Monday Morning Motivation – Bounce by Matthew Syed

I’m really interested in Matthew Syed’s hypothesis that talent is a myth and that success is a consequence of purposeful practice.

It is hard to summarise all of Syed’s arguments, but here are some of the elements that he says make someone successful (in sports):

  • Having access to the appropriate kit/facilities
  • Having easy access to a suitable training partner (how many high-profile siblings can you think of? Venus and Serena Williams; Alistair and Jonny Brownlee; Anton and Rio Ferdinand; Andy and Jamie Murray; Tony and Rory Underwood; Phil and Gary Neville; Vitaly and Wladimir Klitschko; Michael and Ralf Schumacher…)
  • Having access to a good coach
  • Having access to a club or training group
  • Ability to make quick decisions based on expert knowledge (using chunking patterns)
  • Body type
  • Purposeful practice
  • Responding to feedback
  • Mindset
  • Spark of motivation
  • A belief system
  • Optimism

Suggesting that talent is a myth means that no-one can say that they are not good at something because they were not born with a special ability. I find this to be motivational as it means that my success in life is (mainly) down to my own efforts, with only a bit of luck and genes thrown in.

What do you think of Syed’s hypothesis?

4 Responses

  1. Haven’t read the book, or even the hypothesis in any detail but let’s propose another one: we pluck ten people at random and give them all exactly the same tough training regime for a year and send them out on a triathlon (for example). Will they all have roughly the same times? Doubtful. Will they have better times than if they had sat on a couch all day? Definitely. Would some have an innate ability that would set them apart from others. I’d say so. Or to use a more specific example, there’s only one Usain Bolt. Plenty very like him, but train all you like and you will never have that talent. And this is in a sport where there are a lot less parameters than say, football (think Lionel Messi). But, as I said, I haven’t read the book, so maybe there’s hope for me yet! 😉

    • Yes, Syed agrees that some people definitely have bodies that are more suited to certain sports, but his argument that that is a physical attribute rather than something more elusive, such as ‘talent’.

  2. Having 4 kids that are extremely different- all being raised with the same access to sports, food for fuel, and other environmental factors- i think it IS very much up to the person’s own drive and want to do the thing (whatever that thing may be). I haven’t read the book, but I do think that even given so much natural ability to do something, it doesn’t mean much if the person doesn’t have access to train, or the basic needs in life taken care of first- aside from the drive or want to do it. Sounds like it was an interesting read for sure!

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

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