The book "Bounce", written by author Matthew Syed, takes us on a revealing exploration of being better and the true nature of talent.
In doing so, it unmasks many myths - that we can be born brilliant (and that child prodigies prove it); that we are restricted by our genetic makeup; and that the social context is important.
Continue reading this PocketBook and be surprised by a cutting-edge analysis - and final destruction - of the myth of innate talent in the pursuit of excellence!
Released in 2010, "Bounce" was written by Matthew Syed who analyzes the dangers of the "talent myth". A book with a clear message: success is possible for all of us, but it comes with hard work and self-confidence rather than innate skill.
Matthew Syed is a writer, sports journalist and table tennis player. He won the sports journalist of the year award from the British Press Awards and also the sports writer of the year from the Sports Journalist Association Awards.
In addition, he is three times table tennis champion from the "Commonwealth".
If you believe that with hard work you will achieve success, reading the book "Bounce" is a must for you.
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We like to think that sport is a meritocracy - where achievement is driven by capacity and hard work - but it is nothing like that.
Think of the thousands of potential table tennis champions who weren't lucky enough to live on Silverdale Road, with its unique set of advantages.
Think of the thousands of potential Wimbledon champions who have never been lucky enough to own a tennis racket or receive specialized training.
Think of the millions of potential winning golfers who have never had access to a golf club.
Virtually every man or woman who triumphs over the odds is, upon closer inspection, a beneficiary of unusual circumstances.
Matthew Syed explains in his book "Bounce" that the illusion consists of focusing on the individuality of your triumph without realizing it - or worrying about looking for the powerful opportunities stacked in your favor.
This is one of the central points of Malcolm Gladwell in his wonderful book "Outliers: The Story of Success".
Gladwell shows how the success of Bill Gates, the Beatles and other notable artists is not so much about "what they like", but rather "where they come from".
But it is worth pausing here for a moment to consider an objection. Can you agree with the argument that opportunity is necessary for success, but is it enough?
And what about the natural gifts that make the best of the others stand out? Aren't these skills necessary to reach the Wimbledon final or the top of an Olympic podium?
Aren't they necessary to become a great chess master or the CEO of a multinational? Isn't it an illusion to assume that you (or your child) can achieve great success without also having rare talent?
This has been the permanent presumption of modern society since Francis Galton, a Victorian English polymath, published his book "Hereditary Genius". In the book, Galton uses the ideas of his half-cousin Charles Darwin to create a theory of human conquest that remains on the rise today.
"That a man's natural abilities are derived from inheritance, under exactly the same limitations as the shape and physical characteristics of the entire organic world..."
I have no patience with the hypothesis that babies are born in a similar way and the only agents in creating differences are constant discipline and moral effort.
The idea that natural talent determines success and failure is now so powerful that it is accepted without hesitation.
It seems indisputable. When we watch Roger Federer or a great chess master playing twenty games simultaneously, we are irresistibly drawn to the conclusion that they have special gifts not shared by the rest of us.
According to the author Matthew Syed in his book "Bounce", the skills are so qualitatively different, so far removed from our own lives and experiences, that the very idea that we could achieve similar results with the same opportunities seems ridiculous.
The metaphors we use to describe excellent filmmakers encourage this way of thinking. Roger Federer is said to have "tennis encoded in his DNA". Tiger Woods is said to be "born to play golf".
But is talent what we think it is?
Author Matthew Syed says that many people are sure that they know this when they see it; that they can look at a group of children and discern the way they move, how they interact, how they adapt, which ones contain the hidden genes needed for success.
As the managing director of a prestigious violin school said:
"Talent is something that a first-class violin technician can identify in young musicians who mark them as destined for greatness."
But how does the teacher know that this talented young artist, who looks so talented, didn't have many hours of special training behind the scenes?
How does he claim that the initial skill differences between this young man and the rest persist over many years of practice? In fact, he doesn't know, as several studies have shown.
An investigation by British musicians, for example, found that the best artists did not learn faster than those who reached lower levels of achievement: hourly, the various groups improved at almost identical rates. The difference was simply the best performance practiced for more hours.
Further research has shown that when the best artists seem to have an initial gift for music, it is usually because they receive extra classes at home by their parents.
Jack Nicklaus, the most successful golfer of all time, said:
"Nobody has ever really become proficient in golf without practicing, without thinking too much and then shooting a lot of shots."
It is not so much a lack of talent; it is the inability to repeat good plays consistently that frustrates most players. And the only answer to that is practical.
What happens when you drive your car? You are certainly making countless hours behind the wheel, but does that constitute the acquisition of knowledge? It's not like you're trying to improve.
Instead, you may be thinking about other things: figuring out what to do for dinner; talking to someone else; listening to the radio and fingering the steering wheel. In fact, it's driving on autopilot.
This may seem like an extreme example, but it applies (to a slightly lesser extent) to a surprising number of us. We do our job, but often with our minds absent - partially or totally - from what we are doing.
That is why (as dozens of studies have shown) the length of time in many occupations is only weakly related to performance. Mere experience in excellence.
Before, we said that the amount of practice is necessary to reach the top, and we saw that it is an impressive amount of time.
But, equally important, is the quality of the practice: the specialized learning used by the best professionals to obtain the status of master and the deep concentration necessary during each of these ten thousand hours to make them count.
Matthew Syed, in the book "Bounce", calls this "purposeful practice". Why? Because the training sessions for aspiring champions have a specific and uninterrupted objective: progress.
Every second of every minute of every hour, the goal is to extend your mind and body, push yourself beyond the outer limits of your capabilities, get so deeply involved in the task that the training session literally turns you into another person.
It is worth stating: world-class performance has been fighting for a goal that is out of reach, but with a vivid perception of how the gap can be bridged.
Over time, through constant repetition and deep concentration, the gap will disappear, just so that a new target is created, out of reach again.
In "Unlimited Power", Tony Robbins explains that a successful person usually walks more upright, more imposing, demonstrating self-esteem. One way to be successful, then, would be to replicate this behavior and start walking in that same way, more imposingly.
In the work "Out of Our Minds: The Power of Being Creative", author Ken Robinson says that everyone is born with natural talents, but few are those who discover what they are and how to develop them.
Thus, it can be concluded that everyone has creative capacity, the challenge is to develop them, as it requires a lot of discipline and work.
Finally, the book "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance", by author Angela Duckworth, leads us to question what leads a person to succeed. For her, what sets successful people apart from those who don't have it, is the grit, which is a combination of passion and perseverance.
As one business expert said:
"Very few companies have introduced the principles of [purposeful] practice in the workplace."
Sure, the hours go by slowly in some jobs, but the tasks are usually repetitive and boring and don't take employees to their creative limits, let alone go beyond that.
There is very little advice or training and objective feedback is practically nonexistent, usually including little more than an enthusiastic annual review.
Why would any individual spend time and energy looking for opportunities to improve if success is ultimately about talent, not practice?
Why would we make sacrifices if the gains are, at best, uncertain? Why would we leave the comfort zone for the rigors of the learning zone if the benefits come only from people with the right genes?
The natural gift theory is not merely flawed; it is treacherous in practice, robbing individuals and institutions of the motivation to change themselves and society.
Even if we are unable to embrace the idea that knowledge is essentially the quality and quantity of the practice, can we not accept that the practice is much more significant than previously thought? Is this talent a widely extinct concept? Does each of us have the potential to follow the path of excellence?
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