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#1563482 - 11/24/10 12:59 PM No You Can't  
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This article is from WJS.

No You Can't

Is genius a simple matter of hard work? Not a chance.

What do you think of when you hear the word "genius"? Most of us, I suspect, picture a fellow in a white coat who squints into a microscope, twiddles a knob, and says, "Eureka! I've found the cure for cancer!" More often than not, though, scientific and creative discoveries are the result not of bolts of mental lightning but of long stretches of painfully hard slogging. This unromantic reality is the subject of "Sudden Genius?: The Gradual Path to Creative Breakthroughs," a new book in which the British biographer Andrew Robinson examines key moments in the lives of such giants as Marie Curie, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci. The conclusion that he draws from their experience is that creative genius is "the work of human grit, not the product of superhuman grace." Along the way, Mr. Robinson also takes time out to consider one of the most fashionable modern-day theories of genius—and finds it wanting.

The theory is known in England as "the 10-year rule" and in the U.S., where it has been popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of "Outliers," as "the 10,000-hour rule." The premise is the same: To become successful at anything, you must spend 10 years working at it for 20 hours each week. Do so, however, and success is all but inevitable. You don't have to be a genius—in fact, there's no such thing.

K. Anders Ericsson, the psychologist who is widely credited with having formulated the 10,000-hour rule, says in "The Making of an Expert," a 2007 article summarizing his research, that "experts are always made, not born." He discounts the role played by innate talent, citing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as an example: "Nobody questions that Mozart's achievements were extraordinary. . . . What's often forgotten, however, is that his development was equally exceptional for his time. His musical tutelage started before he was four years old, and his father, also a skilled composer, was a famous music teacher and had written one of the first books on violin instruction. Like other world-class performers, Mozart was not born an expert—he became one."

It's easy to see why the Ericsson-Gladwell view of genius as a form of skill-based expertise has become so popular, for it meshes neatly with today's egalitarian notions of human potential. Moreover, there is much evidence for the validity—up to a point—of the 10,000-hour rule. My own favorite example is that of Charlie Parker, the father of bebop. As a teenager, he embarrassed himself by sitting in at Kansas City jam sessions before he had fully mastered the alto saxophone, thereby acquiring a citywide reputation for incompetence. In 1937 the humiliation overwhelmed him, and he took a summer job at a Missouri resort and began practicing in earnest for the first time in his life. Eight years later, he had metamorphosed into the glittering virtuoso who teamed up with Dizzy Gillespie to record "Ko-Ko," "Groovin' High" and "Salt Peanuts," thereby writing himself into the history of jazz.

The problem with the 10,000-hour rule is that many of its most ardent proponents are political ideologues who see the existence of genius as an affront to their vision of human equality, and will do anything to explain it away. They have a lot of explaining to do, starting with the case of Mozart. As Mr. Robinson points out, Nannerl, Mozart's older sister, was a gifted pianist who received the same intensive training as her better-known brother, yet she failed to develop as a composer. What stopped her? The simplest explanation is also the most persuasive one: He had something to say and she didn't. Or, to put it even more bluntly, he was a genius and she wasn't.

To his credit, Mr. Robinson unequivocally rejects what he calls "the anti-elitist Zeitgeist." At the same time, he believes that while "genius is not a myth," it is merely an enabling condition that can be brought to fruition only through hard and focused work. This seems to me to strike the right balance—yet it still fails to account for the impenetrable mystery that enshrouds such birds of paradise as Bobby Fischer, who started playing chess at the age of 6. Nine years later, he became the U.S. chess champion. His explanation? "All of a sudden I got good."

Anyone who thinks himself capable of similar achievements would do well to heed the tart counsel of H.L. Mencken: "Is it hot in the rolling-mill? Are the hours long? Is $1.15 a day not enough? Then escape is very easy. Simply throw up your job, spit on your hands, and write another 'Rosenkavalier.'" Even if you don't care for Richard Strauss's most popular opera, you get the idea. Disbelievers in genius are hereby invited to prove their point by sitting down and creating an equally great work of art. You have until 2020 to comply. Any takers?

