President Jean Gonzalez of South Coast College answers the question:  “Aren’t there some people who are naturals—people who are just good at learning the machine?” (Please read these questions in order 1-10.)


In an earlier blog, I answered the question, “Is there a test to determine whether a person would be a good court reporting student?”  My answer was that if a test could be developed to determine a person’s capacity for enduring boredom, then it would be easy to determine whether that person’s capacity for boredom would allow him/her to finish in a particular time.  The caveat is that the capacity for enduring boredom has to be channeled to court reporting to finish in the corresponding time that the test could predict.


One of the admissions representatives at South Coast College gave me a copy of a book she was reading called the Outliers.  It answered the questions that prospective court reporting students and court reporting students ask with documented research.  In the Outliers, the question was posed: 


“Is there such a thing as innate talent?”  The answer to that question and the answer to the questions asked by my prospective court reporting students and court reporting students is documented in research done years ago.


Earlier, I mentioned that Dustin Huffer indicated that his success was not due to innate talent but to hours of practice.  It seems that the experts agree.


I want to quote this section of the Outliers because it is the best answer that I have ever seen to this question.  (This passage is taken directly from P. 38, 39, and 40 of the book, Outliers.)


“Is there such a thing as innate talent?”  The obvious answer is yes.  Not every hockey player born in January ends up playing at the professional level.  Only some do—the innately talented ones.  Achievement is talent plus preparation. 


The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.


Exhibit A (not shown in this blog) in the talent argument is a study done in the early 1990s by the psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and two colleagues at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music.  With the help of the Academy’s professors, they divided the school’s violinists into three groups. 


In the first group were the stars, the students with the potential to become world-class soloists.  In the second were those judged to be merely “good.”  In the third were students who were unlikely to ever play professionally and who intended to be music teachers in the public school system. 


All of the violinists were then asked the same question:  over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?


Everyone from all three groups started playing at roughly the same age, around five years old.  In those first few years, everyone practiced roughly the same amount, about two or three hours a week.  But when the students were around the age of eight, real differences started to emerge. 


The students who would end up the best in their class began to practice more than everyone else:  six hours a week by age nine, eight hours a week by age twelve, sixteen hours a week by age fourteen, and up and up, until the age of twenty they were practicing—that is, purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better—well over thirty hours a week. 


In fact, by the age of twenty, the elite performers had each totaled ten thousand hours of practice.  By contrast, the merely good students had totaled eight thousand hours, and the future music teachers had totaled just over four thousand hours.  (COMMENT:  Note the capacity to endure boredom.)


Ericsson and his colleagues then compared amateur pianists with professional pianists.  The same pattern emerged.  The amateurs never practiced more than about three hours a week over the course of their childhood, and by the age of twenty they had totaled two thousand hours of practice.  The professionals, on the other hand, steadily increased their practice time every year, until by the age of twenty they, like the violinists, had reached ten thousand hours.


This research made me think of my idol, Tiger Woods.  I don’t believe that anyone ever started playing golf at age 60 and reached Tiger’s level of accomplishment at age 62.