Thursday, April 23, 2009

Perfection and Success: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again"

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book "Outliers" claims that assiduous concentration for a minimum of 10,000 hours is necessary to achieve world-class success in almost every endeavor, such as piano playing, chess, fiction writing and computer science.

"Achievement is talent plus preparation... It seems that it takes the brain this long [10,000 hrs] to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery" (p.40).

He also claims that while innate talent is important, "the closer psychologists looks at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play." (p. 38)

It's a fascinating theory and one that is echoed in today's article, "Want to Go Faster? You Need a Trainer" by Gina Kolata in The New York Times. She says that focused, concentrated training led by experts is usually required to become a star athlete.

"Training, though, can require such a commitment over so many years that many drop out.... And that love of serious training, coaches say, is often what distinguishes a good athlete from a mediocre one.

“Any great athlete who accomplishes anything, anywhere, loves to train,” said Tom Fleming...former elite distance runner who twice won the New York City Marathon.

It’s not that talent is irrelevant. Truly talented athletes can be better without training than many average people can be with training. But most people are not in that elite athlete realm and, for them, training can mean the difference between a good performance and a poor one".

Coaches and exercise physiologists caution that it can take a long period of sustained, consistent training to reach your potential."

Cirque du Soleil

Now if only I could stretch anything like the contortionists at the Cirque du Soleil (pictured above). When they were interviewed on ABC television yesterday, they insisted that anybody could do it if only they'd train enough. They have abundant "innate talent" as well as strong discipline and support, good health and healthy bodies, too.

Australian runners at 14K Run, Bondi Beach, this week

"What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?"
George Eliot

Goals, in general, make people happier, or so says my book on happiness, but that's a review for another post.

If you become sad, start training for a new goal. It's really not rocket science, just good common sense, when you think about it.

The news is that if we practice a lot, we will improve ourselves immeasurably, achieve spectacular results and have fun doing it.

Personally, I would love to be able to reach the floor with the palm of my hand or run a mile in nine minutes.

If all else fails, here's an hilarious phrase to remember to use socially in self-defence, "I may not look like I'm doing anything, but on the cellular level, I'm really very busy." (Anon.)

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