Challenging the notion that talent is innate.
“The most important gifts we can give our children are confidence in their ability to remake themselves again and again and the tools with which to do that job,” writes Ericsson (Psychology/Florida State Univ.; editor: The Road to Excellence: The Acquisition of Expertise Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sports and Games, 2014, etc.), assisted in this book by science writer Pool (Beyond Engineering: How Society Shapes Technology, 1999, etc.). The plasticity of the human brain, coupled with directed training and practice, is the key. Ericsson joins an increasing number of educators who focus on the importance of what he calls “deliberate practice” in achieving expertise in fields such as music and sports. This practice is best begun at an early age, so children can hone specific skills and also gain the ability to “remake themselves again and again,” as circumstances change. This is a matter of practical training, not just the assimilation of abstract knowledge. It demands embarking on a realistic path to achieving a specific goal by achieving mastery of successively more difficult specific skills, and it involves a combination of mental and physical training. The idea that individual differences in ability are not genetically determined or hard-wired into the human brain has only been widely accepted in this century. Previously, talent was thought to be genetically determined so that “learning was just a way of fulfilling one's genetic potential.” Ericsson gives intriguing examples of how the visual cortex in the brain of a blind person as he or she learns Braille develops connections to the fingertips and how Mozart's achievements as a child prodigy were cultivated by his father's intensive training. The author makes a strong case that success in today's world requires a focus on practical performance, not just the accumulation of information.
Especially informative for parents and educators in preparing children for the challenges ahead.