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Natural Born Talent Beats Hours of Practice

Despite your drive, performance is no gimme.

If you dream of being, say, the next Masters green-jacket wearer but—despite years of practice—are still more bogey than Bubba, it may be time to leave that ambition in the bunker.

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A new Princeton meta-analysis of 88 separate studies suggests that practice, while good for bettering performance, won’t guarantee perfection in a task no matter how much effort you put into it.

“Fluid intelligence generally predicts how well a person can ‘pick up’ the new rules in a domain and carry them out,” says study chief Brooke Macnamara, Ph.D.

Translation: When it comes to how much you can improve at something, there’s usually no substitute for natural-born talent. That doesn’t mean you should ditch a beloved endeavor if you enjoy it and it fits into your life, Macnamara says. “Though you might need to accept that you may not become the world’s greatest at it.”


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