—Mr. Teachout, the Journal's drama critic, writes "Sightings" every other Friday. He is the author of "Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong." Write to him at tteachout@wsj.com.

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#1563499 - 11/24/10 01:35 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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of course there are no geniuses, this designation is just simply an excuse of lazy people not to have to work so hard as so called "genius".

so, yes you can...

#1563506 - 11/24/10 02:03 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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What utter nonsense. How was Mozart composing when he was a child? How did Scriabin write his Etude op. 2 no. 1? Work alone cannot explain such things. Just because it's not only genius does not make it only work. How do these people have the nerve to call themselves scientists?

#1563508 - 11/24/10 02:06 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: motif]  
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Originally Posted by motif
of course there are no geniuses, this designation is just simply an excuse of lazy people not to have to work so hard as so called "genius".
It would seem motif didn't read the article. The point was NOT that there's no such things as genius, but that genius is a combination of talent and hard work.

I seem to recall reading articles about research that indicates intelligence comes in many guises. Almost everyone has some area of intelligence in which they excel. Some people can remember everything they read, others have facile fingers, others have exceptional musical perception and expressive capability, but the best concert pianists combine all of these abilities.

The reference to lazy people in the quote indicates to me a perception that most people don't like to work. I'm not sure I'd agree with that. People indeed don't like being taken advantage of. People do enjoy being compensated for their hard work. I've met many people who didn't like working hard but it seemed to be mostly because of a perception (right or wrong) of being taken advantage of. The biggest obstacle to success is usually between our own ears. For those with exceptional ability that same organ may be their biggest advantage.

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#1563510 - 11/24/10 02:17 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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Yes I can... No you can't...Yes I can...No you can't...Yes I can, Yes I can!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVnIKosSlyM

Last edited by pianoloverus; 11/25/10 08:28 AM.
#1563513 - 11/24/10 02:21 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: Steve Chandler]  
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Originally Posted by Steve Chandler
Originally Posted by motif
of course there are no geniuses, this designation is just simply an excuse of lazy people not to have to work so hard as so called "genius".
It would seem motif didn't read the article. The point was NOT that there's no such things as genius, but that genius is a combination of talent and hard work.


I've read the article. Of course that one has to have some predisposition (what you call talent) to gain excellence faster then others but still main requirement is hard work.

I think you overestimate 90% of people...Most of them want 8 hours job (the less actual work the better), get paid and forget about it, come back home and watch talk show on TV sipping beer...

#1563519 - 11/24/10 02:43 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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Just a nit to pick with the original article here: It's quite possible, even highly likely, that Mozart's sister didn't become a successful and famous musician simply because she was his sister and not his brother. The writer may have forgotten that that in those times the attitude toward geniuses was not "some people just have it and others don't" - it was "some men just have it and others don't". Women were in general not permitted to be geniuses in Europe in the 1700s.


(I'm a piano teacher.)
#1563529 - 11/24/10 03:02 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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I tend to agree with the concept, I feel I have seen it in my own playing. There have been times when I was younger I struggled greatly with simple things on the piano.

Maybe it applies to learn a skill, but, what about the inspiration to use such skills?

#1563537 - 11/24/10 03:15 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
What utter nonsense. How was Mozart composing when he was a child? How did Scriabin write his Etude op. 2 no. 1? Work alone cannot explain such things. Just because it's not only genius does not make it only work. How do these people have the nerve to call themselves scientists?


here we go, another lazy "people" wink
I guess you believe also what they tell you at evening news? Man can do and still do many things to become famous. Quite often if he can't, then for his children.
Was this a coincidence that Mozart's father was very skilled musician???

people likes miracles, showoffs, fables from the very beginning when they are born. BTW Santa Clause is close smile

p.s.
but don't worry, I am lazy too - and I'm not gonna sacrifice my life and die at my early twenties just to be called by some dudes hundred year later a "genius".

