Hearing a succession of mediocre singers does not add up to a single outstanding performance.

Sherwin Rosen
Sherwin Rosen

American labor economist who had ties with many American universities and academic institutions including the University of Chicago, the University of Rochester, Stanford University and its Hoover Institution.

In a seminal 1981 paper, the economist Sherwin Rosen worked out the mathematics behind these “winner-take-all” markets. One of his key insights was to explicitly model talent—labeled, innocuously, with the variable q in his formulas—as a factor with “imperfect substitution,” which Rosen explains as follows: “Hearing a succession of mediocre singers does not add up to a single outstanding performance.”

There’s a premium to being the best

In other words, talent is not a commodity you can buy in bulk and combine to reach the needed levels: There’s a premium to being the best.

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The text above was taken and slightly edited from the following sources.

Deep Work (Book) by Cal Newport

  • Design & Arts
  • Perfection
  • Talent
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