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4.0 out of 5 stars Good writing and interesting theory, Nov. 12 2010
What is the secret of people like Mozart, Federer, Picasso and Bekham? How come many of the British table-tennis champions came from the same neighborhood? Are Brazilian superior football players and Blacks superior runners?

Matthew Syed, a three-time Commonwealth table-tennis champion and a two-time Olympian, claims that there is no mystery, no shortcut: practice is the only path to excellence. According to him, talent is overrated and even child prodigies like Mozart get their ten thousands of practice before making their greatest contributions to their respective fields. Syed also discusses the importance of motivation, a purposeful training, a good surrounding and doublethinking in achieving success.

The book is well-written and well-documented. The author draws his examples from various areas: music, painting, football, chess, skating, hockey, tennis and basketball. However, most of the examples came from sports, the area he is most familiar with.

The theory is interesting, certainly thought provoking -especially the controversial chapter on genetic engineering- and the examples are to some extent convincing. Recently, a plethora of books has been published on this nature vs. nurture theory. Some of them argue that genetics determine it all and the others that practice is the only key to success. Syed's book falls in the latter category. I would like to read a book that addresses both theories in greater detail.
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5.0 out of 5 stars How and why peak performance really is achieved...or isn't, Aug. 30 2012
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
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I first read this book when it was published (April 20, 2010) and then recently re-read it before reviewing it. As is also true of several others (notably Geoff Colvin, Daniel Coyle, and Malcolm Gladwell) Matthew Syed became keenly interested in the pioneering research on peak performance conducted for almost 30 years by Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University. Until recently, it was widely assumed that having talent explains the achievements of great creative and performing artists such as Mozart and Picasso as well as of athletes such as Ronaldo and Roger Federer.

We now know that a combination of circumstances explains peak performance. They include natural talent, yes, and luck to some extent (i.e. being born at the right tine into the right circumstances) but of greatest importance is iterative, "deep" and "deliberate" practice under expert and strict supervision for about 10,000 hours. That is, as Syed notes, "a minimum of ten years is required to reach world-class status in any complex task." Just to be clear, if I were sixteen years-old and completed 10,000 hours of intensive practice under John Wooden's or Butch Harman's direct and demanding supervision, my skills and performance as a basketball player or golfer would be improved...but I would never be good enough to compete in with professionals in the NBA or PGA.

The key to all this is to understand that there is a lengthy and exhausting process that results in peak performance and not everyone who completes that process can then achieve such performance. However, it cannot be achieved without the substantial time and attention commitment. There are no short-cuts.

Ericsson has identified what he characterizes as "the iceberg illusion." That is, "When we witness extraordinary feats of memory or of sporting or artistic prowess), we are witnessing [begin italics] the end product of a process measured in years [end italics]." This point reminds me of a concept introduced by Baldassare Castiglione in his Italian Renaissance classic, The Book of the Courtier: sprezzatura defined by the author as "a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it." It is almost certain that the easier a peak performance seems, the harder and (yes) smarter the achiever has worked.

For me, some of the most valuable material is provided in the final chapter when Syed responds to a question its title poses, "Are Blacks Superior Runners?" His flow of thought is best revealed within the narrative, in context, but I am comfortable noting that he discusses more, much more than black athletes involved in track and field competition. This is how Matthew Syed concludes the book: "The tendency to see black and white as genetic types (which, to a large extent, underpins racial stereotyping) has long been contradicted by the findings of population genetics. If we could ditch our race-tinted spectacles, the world would not only [begin italics] look [end italics] very different, it would soon [begin italics] become [end italics] very different."

I hope I live long enough to see that day arrive.

I first read this book when it was published (April 20, 2010) and then recently re-read it before reviewing it. As is also true of several others (notably Geoff Colvin, Daniel Coyle, and Malcolm Gladwell) Matthew Syed became keenly interested in the pioneering research on peak performance conducted for almost 30 years by Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University. Until recently, it was widely assumed that having talent explains the achievements of great creative and performing artists such as Mozart and Picasso as well as of athletes such as Ronaldo and Roger Federer.

