Talent is overrated

Discussion in 'Indie Basics' started by manunderground, Jan 27, 2009.

  1. manunderground

    manunderground New Member

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    Have any of you read this book? I've started in on it and have found it to be pretty interesting and well written so far. I'm especially interested in hearing what others have to say about the whole concept of "deliberate practice" and how it applies to game development. I personally think it's pretty clear that it does and that as with other enterprises the giants in our field are the ones who were able to best apply the above concept to their craft. I'd be interested in hearing from said giants (and the rest of you mortals) about the routines they feel have helped get them where they are.

    Anyone else read the book (or the link) and have an opinion?
     
  2. princec

    Indie Author

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    I've got where I am today by being arrogant, rebellious, opinionated, difficult, and right :) I also worked my arse off.

    Cas :)
     
  3. Desktop Gaming

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Moral: Don't be arrogant, rebellious, opinionated or difficult, and ALWAYS be wrong. That way you won't have to live in Durham. :D
     
  4. defanual

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  5. princec

    Indie Author

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    Meh, I live in Taunton now. In my other house..

    Cas :)
     
  6. Sybixsus

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    Damn it! Right! I knew I was missing something.
     
  7. Leon

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    Actually, what separates world-class achievers from the rest of people isn't innate talent, I agree with him, but it IS hard work. As it's mentioned in the article he links to in most fields there is a "10,000 hour" rule. At a music school they separated the students into three groups. Prodigies, very good musicians, and "future music teachers".

    They asked them one question: How many hours have you practiced?

    All of the prodigies had totaled 10,000+ hours of practice.

    All the very good musicians were around 5,000 hours.

    All the "future music teachers" were around 2,000 hours.

    They could find NO case of a student who practiced 5,000 hours but had such amazing innate talents that they were a prodigy. Nor could they find a student who put in over 10,000 hours but just didn't have the innate talent to become an expert.

    Now, once you ARE an expert, then innate talent DOES separates the different prodigies from one another. But most people think of innate talent as this amazing, unexplainable force that propels people to greatness. It isn't. People like John Lennon or Mozart never would have become experts in their fields without reaching that 10,000 hour mark. The Beatles spent COUNTLESS(Or, roughly it's been reasoned, 10,000 hours) playing in Germany before they made it big.

    Mozart, who everyone considers a child prodigy, didn't write what most critics consider to be an actual masterful piece till around age 21 which is about when most musicians have practiced for 10,000 hours(There are also claims that Mozart's father, who would write down Mozart's early music, improved on them). Actually most musicians reach that mark at around 20 so it could be argued that Mozart was actually a slow poke. ;)

    Maybe I'm just bickering over his word usage, but putting in 10,000+ hours, to me, is hard work. It just might not seem like it if you find a field you love working in.

    Practice might not make perfect, but 10,000 hours of practice does make you an expert. :)

    Success isn't what people think it is. If you're interested, read Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outlier" for more on breaking down success and what actually DOES lead to successful people.
     
  8. Acord

    Acord New Member

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    I have to agree... All the people I've ever meant who are "talented" in fact spent a lot of time developing that skill. I've never met a person who was just innately good at something. Artists, modelers, coders, whatever...
     
  9. manunderground

    manunderground New Member

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    Hey, thanks for all the replies. I don't mean to suggest that hard work isn't necessary and I don't believe that's the point of the book either. Rather it's that hard work itself is insufficient and that you need to make sure that the work you do is designed to help you grow. That is, we all know people who have spent their lives working at something and are not world-class experts at that subject, so clearly it was not enough to simply put in the time. I'll definitely need to check out Gladwell's book though, thanks!

    Turning to game development, my point is that it's not enough to simply create a lot of games, or worse a lot of half finished games. In order to make it to the next level you need to set about creating games which push you past your comfort zone. I was curious if others here have adopted that sort of routine (intentionally or not) and wanted to hear about it.
     
  10. Leon

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    Sorry, I didn't think you were either and I didn't mean for my post to come across as if I did - I got carried away. :D

    Personally, I think putting in tons of hours(Especially late at night) and pushing past my comfort zone IS hard work. I think it only seems like it isn't, because I actually enjoy doing this. But it doesn't change the fact that reading a bunch of books on a subject I'm interested in writing or making a game on does take a lot of effort. If I had to read the same amount of material on a topic I hated, I'm pretty sure I'd be groaning and complaining about how much hard work it is.


