Last week, in response to a comment by John Antonios, I wrote about deliberate practice. As I reflected on this concept during the past few days, it brought to mind an interesting book called Mastery, by George Leonard. I read Leonard’s book years ago, I believe in the early 1990s, and back then it was an entry point for me to some valuable insights about talent and practice. Since then I have applied some of Leonard’s simple and straightforward concepts to my coaching.
In fact, I believe that it is in Leonard’s book that I came across the concept of ‘deliberate practice’, though I am not sure he uses that precise term.
As Leonard explains, the mastery of any complex activity is more about determination than talent, more about practicing than about exploiting a natural gift: “Mastery isn’t reserved for the super talented or even for those who are fortunate enough to have gotten an early start. It is available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it.”
This idea that I borrowed from Leonard, that those who master anything are those ‘willing to get on the path and stay on it’, is a basic concept about leadership training and leadership communication that I have been telling my clients for many years.
If I have achieved some measure of success with a good number of clients, this speaks more to our persistence (the client’s and mine) than anything else. I have watched as many clients who start with no ‘charisma’ or ‘gift’ for communication have become powerful speakers who truly move their audiences. They have succeeded not because of natural talent, but rather because they were ‘willing to get on the path and stay on it’.