Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice Paperback – 1 Apr 2011
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‘A gripping examination of the hidden forces that come together in the making of a champion.' Michael Atherton, former England cricket captain
'A fascinating subject and Syed is a dazzling writer.' Owen Slot, The Times
'I love this book. A must-read if you have ever wondered what sets the super-achievers and the rest of us apart – in any field, not just in sport. I only wish I had read it when I was fifteen.' Gabby Logan, BBC presenter and former international gymnast
'Intellectually stimulating and hugely enjoyable at a stroke … challenged some of my most cherished beliefs about life and success.' Jonathan Edwards, triple jump world record holder
'Cutting-edge analysis and devastatingly argued.' Mark Thomas, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at University College London
'Compelling and, at times, exhilarating – Bounce explains high achievement in sport, business and beyond.' Michael Sherwood, Chief Executive, Goldman Sachs International
From the Back Cover
JUST WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET TO THE TOP?
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What is the magic spark that sees David Beckham and Tiger Woods soar above all their competitors, and could the secret lie in the practice regime of Mozart? Matthew Syed's dazzling investigation of high achievement draws on the stories of sports stars and the most up-to-date science to uncover the surprising factors that lead to world beating success. Along the way he explains why the most successful figure skaters are those that have fallen over the most, how a Hungarian father turned his daughters into three of the best chess players the world has ever seen, and why one small street in Reading - Matthew's own - produced more top table tennis players than the rest of Britain put together. Bounce will revolutionise our ideas of what it takes to get to the top.
From the Publisher
Two-time Olympian and sports writer and broadcaster Matthew Syed draws on the latest in neuroscience and psychology to uncover the secrets of our top athletes and introduces us to an extraordinary cast of characters, including the East German athlete who became a man, and her husband – and the three Hungarian sisters who are all chess grandmasters. Bounce is crammed with fascinating stories and statistics.
Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice
Matthew Syed is an award-winning journalist on the times, writing for both the sports pages and the comment pages. He is a three-time Commonwealth table-tennis champion and competed in two Olympics. He studied PPE at Balliol College Oxford where he was awarded a first class degree.
What are the real secrets of sporting success, and what lessons do they offer about life? Why doesn’t Tiger Woods 'choke'? Why are the best figure skaters those that have fallen over the most and why has one small street in Reading produced more top table tennis players than the rest of the country put together.
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On the whole, I felt it to be an easy read and laid out in a logical manner; my only quibble in this sense arrived at towards the end of the book, with its discussion of race as a factor in success - or failure. I think that this is an important discussion, but I am doubtful of its positioning in the book - it feels like an addendum or an afterthought, not quite integrated into the general flow of the arguments.
Why four stars, not five? I am fairly strongly of the view that 'nurture' is the deciding factor in development in most things, but I'm not willing to dismiss 'nature' out of hand - I think it is probably illogical to deny that physiology might play a role in certain arenas, and so on, and likewise to deny that some physiological features might be 'natural'. As such, I find the author's complete dismissal of these factors to be a little problematic; to my mind, it would be a more interesting read if this were more comprehensively addressed.
Syed is clearly a fan of Malcolm Gladwell and references Gladwell’s book Outliers several times. Having read Gladwell’s David and Goliath, but not Outliers, I’m tempted to assume that most of Gladwell’s books are pretty same-y. There’s definitely a certain amount of overlap between Bounce and David and Goliath.
Not necessarily a bad thing. Syed is trying to make a point that many others have made in the past. In spite of being backed by strong evidence it’s a point that continues to be ignored. The point is that talent is a bit of a myth, that experts are good at what they do because they’ve worked hard at it.
It makes sense. There’s no evidence for a gene that encodes for being good at running, or good at playing piano, or good at acting, or anything. Whereas there are countless examples of people being surprisingly good at something, only for it to turn out not to be so surprising after all, when you discover that they’ve been working at it for years.
Having come across this before I didn’t find the book to be revelatory. However, it is one I strongly recommend, whether to people who have already accepted this idea, or to people who have never heard it before. I recommend it because the idea that practise is the only way to guarantee excellence is as important as it is motivating. Syed manages to make it uplifting as well.
It’s uplifting because if you’re good at something it’s because you earned it. If you’re not good at something yet it’s because you haven’t yet practised enough but you know that you can be one day if you keep trying. That’s great for motivation. It’s great for reminding you that you might not be perfect, but you’re better than you were six months ago. It stops you from wanting to give up when things get tough.
So yeah, read it. It’s very readable non-fiction that made me want to go out and get good at things.
Bounce is the first of a couple of books Syed has written and I must say he doesn't disappoint in either. Both Bounce and Black Box Thinking are essential reading if you are keen to delve into psychology and especially sports psychology.
Bounce touches upon many myths that souround talent and the notion of natural born talent. I was hugely impressed with the 10,000 hour theory of purposeful practice and how it's been put to the test.
In all an absolutely fascinating book that I simple couldn't put down!
I wish I had read this book when I was 5 years old as over the years I have given up on so many interests that I thought I wasn't good at but really should have just tried harder in.
It actually makes me a bit sad thinking of all the people out there who love something and have been told they are not talented in it and have quit trying.
I will certainly be recommending this book to everyone as understanding the idea of effort over talent really does open up your mind to possibilities that you thought were out of reach.
I do think the last chapter was a little bit boring and irrelevant, it felt more like racial stereotypes are something Syed felt strongly about so just tagged them on, but I don't think it entirely fit with the book. Interesting to an extent but perhaps this could be a new book for him?
Not to say that took anything away from the book and still more than deserves a 5 star review!