What makes a Mozart?

What makes a Mozart?

29 August 2016 at 00:00 by Sarah Thurber

Secrets of Extraordinary Performance

Video Transcription

Mozart was a creative genius. The question is, why?

I’m Sarah Thurber with FourSight and this is your two-minute thinking tip.

So, what made Mozart, Mozart? Most of us would say, “I don’t know. He was born that way?”

But, in a recent book by Geoff Colvin called Talent is Overrated, Colvin tells a very different story. He argues that Mozart’s creative genius was created and there are three key ingredients.

First, was his father, Leopold Mozart. He was a great musician and this guy literally wrote the book on how to train great musicians. That book was published the very year Mozart was born. That child was his personal lab experiment. He taught him how to play piano at age three, to compose at age five, and to perform by age eight. And do you think this was Mozart’s idea?

I played piano when I was growing up. I can tell you when I got tired of practicing, I went outside. When Mozart got tired of practicing, he presses some more. And that was the second key ingredient: practice, practice, practice.

Experts estimate it takes 10,000 hours or ten years to go from being good at something to being extraordinary. That’s not just timing. There is a certain type of practice called deliberate practice where you’re working at the cutting edge of what you’re good at.

So, where I might play a piece a couple of times and call it practice, deliberate practice is where you play the piece, you analyze where you fumble and go right to that spot and play it over and over again, backwards and forwards, right hand, left hand, until you can play it perfectly. And then you go to the next pain point and do it again.

Deliberate practice is hard work. It takes effort and it takes focus. For most of us, it’s where the behavior change happens.

The good news here is that there doesn’t look like there is any creative genius gene that you’re missing. If you want to become an extraordinary performer at anything, the three things you need: a tough coach, a lot of practice, and deliberate practice.

Because that is what makes a Mozart and that’s your thinking tip from FourSight.


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