Book review: Bounce by Matthew Syed

Book review: Bounce by Matthew Syed

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Here is another great book I read recently, Bounce by Matthew Syed. The subtitle is “Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success” and it really sums up the major theme of the book. If you’re like me and curious about how people get success at every aspect of their lives, this book is excellent.

Conventional wisdom thought us that either you were born with talent or no. We assume David Beckham has a magic foot, same with Tiger Woods and his clubs or Wayne Gretzky and his hockey stick. The author argues that they spent their entire childhoods working at their craft

This whole nature versus nurture is alive and well. But now the nurture camp is getting more and more ammo. The author makes a great point, looking at his own athletic life. How does an average boy from the UK make it to the top of the table tennis world?

He actually has a great story and he says looking back his career, three things helped him more than anything:

  1. His parents bought a ping pong table
  2. He had an older brother
  3. He met a good coach and joined his club
Without any of those he could have built those 10, 000 hours at such a young age. Because of similar circumstances, his neighbourhood had more table tennis stars than the rest of the UK combined.

This book is in the same vein as Talent is overrated, Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point. He actually expands on the idea of 10, 000 hours to mastery with a lot more examples, mostly from the sport world but also looks at art and business. The one thing I especially like is he mentions coaching and consciousness as a major determinant of success. Are you throwing the ball around or are you working on your skills?

Why are runners from African nations so successful? Yes high altitude helps but imagine running 20-30k everyday growing up, with a group of similar folks. How much better of a runner would you be now?

Now that we know IQ is a dymanic figure, it’s quite favourable for people who don’t see themselves as “talented”. The more I read stuff like that, it makes me realize that work ethic is the only talent you need!

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