Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Having finished "Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice"

So I've finished reading Bounce. The last section of the book seemed to take a long time to make its point about genetics and relative success, but the conclusion is in keeping with the premise of the book that it's practice that makes the difference. Whist your genetic make up may predispose you towards a particular sport and/or sporting success, there's no substitute for good and focussed practice.

Actually, when you put it like that it doesn't seem that new a concept. The only "new" thing is the demythologising of talent as an overriding factor. However, the jury is still out on the role of talent in many ways. For example, is hand eye coordination built in or developed? The answer is probably a combination of the two. I could always catch as far as I remember. I don't ever remember having to learn how to do that. I do remember learning how to refine the technique of catching in order to improve my skill and I do remember practicing throwing a ball and catching it for endless hours. I even remember the infamous cradle at school we used for catching practice.

As to the premise of the book, that it takes 10,000 hours of focussed and appropriate practice to achieve excellence is anything, well that statistic is somewhat undone when you dig a little deeper. The research on which this principle rests shows a much more significant variation that you'd want to see if you're going to establish a precise principle in terms of hours spent developing technical skills. I also suspect that it is quite difficult to control all the contributing factors. Put simply, not everyone practises the same way with the same coach and the same equipment. Not everyone develops at the same rate physically, mentally or technically. So variation is to be expected and trying to draw a universal conclusion is always going to be difficult.

Maybe the key concept form the book is grounded ion the basic principle that practice matters because practice makes a difference. If you want to get better at anything you have to practice and you have to practice in ways that help you improve and not in ways that ingrain bad habits.

Bounce is certainly a book worth reading if you are tempted to think that you will never be any good at anything because you simply lack the talent to do it. Just remember that you have to pick the right thing. If you can't hold a tune, I doubt whether 10,000 hours of practice will ever give you the pitch required to star in your musical!

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