To that I say, nuts. Talent matters.
No amount of practice would make me a good singer, mathematician, draftsman, or politician. I've been playing basketball regularly for 40 years, and I am still awful. I was better when I was younger, fitter, and had less experience.
And now comes some real data to back up what everyone already knew about talent and practice: talent matters much more.
A new meta analysis in Perspectives in Psychological Science looked at 33 studies on the relationship between deliberate practice and athletic achievement, and found that practice just doesn't matter that much.At the elite level, they find that differences in the amount of time spent practicing account for only 1% of the difference in ability. No surprise there; Michael Jordan worked hard, but not notably harder than the average professional athlete. All elite athletes work hard, but very few of them are Michael Jordan or Lionel Messi.
More precisely, the analysis found, practice can account for 18 percent of the difference in athletic success. Put another way, if we compare batting averages between two baseball players, the amount of time the players spent in the batting cage would only account for 18 percent of the reason why one player's average is better than the other.
Yes, there are studies that show people who are good at things have practiced a lot more than people who are bad at them. It does take practice to master any complex activity. But I think the main reason highly accomplished people have practiced more is that they realize early on that they are good and have the potential to be even better, which is a terrific incentive to practice. I have a relative who was a professional dancer for years, in a modern dance troupe, and she was picked out by her teachers as having real potential when she was only four years old. By the time she was 18 she had put in a lot of hours, but that was because she was talented, not the other way around.