#1563564 - 11/24/10 04:14 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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I don't believe anything without just cause. Certainly not your lazy people theory. That requires a lot more than laziness. It also requires deluded belief of extreme talent, if you hope to excel without effort.

But the more talent you have, the less work you need to do before reaching a high standard. The thing about this 10,000 hour crap is that loads of prodigies have excelled before they had anywhere near that time. i met a pianist who had learned Brahms' 1 concerto within a couple of months of starting piano, late on in his teens. Most people who are good at something have practised it a lot, sure. Hardly surprising. But the idea that you can't excel unless you do some figure that was clearly plucked out of thin air is pure nonsense. Some people simply get a head start. And others could put that time in and get nowhere. I don't see your point about Mozart's father. You think he "taught" Mozart how to take a lengthy piece of music down in flawless dictation, in one sitting?

#1563581 - 11/24/10 05:01 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: motif]  
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Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted by motif
of course there are no geniuses, this designation is just simply an excuse of lazy people not to have to work so hard as so called "genius".




Are you, by chance, related to Gyro?



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $

#1563599 - 11/24/10 05:54 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: stores]  
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Originally Posted by stores
Originally Posted by motif
of course there are no geniuses, this designation is just simply an excuse of lazy people not to have to work so hard as so called "genius".




Are you, by chance, related to Gyro?


laugh




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#1563605 - 11/24/10 06:10 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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There are some folks who are much smarter than other folks and who can easily analyze information with ease. I see that all the time here. smile

Sometimes though having an innate skill set doesn't always work in your favor. I went to college with a well known concert pianist. He has perfect pitch. I clearly remember the theory professor asking a question and he had the answer, the wrong answer but the correct pitch. I never forgot that. On paper the correct spelling was, for the sake of discussion, an A#, but the answer give was a Bb. He heard the correct pitch, he just didn't process the 'theory'.

Of course having that skill set, which I assume he was more or less born with, made a lot of things easier for him but it didn't make him smart per se - it just made some things easier.

Interestingly enough he couldn't improvise but he could play the blues scale really, really fast.

I would love to have photographic memory, but I don't. That would sure make some things easy.




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#1563695 - 11/24/10 10:16 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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I think the 10,000 hour rule from Outliers was just to comfort the normal, non-genius people, as most of Gladwell's readers were. The majority of the readers were in fact not extraordinary but seek self-improvement through hard work, or else they wouldn't even bother reading the book. So now, Gladwell's book basically grouped together a mass of like-minded people and initiated a form of "group think", whereby the word genius is shunned and only hard work remains. Great for the workforce and society as a whole, as God is indeed "fair" and created all men equal. I believe that all men were NOT created equal, but it's hard to go against the majority. The small population of true geniuses are too small to have any voice in this matter, but heck, don't think they give a damn.

To end, I don't think music and art is even applicable to any kind "10,000 hour rule", as expertise can be such a subjective matter.

With regard to Mozart's father, he was a catalyst that provided the mix of right mentoring, parenting and environment that bought Mozart's innate gift to full fruition. If his father wasn't there, Mozart may have figured things out by himself, but certainly not at that young an age.

Edit: From the article: "The problem with the 10,000-hour rule is that many of its most ardent proponents are political ideologues who see the existence of genius as an affront to their vision of human equality, and will do anything to explain it away." Right on the money.

Last edited by Rui725; 11/24/10 10:27 PM.
#1563702 - 11/24/10 10:21 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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I apologize, but it is hard for me to agree about the 10,000 rule. I am no genius, pretty average, but through my own hard work I have kept up and in some cases surpassed people who were more naturally talented. I am not going to go as far to say, the word genius is bad, but at the same time, hard work has went a very long way for myself.

I have seen this in other pianists as well, who really applied themselves and were able to close the gap between themselves and others.

#1563705 - 11/24/10 10:24 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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Talent is even more subjective. You think you're not talented, maybe to urge yourself to work harder, but most don't realize it's just a form of self deprecation and humility. In fact, maybe you are just as talented in the eyes of others, but what happens if the person in question starts thinking like that? The output of hard work and practice diminishes.

