Monthly Archives: January 2013

Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success, by Matthew Syed

First, I think it best if you have already read Gladwell, Coyle, Colvin, Gladwell, Gladwell, Coyle, Ratey, and Gladwell.  (each author mentioned once per book I have read).  But here are some excerpts from Bounce:
Practically every man or woman who triumphs against the odds is, on closer inspection, a beneficiary of unusual circumstances.
Not genetics, but a unique circumstance, such as an older brother excellent as a competitive driver, or a geographic circumstance, where the athlete can walk out the front door of the home and be shooting 70 meters within just a few steps.
“The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves,” Gladwell writes. “But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.”
Just because Syed is repeating at great length the quotes from these other authors I cited does not mean the information is not properly applied to the NTS method of training archers.
These differences are not just statistically significant; they are extraordinary. Top performers had devoted thousands of additional hours to the task of becoming master performers. But that’s not all. Ericsson also found that there were no exceptions to this pattern: nobody who had reached the elite group without copious practice, and nobody who had worked their socks off but failed to excel. Purposeful practice was the only factor distinguishing the best from the rest.
No one.  Every exceptional athlete got there by work, not by gift.
research has shown that when top performers seem to possess an early gift for music it is often because they have been given extra tuition at home by their parents.
Parents can make a profound difference.
How long do you need to practice in order to achieve excellence? Extensive research, it turns out, has come up with a very specific answer to that question: from art to science and from board games to tennis, it has been found that a minimum of ten years is required to reach world-class status in any complex task.
I have seen that this number can vary if the practice is of sufficient quality. 8000 hours can be enough for a top step.

Note: not necessarily 10,000 hours but rather ten years?

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell points out that most top performers practice for around one thousand hours per year (it is difficult to sustain the quality of practice if you go beyond this), so he redescribes the ten-year rule as the ten-thousand-hour rule. This is the minimum time necessary for the acquisition of expertise in any complex task.
As Ericsson puts it, “There are apparently no limits to improvements in memory skill with practice.”
the new science of expertise. Speed in sport is not based on innate reaction speed, but derived from highly specific practice.
I read this as, “With a sufficient coach, development does not have to be assigned to a schedule.
But we can now see that the solution to the riddle is simple. In essence, Douglas spent more hours than any other player in the history of the sport encoding the characteristics of a highly specific type of table tennis: the kind played at maximum pace, close to the table.
the movement has been encoded in implicit rather than explicit memory. This is what psychologists call expert-induced amnesia.
subconscious performance is proven to be the most elusive but the best
Great shot-making, then, is not about developing “muscle memory” rather, the memory is encoded in the brain and central nervous system. The ascendency of the mental and the acquired over the physical and the innate has been confirmed again and again.
“The most important differences are not at the lowest levels of cells or muscle groups, but at the athletes’ superior control over the integrated and coordinated actions of their bodies. Expert performance is mediated by acquired mental representations that allow the experts to anticipate, plan and reason alternative courses of action. These mental representations provide experts with increased control of the aspects that are relevant to generating their superior performance.”
“One key trait the study found was that these companies valued ‘domain expertise’ in managers—extensive knowledge of the company’s field. Immelt has now specified ‘deep domain expertise’ as a trait required for getting ahead at GE.”
if you want to bend it like Beckham or fade it like Tiger, you have to work like crazy, regardless of your genes, background, creed, or color. There is no shortcut, even if child prodigies bewitch us into thinking there is.
It is only possible to clock up meaningful practice if an individual has made an independent decision to devote himself to whatever field of expertise. He has to care about what he is doing, not because a parent or a teacher says so, but for its own sake. Psychologists call this “internal motivation,” and it is often lacking in children who start too young and are pushed too hard. They are, therefore, on the road not to excellence but to burnout.
neatly emphasizes the power of practice when it is challenging rather than nice and easy. “When most people practice, they focus on the things they can do effortlessly,” Ericsson has said. “Expert practice is different. It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well—or even at all. Research across domains shows that it is only by working at what you can’t do that you turn into the expert you want to become.”
call it purposeful practice. Why? Because the practice sessions of aspiring champions have a specific and never-changing purpose: progress. Every second of every minute of every hour, the goal is to extend one’s mind and body, to push oneself beyond the outer limits of one’s capacities, to engage so deeply in the task that one leaves the training session, literally, a changed person.
That is worth stating again: world-class performance comes by striving for a target just out of reach, but with a vivid awareness of how the gap might be breached. Over time, through constant repetition and deep concentration, the gap will disappear, only for a new target to be created, just out of reach once again.
Elite skaters regularly attempt jumps beyond their current capabilities; less elite skaters do not.
If you are not falling down when you ski you are not learning.
Purposeful practice is about striving for what is just out of reach and not quite making it; it is about grappling with tasks beyond current limitations and falling short again and again. Excellence is about stepping outside the comfort zone, training with a spirit of endeavor, and accepting the inevitability of trials and tribulations. Progress is built, in effect, upon the foundations of necessary failure. That is the essential paradox of expert performance.
As Mia Hamm, one of the greatest female soccer players, has said: “All my life I’ve been playing up, meaning I’ve challenged myself with players older, bigger, more skillful, more experienced—in short, better than me.”
Brain Transformation The ten-thousand-hour rule, then, is inadequate as a predictor of excellence.
What is required is ten thousand hours of purposeful practice. And for practice to be truly purposeful, concentration and dedication, although important, are not sufficient. You also need to have access to the right training system, and that sometimes means living in the right town or having the right coach.
You are also on the path to personal transformation. Literally. One of the most striking things about modern research on expertise is how the body and mind can be radically altered with the right kind of practice. “When the human body is put under exceptional strain, a range of dormant genes in the DNA are expressed and extraordinary physiological processes are activated,” Anders Ericsson has written.
“Over time the cells of the body reorganize in response to the metabolic demands of the activity by, for example, increases in the number of capillaries supplying blood to the muscles.”
A key aspect of brain transformation is myelin, a substance that wraps around the nerve fibers and that can dramatically increase the speed with which signals pass through the brain. A 2005 experiment that scanned the brains of concert pianists found a direct relationship between the numbers of hours practiced and the quantity of myelin. But myelin is not the only theme in the brain change story. Purposeful practice also builds new neural connections, increases the size of specific sections of the brain, and enables the expert to co-opt new areas of gray matter in the quest to improve.
your skull also contains this system, and you too can corral it into action when performing multi-digit calculations. But there is a catch: you can purchase access to this prime neural real estate only by building up a bank deposit of thousands of hours of purposeful practice. That, if you like, is the price of excellence.
In complex tasks, human achievement has many more centuries, possibly millennia, to run before it hits any kind of immovable ceiling. This is not just because the principles of purposeful practice are constantly being elaborated and improved, but also because of what we might call paradigm shifts—completely unforeseen innovations—in technique and application.
But careful study has shown that creative innovation follows a very precise pattern: like excellence itself, it emerges from the rigors of purposeful practice. It is the consequence of experts absorbing themselves for so long in their chosen field that they become, as it were, pregnant with creative energy. To put it another way, eureka moments are not lightning bolts from the blue, but tidal waves that erupt following deep immersion in an area of expertise.
technique and education is getting smarter. Similarly, soccer and table tennis standards are rising, at least in part, because technique is improving. So are the training systems, as we have seen. It all adds up to one inexorable conclusion: human performance in complex tasks will continue on an upward trajectory into the distant future, punctuated by innovations that are not merely unforeseen but unforeseeable.

