Dear Grandparenting: My granddaughter Barbara is one very focused young lady for a 10-year-old. She aims to be “the best of the best” in whatever she winds up doing. I think she is leaning toward med school but who really knows?
I am sure that most grandparents share some big dreams for their grandchildren. That’s what we do best, right? So what’s your thinking about what it takes for my granddaughter (or any grandchild) to go for the gold? Emily Colson, Nashville, TN
Dear Emily: For decades the prevailing wisdom had raw talent as the most essential ingredient needed to achieve mastery in a given field or profession.
Many think of talent as a genetic endowment, something you’re born with. So if your grandchild isn’t born with any great talent, and talent is fixed at birth, is your grandchild doomed to a life of mediocrity?
Not so says K. Anders Ericsson, professor of psychology at Florida State University and leading researcher on the topic. Every grandchild has certain gifts, but talent is just for starters when youngsters intend to go for the gold and reach the top.
After years of studying what makes people great at what they do, Ericsson cites other factors — parents that make the sacrifices for their children to excel, and a supportive, nurturing family environment. It’s no accident that great musicians are often born into families where music plays a dominant role. Resilience helps too, the ability to bounce back from adversity.
But to unlock talent, a critical and often overlooked factor is what Ericsson calls “deliberate practice” — devoting a minimum of four hours daily to structured activities that improve performance and straighten out weaknesses. (After four hours, he says exhaustion starts to set in.)
Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell reached the same conclusion in his book “Outliers.” After studying the lives of extremely successful people like Bill Gates and the Beatles, he found they had logged 10,000 hours of practice by age 20. Gladwell sets forth a direct statistical relationship between practice hours and achievement; no short cuts, no naturals, just plenty of determination.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Missy Malone from Richmond, Virginia, reports she has “sticky floors, a messy kitchen, laundry piling up, and three happy grandchildren.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.