What happens when you know you're talented and work hard for the sake of enjoying what you do? = You have a winner!

Last edited by Rui725; 11/24/10 10:31 PM.
#1563711 - 11/24/10 10:31 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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I agree with JDhampton924. However, I do believe that some people are born with extreme talent or the "so called" God-given gift for music (like Mozart) but people with this rare talent normally work excessively hard at their passions (like Valentina Lisitsa practicing 10-12 hours a day of piano) and/or they live with their passions all the time (always having music going on in their head, etc... [like Mozart]). These sort of people are normally the sort who can't live without their music.

#1563725 - 11/24/10 10:57 PM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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The old story, hereby played out again.

Diligent hard work will get you almost anywhere, perhaps even play the Chopin etudes up to accurate speed -the supreme test- but that isn't the whole story. Hard work alone does not create another Rachmaninov, Horowitz, Richter or Argerich.

I don't doubt that these supreme pianists worked very diligently, but wasn't it 'talent' (whatever that means) which caused the hard work to pay off?

Goodnight dearest folk. Happy Thanksgiving.


Jason
#1563768 - 11/25/10 12:37 AM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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Hmmm... A thread started by Roland about talent. Better to stay out of it!

But then again not! laugh

I tend to define talent as something that is or isn't there - period. Something that you cannot train yourself, you cannot give it to yourself, it's already there.

As such I also tend to dismiss it on philosophical grounds: I believe that we, humans, ARE responsible on what's happening to us (to a logical extent anyways) and what we will end up being.

That said, not everyone can become Horowitz, Richter, Ligeti, or Argerich! The questions here are:
a. How close can we get to these people?
b. What is it that makes them so special?
c. Their amazing skills and musicality lies on their Gawd given talent, or perhaps very early exposure, and human circumstances?

I'm very interested in this subject. If talent is there and is a prominent issue, then I can, based on 'reading' the amounts of talent in my students, treat them accordingly: In a very nazi fashion I guess! Every teacher will tell you that they prefer teaching certain students rather than others, but is it right to act like that while teaching? Or perhaps there's a way to turn the 'untalented' student into a 'talented' one?

#1563772 - 11/25/10 12:43 AM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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another one of these discussions? i haven't been here long and i've seen this several times now. i have nothing new to add... except for a little bit of exasperation. makes for fun time-waster discussion i suppose.

almost turkey time! happy turkey day everybody. or at least those in the US. for those in Canada... you had your turkeys over a month ago.

#1563773 - 11/25/10 12:47 AM Re: No You Can't [Re: argerichfan]  
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Originally Posted by argerichfan
The old story, hereby played out again.

Diligent hard work will get you almost anywhere, perhaps even play the Chopin etudes up to accurate speed -the supreme test- but that isn't the whole story. Hard work alone does not create another Rachmaninov, Horowitz, Richter or Argerich.

I don't doubt that these supreme pianists worked very diligently, but wasn't it 'talent' (whatever that means) which caused the hard work to pay off?

Goodnight dearest folk. Happy Thanksgiving.


I'm with you on this one, Jason. And Happy Thanksgiving to you (and all PW'ers) too!

Sophia

#1563779 - 11/25/10 01:19 AM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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Thanks Ronald for the “No you can’t” article from WJS.

I like the bit

“To his credit, Mr. Robinson unequivocally rejects what he calls "the anti-elitist Zeitgeist."
At the same time, he believes that while "genius is not a myth,"

[i]it is merely an enabling condition that can be brought to fruition
only through hard and focussed work.[/i
]”

But, might I add, that the “hard work” part of it is totally forgotten in the passionate chase
“that there’s something just around the corner” ... and also, that the breakthrough occurs ONLY in maturing early years (unless very latent).

#1563781 - 11/25/10 01:22 AM Re: No You Can't [Re: Lingyis]  
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Originally Posted by Lingyis
another one of these discussions? i haven't been here long and i've seen this several times now. i have nothing new to add... except for a little bit of exasperation. makes for fun time-waster discussion i suppose.

almost turkey time! happy turkey day everybody. or at least those in the US. for those in Canada... you had your turkeys over a month ago.