Note: can anyone say, NTS…?

That is the power of feedback. As Chen says: “If you don’t know what you are doing wrong, you can never know what you are doing right.”
Feedback is, in effect, the rocket fuel that propels the acquisition of knowledge, and without it no amount of practice is going to get you there.
For an archer, immediate feedback can come from within, but also must come from a coach’s eye and wisdom.
He also has a coach standing behind him, providing an extra dimension of feedback. His coach is not merely offering encouragement and assessing his levels of concentration, he is also on the lookout for small technical glitches that may have escaped the attention of his charge. The advantage of a coach is that he has a perspective—being able to look from the outside in—that the player lacks.
It is not just that they receive expert advice during training sessions; far more important is that great coaches are able to design practice so that feedback is embedded in the drill, leading to automatic readjustment, which in turn improves the quality of feedback, generating further improvements, and so on.
Almost twenty years after his eldest daughter became the first female grandmaster in chess, Polgar’s insights are repudiated by most academics and ignored by society, despite a growing avalanche of evidence in support. To put it simply: The talent theory of expertise continues to reign supreme. This strangely resilient paradigm has had, and is having, devastating consequences.
a key factor driving success and failure is to be found within the realm of motivation. Sure, clocking up thousands of hours of purposeful practice ultimately determines how far we make it along the path to excellence: but it is only those who care about the destination, whose motivation (to use the phrase in chapter 2) is “internalized,” who are ever going to get there
A coach must recognize that creating drive must sometimes come from the athlete, alone.
What we are seeing at work here might be called motivation by association: a small, barely noticed connection searing deep into the subconscious and sparking a motivational response.
The hand you’re dealt is just the starting point…. Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
Armed with a growth mind-set, she interpreted falling down not merely as a means of improving, but as evidence that she was improving. Failure was not something that sapped her energy and vitality, but something that provided her with an opportunity to learn, develop, and adapt.
Excellence is about striving for what is just out of reach and not quite making it; it is about grappling with tasks beyond current limitations and falling short again and again. The paradox of excellence is that it is built upon the foundations of necessary failure.
“Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation, and it harms their performance.”
The coach must never use the cheap compliment, but the true comment.
He praises effort, never talent; he eulogizes about the transformational power of practice at every
opportunity; he preaches the vital importance of hard work during every interruption in play. And he does not regard failure in his students as either good or bad, but as an opportunity to improve. “That’s fine,” he says as his student hits a forehand long. “You are on the right track. It’s not the mistakes; it’s how you respond to them.”
“Every endeavour pursued with passion produces a successful outcome regardless of the result. For it is not about winning or losing—rather, the effort put forth in producing the outcome. The best way to predict the future is to create it—therefore, we believe we have the best training methods to help each athlete achieve their dreams and goals and ultimately reach their ability level in the arena of sports and life.”
This, it turns out, is a strangely difficult art to master, and one that often separates the best from the rest. We know it when we see it: that extraordinary ability of top sportsmen to rise above the anxieties and angst, the doubts and the tensions, that so often paralyze lesser performers. They retain their sureness of touch, their subtlety of mind, all those deep and complex motor is boskills built up over thousands of hours and which can so easily melt in the heat of the battle
Goldacre reports that stimulant medication tends to come in red or orange, antidepressants in blue, and so on.
Ariely, the behavioral economist, has shown that cheap painkillers are less effective than painkillers identical in every respect except for a more expensive price tag. Again, it all comes down to belief. For obvious reasons, we find it easier to believe in a treatment when it burns a hole in our wallet: “At that price, it must be good!”
This book contains much more.  Read it for your own ability enhancement.