    Well, the school example I gave is actually from his book. I believe if I am remembering right the prodigies started at around age 5 practicing, and as they got older they upped their weekly practice time till around age 20 they hit that 10,000 hour mark. So we're talking 15 years to become an expert.

    Do I know people like your example? Yeah. But I look at them differently now that I've been reading Gladwell's book. I wonder; have they actually put those 10,000 hours in? Have they pushed themselves? I used to just think, "Man, they suck at that job. They have no aptitude for it". I'm actually not sure if I like understanding the 10,000 hour rule or if I preferred thinking that innate talent ruled. ;)

    I've completed a number of "simple" games and passed them out to friends. I kind of agree with you that I don't think it's enough to half finish a game. While you can learn from that, I don't think you get the full effect.

    I think that anyway, I haven't finished Gladwell's book yet. Maybe there is something more I'll learn. :)
     
  11. defanual

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    In other words, work smart, not work hard! I agree if that's what your leading to.

    An example might be 2 self-employed paint decorators. One has one of those shopping channel paint rollers that cost 3-5 times a of standard one (assuming they work of course, since it's easy to send those things back) and gets the job done quicker and cleaner while the other simply uses a standard cheap paint brush and gets the job done.

    Both will get the job done, but the one that wisely first investigated & invested in the higher-priced roller gets the same job done in 1/3rd to half the time and saves money in the long run. He then has the option to spend more time with the family or make more money by taking on more jobs, thus becoming more successful at his craft. In comparison the only thing the second guy gains is more physical hardship, less free time, less jobs and less money/more cost, yet both are doing the exact same work. The 2nd one is working harder then the first (especially if roller guys is taking the free time option), yet he's far from being the best or most effective at the job.

    So I agree in hard work in terms of the hard work of patience, persistence and perseverance in the smart work choices you choose, but not hard work in terms of pure repetition, sweat and/or effort. There's just too many people that work hard in life and don't always get what they want out of the effort for hard work along to be the trick.

    I'd rather work smart and get the same/better results with less sweat/stress then simply work hard by out-working (in vain) my competitors/peers by brute effort and repetition.
     
  12. Crimson Knight

    Crimson Knight New Member

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    I became a good programmer by just understanding code, and then doing the work required to learn how to use it. The amount of time needed to "become an expert" at something will definitely vary.

    The important thing though, is that you understand what you're doing and why, it accelerates your learning. Then, a lot of the time you used to spend learning, is then put into learning future concepts easier, and the process gets faster the more you do it. You can then learn a new language in mere hours, based on that understanding.

    Now if I can only do that for drawing, I'd be a one-man development team. :)
     
  13. manunderground

    manunderground New Member

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    Yes that's a great way to put it!

    I personally don't think passion and hard work are enough. I know from experience that staying up late working on some idea is hard work and surely I am learning from it, but I doubt that that's sufficient to become a world-class game developer.

    Of course it's true that the achievers have passion which drives them to work more than their peers thus vaulting them to greater heights earlier in their careers. Still, this makes it sound like simply putting in the time is sufficient. However, it's pretty obvious that just because you spent your lifetime making games for some company, say, doesn't mean you will be a world-class game developer. Whereas someone in their twenties may in fact have reached the level already.

    As I originally stated in the post I linked above, I think the only way to truly account for this gap is that the highest achievers are spending their time more wisely than the rest of us, i.e. smarter as defanual said. Of course this raises the question, what are these guys doing differently?
     
  14. Crimson Knight

    Crimson Knight New Member

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    These people are most likely trying to deconstruct the process of which they're required to work through, and then developing methods to bypass many of the pitfalls other people routinely fall into.
     
  15. Leon

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    These "highest achievers", very simply, might just have gotten lucky and were granted an opportunity that not many others got or seized it on their own.

    Do you know that 70% of Canadian hockey players are born within the first six months? That's because the eligibility cutoff for age-class hockey is January 1st. Meaning a 9 year old born on January 1st will be bigger, stronger, and faster than a 9 year old born in December - but they'll both be playing in the same league.

    Because they are bigger, stronger and faster they will most likely do better. When they do better, they'll be selected to the all-star teams where they will be given the best coaching possible and they'll end up playing more games than the 9 year old born in December.

    If you want to play hockey in Canada, and you want the best shot possible, forget innate skill, you need to be lucky be born in the early part of the year.