And a mighty fine turkey it was. thumb Happy Thanksgiving, south of the border neighbours!

No, the topic hasn't been beaten to death enough! [Linked Image] We might have new members who haven't joined in on the fun yet!

#1563784 - 11/25/10 01:31 AM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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Some of our turkey-inspired Canadian chappies have hibernated their brain-boxes at this time of the year ...
and have no fear of being gripped by genius.

#1563793 - 11/25/10 01:57 AM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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I think the most plausible explanation is that it is a combination of deliberate practice and innate ability that determines your level of success. Some people may work as hard as Horowitz did, but never attain his level of technique because they simply don't have the innate motoric reflexes. On the other hand, there may be people with Horowitz' level of talent who never manage to equal him because they didn't work hard enough. However, the one difficult factor is that it can be nearly impossible to definitively measure talent. How advanced were Horowitz and Rubinstein as children. If someone has an extraordinary physical gift, should the pianistbelieve that he or she has the ability to become a technician on Horowitz' level?


Recent Repertoire:
Liszt: Concerto #1 in Eb https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dY9Qw8Z7ao
Bach: Partita #2 in c minor
Beethoven: Sonata #23 in f minor, Opus 57 ("Appassionata")
Chopin: Etudes Opus 25 #6,9,10,11,12
Prokofiev: Sonata #3 in a minor
Suggestion diabolique
#1563801 - 11/25/10 02:29 AM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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It doesn't take a lot of thought to figure out how wrong the 10K rule is about musical talent/genius as far as composition is concerned. There have been thousands of composers who worked hard (and often for a whole lifetime, and not just for the requisite number of hours to meet the rule). But there are not thousands of composers in the top ranking. Therefore, the theory is obviously not viable.

And too, some composers of some pretty remarkable music may not have worked as hard as others, but still made a big mark on music history because of the nature of their imagination, and not because of the acquired skills with which they translated that imagination into music. Mussorgsky, for example.


#1563802 - 11/25/10 02:30 AM Re: No You Can't [Re: stores]  
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Originally Posted by stores
Originally Posted by motif
of course there are no geniuses, this designation is just simply an excuse of lazy people not to have to work so hard as so called "genius".




Are you, by chance, related to Gyro?


was he a genius? then maybe.

#1563809 - 11/25/10 02:59 AM Re: No You Can't [Re: wr]  
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wr: Indeed you speak the truth, but then again is composition about 'composing techniques' alone? or even 'aesthetics as well'. I'd claim that composition is so much more than technical ability, or music actually that it could be true that the great composers excelled in other aspects as well (for example imagination, or personality, or political thinking, etc).

A small example on recent music history: Radiohead. It's not only their music that makes them, for me, great, but also their political thinking that pushes the envelop even further. I doubt they would be that great (again for me) was it not for their way of thinking, indiependant forwarding, etc...

So perhaps a political minded person, or a socially minded one with less time of practice on composition, could end up being 'better' (whatever this may stand for) than one training all their life in composition?

#1563816 - 11/25/10 03:36 AM Re: No You Can't [Re: Nikolas]  
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 215
motif Offline
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motif  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 215
Originally Posted by Nikolas

So perhaps a political minded person, or a socially minded one with less time of practice on composition, could end up being 'better' (whatever this may stand for) than one training all their life in composition?


of course it could. You have to have something to say and that may come from experience like tragedy, love etc or previous life events. Having ability and skills to tell is not enough.


#1563835 - 11/25/10 06:00 AM Re: No You Can't [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 4,264
btb Offline
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btb  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 4,264
Pretoria South Africa
What a clanger ... to say this of the aristocratic Modest Mussorgsky

"And too, some composers of some pretty remarkable music
may not have worked as hard as others,
but still made a big mark on music history because of the nature of their imagination,
and not because of the acquired skills
with which they translated that imagination into music.
Mussorgsky, for example."

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