonder: how else can we measure mindset? Is there a way to replace "Talent Identification" with "Mindset/Identity Identification"? And more important, how do we create cultures that help ignite these kinds of mindsets?

Jamie Carruthers
Wakefield, UK
Ziklag Fitness
Weightlifting blog

The definition of strength: “having the dedication, determination, desire, and discipline to believe and become.”

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