We now know that a combination of circumstances explains peak performance. They include natural talent, yes, and luck to some extent (i.e. being born at the right tine into the right circumstances) but of greatest importance is iterative, "deep" and "deliberate" practice under expert and strict supervision for about 10,000 hours. That is, as Syed notes, "a minimum of ten years is required to reach world-class status in any complex task." Just to be clear, if I were sixteen years-old and completed 10,000 hours of intensive practice under John Wooden's or Butch Harman's direct and demanding supervision, my skills and performance as a basketball player or golfer would be improved...but I would never be good enough to compete in with professionals in the NBA or PGA.

The key to all this is to understand that there is a lengthy and exhausting process that results in peak performance and not everyone who completes that process can then achieve such performance. However, it cannot be achieved without the substantial time and attention commitment. There are no short-cuts.

Ericsson has identified what he characterizes as "the iceberg illusion." That is, "When we witness extraordinary feats of memory or of sporting or artistic prowess), we are witnessing [begin italics] the end product of a process measured in years [end italics]." This point reminds me of a concept introduced by Baldassare Castiglione in his Italian Renaissance classic, The Book of the Courtier: sprezzatura defined by the author as "a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it." It is almost certain that the easier a peak performance seems, the harder and (yes) smarter the achiever has worked.

For me, some of the most valuable material is provided in the final chapter when Syed responds to a question its title poses, "Are Blacks Superior Runners?" His flow of thought is best revealed within the narrative, in context, but I am comfortable noting that he discusses more, much more than black athletes involved in track and field competition. This is how Matthew Syed concludes the book: "The tendency to see black and white as genetic types (which, to a large extent, underpins racial stereotyping) has long been contradicted by the findings of population genetics. If we could ditch our race-tinted spectacles, the world would not only [begin italics] look [end italics] very different, it would soon [begin italics] become [end italics] very different."

I hope I live long enough to see that day arrive.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A interesting idea lacking in substantive proof, June 1 2012
By 
Len (Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success (Paperback)
'Bounce' begins with the very valuable point that talent is the coming together of a number of fortuitous circumstances that allows an individual to excel. In Mr. Syad's case, he became a world ranked table tennis player because his parents bought a competitive table when he was very young, he had an older brother with whom he could practice and there was a world class table tennis coach living just down the road. He uses standard 10,000 hour rule as the time necessary to acquire excellence but he adds a proviso. That is, practice must be active. Attempts must be constantly made to improve performance. Under these conditions failure is constant. A figure skater should be willing to fall constantly while attempting to complete a difficult jump. According to Mr. Syad, provided an individual is willing to practice 10,000 hours with a constant focus on improvement, he or she can develop the kind of talent that we have traditionally ascribed the word prodigy. That is, talent, isn't acquired from birth, it is gained through concentrated practice. Interestingly, he concludes his book with a study of racial differences, which he effectively argues are a consequence of living conditions and not genetics. If I had one criticism of this book, it is that that reasons for faulty or excellent performances are ascribed after the event has occurred. No evidence is provided using a control and variable group.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bounce isn't a thud, Sept. 29 2011
This review is from: Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success (Paperback)
I like the fact that the author has practical experience in excellence. Occasionally he puts a few too many personal references in the text to hammer home the point, but that's ok. The main thrust that I am finding useful in my coaching life, is the notion of "purposeful practice".

Everyone thinks they work hard, but often they are on autopilot. Getting my athletes to think about things differently is something that I'm working on as a result.
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4.0 out of 5 stars At the crossroads of science and motivational speech, July 27 2011
By 
Vahe Kassardjian (Montreal, Quebec Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success (Paperback)
If you're not too familiar with cognitive sciences and like the story-telling format, this is an excellent book for you. I most particularly recommend it to the younger audiences who have an interest in athletic performances.

On the other hand, if you already read Outliers or Talent is Overrated you may find the first few chapters of this book disappointingly redundant.

My only other criticism is that the two final chapters (resp on drugs and racial cliches in sports) are uselessly long.
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