In his fine essay “The Learning Curve,” Atul Gawande explains how top performers seem to share a “talent for practice.”
There have now been many studies of elite performers–concert violinists, chess grand masters, professional ice skaters, mathematicians and so forth–and the biggest difference researchers find between them and lesser performances is the amount of deliberate practice they’ve accumulated. Indeed, the most important talent may be the talent for practice itself. K. Anders Ericsson, a cognitive psychologist and an expert on performance, notes that the most important role that innate factors play may be in a person’s willingness to engage in sustained training. He has found, for example, that top performers dislike practicing just as much as others do. (That’s why for example, athletes and musicians usually quit practicing when they retire.) But, more than others, they have the will to keep at it anyway.