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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Many good ideas, 25 May 2010
This review is from: Bounce: How Champions are Made (Paperback)
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This is a good book, but not a great one. It has many good ideas within it, and it also does a good job of demolishing some old icons. It is a work of synthesis and it is honest enough to acknowledge the influence of many other books including Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Elseand Outliers: The Story of Success As I had already read these two books I found the ideas in Bounce familiar. Its main failing is the lack of a summary chapter at the end bringing the book to a conclusion. It just ends.

Bounce is superb at demolishing the ideas of "innate talents" and "genetic endowments and "racial characteristics." Syed points out the combinations of factors that come together to allow top performance to emerge. It is usually some combination of focused and genuine enthusiasm, opportunity, certain local quirks; disciplined practice and well trained experience. The initial enthusiasm for a task has to come from within- which allows the learner to put up with the knocks and setbacks on the way to becoming good at something. He explains very well why parents can try pushing their children into something...but probably won't get great results by so doing. The proverb about leading the horse to water, but not being able to get them to drink comes to mind. This leaves open an obvious niche for a book that helps parents to recognise and go with their child's talents and abilities.

The idea of disciplined practice being necessary to get good at something is stressed throughout the book. This applies in many fields both in sporting and other professions. The idea of perceptual compression, so that an expert apprehends and understands a situation so much more quickly and deeply than the non-expert is well described. The importance of domain specific knowledge is stressed. Syed makes a well aimed punch at the nonsense of "general management" and the idea that "the cognitive processes of learning, reasoning and problem solving" are sufficient for good decision making. He points out that the expert in a field does all these processes much more quickly, effectively, and powerfully than any non-expert, no matter how intelligent. The mechanism is that the expert is using is called "advanced pattern recognition."

"It is the rapid escalation in the number of variables in many real life situations-including sport- that makes it impossible to sift the evidence before making a decision: it would take too long. Good decision making is about compressing the informational load by decoding the meaning of patterns derived from experience. This cannot be taught in the classroom; it is not something you are born with; it must be lived and learned. To put it another way it emerges through practice."

Syed describes what happens in the brain as we progress from learning to performance. He also describes beautifully what happens when an expert "chokes." In this the expert stops using their unconscious competence, and tries to move back to doing the task consciously. But in so doing they disrupt their flow, and take too long analysing the situation, when normally they would just do what has to be done.

There are many good and useful ideas within this book about what helps towards and what hinders achievement. Syed mainly uses examples from sport, but he also uses examples from other fields with memorable examples of a fireman's sense that something was just a bit different so he got his crew out just before a building collapses, and of the differences between experienced and novice doctors.

If you want to achieve more in your chosen activity then this book has many ideas within it that will help you. I would recommend reading Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else alongside it. The earlier in life you get hold of the ideas in these books and use them the better.
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Initial post: 22 Sep 2011 01:42:35 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Sep 2011 01:43:13 BDT
Viewer says:
***racial characteristics." ***

Actually, for a more honest treatment of race and sport I'd recommend Jon Entine's 'Taboo'. In terms of sprinting, Entine summarized the data:

There are no sprinters of note from Asia, even with more than 50 percent of the world's population, a Confucian and Tao tradition of discipline, and an authoritarian sports system in place in the most populous country, China. No white sprinter can be found on the list of 100-meter sprinters; the best time by a white, 10 seconds, ranks more than 200th on the all-time list. ... All of the 32 finalists in the last four Olympic men's 100-meter races are of West African descent. The likelihood of that happening based on population numbers alone-blacks from that region, now living around the globe, represent approximately 8 percent of the world's population-is 0.0000000000000000000000000000000001 percent."

http://www.slate.com/id/2206088/

Genomic research is now uncovering the basis for this, and finding that genetic variants linked to certain athletic traits occur in different frequencies across racial groups. This leads to average group differences. Consider ACTN3:

"Now look at the frequency of the R and X variants in different populations. According to data published seven years ago in Human Molecular Genetics, the relative frequency of the X allele is 0.52 in Asians, 0.42 in whites, 0.27 in African-Americans, and 0.16 in Africans. If you break out the data further, the frequency of the XX genotype is 0.25 in Asians, 0.20 in European whites, 0.13 in African-Americans, and 0.01 in African Bantu. Conversely, the frequency of RR (the genotype for speed and power) is 0.25 in Asians, 0.36 in European whites, 0.60 in African-Americans, and 0.81 in African Bantu. Among Asians, you can expect to find one RR for every XX. Among whites, you can expect nearly two RRs for every XX. Among African-Americans, you can expect more than four RRs for every XX."
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