Zach Hambrick has always been fascinated by exceptional performance, or what he calls “the extremes of human capabilities.” Growing up, he’d devour Guinness World Records, noting the feats it described and picturing himself proudly posing in its pages. By the time he reached college, though, he’d moved on to a new obsession: becoming a golf pro. “I was very serious about it,” he told me. “I practiced religiously. It was very deliberate practice.” Every day, for hours, he’d be out swinging and putting. He expected to find himself on his way to glory. Except it didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, young Zach was confronted with an uncomfortable truth: “I just wasn’t very good.” He saw other students, even kids around town—many of them, far less devoted and far less driven—and many of them played a better game. When he tried out for the college team, he didn’t even come close to making it. “I thought, What is the deal here?”
This was Hambrick’s introduction to an age-old debate: nature versus nurture, genetics versus effort. We’ve been having it long before we knew what DNA was. Right around the same time Gregor Mendel was messing about with his famous peas, Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, was positing that genius tends to run in families. Take almost any enterprise and find its most famous voices, he argued, and you’re led to family trees of great accomplishment, much like his own. (He would take this notion to an extreme with his eugenics program.) And, while that view hasn’t survived in its extreme form, the basic question still guides modern research—not nature versus nurture so much as just how much nature, and just how much nurture?
More here – The New Yorker
PS: This piece is a wonderful antidote to the observational amateurish crap pushed by people like Malcolm Gladwell