    The January 9 year old didn't work smarter or harder than the December 9 year old - he just got lucky.

    Success isn't black and white, it's got a lot of different variables at play.

    Another example of opportunity being so important. They did a study of the 75 most wealthy people in the HISTORY of mankind - from kings, queens, pharaohs to Warren Buffett.

    Out of the 75 people, 14 were born WITHIN 9 years of each other, and in America. Almost 20% of the wealthiest people in the history of the world are from a single generation. That would be from 1831-1840.

    They were lucky to be born in a time when there was great growth in America. The railroads and the stock market were coming in, and industrial manufacturing was starting. There was opportunity all around, and they seized it.

    The same with computers now. One of the most important dates in computers is 1975 - Why is that important? It's the year the Altair 8800 came out, and that changed everything. People could now program from home, and they could put the hard work and time into becoming an expert.

    Now let's look at some birth dates.

    Bill Gates: 1955
    Paul Allen: 1953
    Steve Ballmer: 1956
    Steve Jobs: 1955
    Eric Schmidt: 1955
    Bill Joy: 1954
    Scott McNealy: 1954
    Vinod Khosla: 1955
    Andy Bechtolsheim: 1955

    If you were into computers and too old, you were likely already working at an IBM type company, and if you were too young, you couldn't afford to buy one of the machines.

    So much about success is misunderstood. I'm not saying "working smarter, not harder" is wrong. There's never anything wrong with be efficient at all.

    But don't just assume that someone else is far smarter than you or is doing something "magical". Sometimes, they're just someone who was born at the right time and got an opportunity.
     
  16. Viktor

    Viktor New Member

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    Leon, I'd like to point out that neither Warren Buffet nor Bill Gates were born between 1831 and 1840. But many other people were, and the vast majority of them were born and died poor. Opportunities always exist, you have to see them and pursue them.
     
  17. Leon

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    Sorry, apparently my post was slightly confusing.

    All I am talking about IS opportunity. The point is that nearly 20% of the richest people in the history of mankind - thousands and thousands of years - were all born within 9 years of one another. That is an amazing statistic to look at. They had a GREAT(One of a kind in American history) opportunity, and they DID take advantage of it due to their talents and vision, I agree.

    However, if ANY of the people from the two groups I quote had been born either a few years later, or a few years earlier, then you probably would have never heard of Bill Gates or John D. Rockefeller.

    Bill Gates and John D. Rockefeller still would be just as smart/talented if they were born a few years earlier or later, but they'd have a lot less money - because they wouldn't have been the right age to take advantage of the opportunity. A huge part of their success had NOTHING to do with smarts, talent or vision.

    That post is in response to people thinking that the big time developers became successful because they have more talent, or their smarter.

    Maybe they do have more talent. Maybe they are doing things smarter. But don't assume it. Because maybe they were just at the right time, and were in the right place.

    My point is success is FULL of different variables, it's not just the one thing which most people think of success as(Talent, drive, or smarts I think are the three biggest). Sometimes it's luck, being born at the right place at the right time. Sometimes, it's something else.

    I just wanted to toss some food for thought out there and show that success is a different beast than most people think. :)
     
  18. joshuadallman

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  19. defanual

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  20. nadam

    nadam New Member

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    Time and place correlates with success too much to ignore this effect.
    There are scientific/technical revolutions in history, and if your are not there geographically, or you are too young, or too old, you don't have the chance to be involved.

    Most of the success softwares of the 1980-s would be trivial to create for today's proggrammers.
    John Carmack have created Wolfeinstein 3D in 1992, and became a millionare because of it. Nowadays you have no chance with such a simple achievement. There are thousands and thousands of programmers nowadays who could write Wolfeinstein 3D, but noone cares. All the low-hanging fruits are picked.

    Also I am coming form an eastern European country. Noone could be successful in software in my parent's generation here, even if they were equally clever as Bill Gates. My country has a lot of successful geniuses who all made their luck in the USA. (John von Neumann, Edward Teller, Leo Szilard, Charles Simonyi). There is not a single big achiever of my country who didn't work in the USA.

    Today the internet is helping to decrease the opportunity differences between Geographical locations. The only problem now is that the revolution of informatics is over, so we are not really in the 'good time'. Of course opportunities exist now, just not as much opportunity as 20 years ago.
     
    #20 nadam, Jan 28, 2009
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2009

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