Practice makes not much

I’ve always been deeply suspicious of the “10,000 hours/practice” idea of mastery, because in my experience even if I practice for 10 times as long in something in which I have no talent or ability, like operational math, I will still perform far worse than the naturally-talented who practice much less.

This seems to show that this intuition of mine is correct.

Some people have intrinsic gifts. Some people have intrinsic deficits. I know this is hard for liberals to accept – used to be hard for me to accept, even – but it seems to be the case.

When I realized that no matter how hard I studied, no matter what I did, that I’d never be very good at math, it was actually sort of freeing. It liberated me to concentrate on those things I was and am actually good at without wasting all sorts of time in areas that are essentially useless to me.

As an aside, people who are good at math think, Oh, anyone can learn it! Just takes studying. But this doesn’t appear to be the case. Certain brains are probably predisposed to be good at it, and others not so much.

Luckily or unluckily, I am strangely dichotomous. Math and writing/reading usually are fairly correlated, but not so with me; on standardized tests, I usually score in the bottom 10% or below on mathematical ability and in the top 1/10th of 1 percent (depending on how fine-grained the test is) in reading comprehension, analogy analysis and similar skills.

In other words, if you measure my IQ using more math-based assessments, I generally score in the 50-70 range (which is firmly in the mentally retarded category), and if you use a more verbal-based testing regimen, I break the test, scoring off the charts.

Yeah, but of course there is no such thing as natural talent. That wouldn’t be egalitarian.