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Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice [Kindle Edition]

Matthew Syed
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“Sport is often used as an analogy for business, education, and personal relationships. In this insightful and entertaining book, Matthew Syed takes us a step deeper into the world of sports, showing us how much we can learn about our own behavior.” (Dan Ariely, New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational)

“A cutting edge dissection—and ultimate destruction—of the myth of innate talent in the pursuit of excellence. Syed synthesizes his evidence with the precision of an academic, writes with the fluidity of a journalist, and persuades with the drive of a sportsman. Read this book.” (Mark Thomas, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics, University College London)

“Intellectually stimulating and hugely enjoyable at a stroke. . . . Challenged some of my most cherished beliefs about life and success.” (Jonathan Edwards, Olympic Gold Medal Winner in the Triple Jump)

“Compelling and, at times, exhilarating—Bounce explains high achievement in sport, business, and beyond.” (Michael Sherwood, Chief Executive, Goldman Sachs International)


Essential reading following an astounding summer of sport; if you’ve ever wondered what makes a champion, Bounce has the answer.

This edition does not include illustrations.

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.

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.

Looking at controversial questions such as whether talent is more important than practice, drugs in sport (and life) and whether black people really are faster runners, the mind-bending Bounce is a must-read for the hardened sports nut or brand new convert.


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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Nette Anregungen und interessante Gedanken 26. Juli 2011
Von Georgy
Nach den ersten Seiten war ich eher negativ gestimmt, da Vieles in sehr speziellen eigenen Beispielen herlgeleitet wurde. Aber dann wurde es immer interessanter. Parallelen zur 10.000 Stunden-theorie sowie zu anderen früheren Forschungen werden angenehm eingearbeitet ohne wiederholend zu wirken. Viele aufkommende Fragen wurden gut in den darauffolgenden Kapiteln behandelt und die Schreibweise ist angenehm, ohne belehrend zu sein. Super geeignet für Menschen die meinen keine Talente zu haben, sowie für Menschen, die meinen besonders begabt zu sein, sowie alle Eltern die eben gesagtes von oder über ihre eigenen Kinder denken. Eltern mit falschen Ehrgeiz sollten die Finger von dem Buch lassen, da man das buch auch bewusst falsch verstehen kann.
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0 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting Ideas, a bit light-weight 23. Januar 2013
Von jaf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
I bought this book based on a positive rating in an Internet Blog. It presents some interesting ideas regarding talent and hard work. Is there really something like talent? It's mostly towards oriented sports figures, but also takes in many other professions. A little light weight in that he doesn't fully (scientifically) address all human aspects, for example: Twins. There is probably a mental equivalent of the physical advantages somebody might have when playing a sport (ex. a lighter weight person probably wouldn't be a good line backer). All in all, I found it a good read and very motivating for anybody that has ever thought "they are much smarter than me"... not really!
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.4 von 5 Sternen  140 Rezensionen
87 von 97 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Decent and insightful read, but could have been better 8. Mai 2010
Von Ivan - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
As you probably already know, the main message/goal of Matthew Syed's book Bounce is to discredit the established notion that success in highly complex tasks (athletics in this case) is entirely due to innate ability. Instead, he argues, it is thousands of hours of purposeful, challenging practice and determination to improve that create the superior skill observed in top athletes, chess players and professionals in other fields.

Syed writes in a conversational tone that is very engaging and easy to follow. He does a decent job articulating his arguments and uses scientific evidence, personal experience as a table tennis Olympian and anecdotes from famous athletes to back up his claims. Additionally, this book has plenty of good insight, for example: the amount of practice it takes on average to acquire a high level of skill in a particular activity; the difference between regular practice and purposeful practice; why certain races are falsely perceived to be "naturally" good at certain sports; how children respond when they are rewarded for talent vs. hard work; the physiology of choking during a performance and many others.

Despite the good stuff, certain parts of the book were not entirely convincing. Here is an example. Rationally, it's not too hard to buy into the idea that hard work and talent breed excellence. The problem is that this still doesn't quite explain what makes those people that start mastering a skill at a very early age gravitate towards say soccer ball vs. violin. Or why some children who are as young as two (before any meaningful parental intervention) enjoy being challenged and thrive on practicing a skill, while others shy away from it. Another interesting notion that is not discussed in this book is the speed of learning. For example when very young children are given an opportunity to do something new, some will still learn the skill quicker than others when all the other factors, such as purposeful practice and "growth mentality" have been controlled for. Think for example when a group of parents take their kids to the same skating rink, with the same instructor for the very first time. It is hard to argue that after the first half hour or so, some kids will be completely helpless and falling, others will manage to stand up, while still others will actually be successfully skating around. I am not arguing that these initial differences cannot be overcome with practice, but how did they originate in the first place if everyone is tabula rasa as Syed argues? Anyway, my goal here is not to start a nature vs. environment debate, I am just pointing out some examples that I wish this book addressed in greater detail.

Overall, Syed's book is still pretty insightful, however as shown in my previous example, I don't think that his theory of acquisition of skill is complete. This makes the book read kind of a like an almanac of interesting things about top performers rather than a serious analysis into which part of "talent" is innate vs. which part is practice. I would love if for his next book, Syed could concentrate on the aforementioned gaps instead of giving us bits and snippets of "cool pop sci material".
65 von 74 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Challenging the Idea that Greatness Comes from Talent Rather than Effort and Practice. 8. Mai 2010
Von Kevin Currie-Knight - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
Matthew Syed's Bounce has an interesting thesis. In the vain of Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success and Colvin's Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, Syed attempts to argue against the idea or 'raw talent.' A former table-tennis champion, Syed wants to show us that excellence - particularly of the sporting and artistic variety - is a better predictor of success than innate talent.

Syed presents three lines of data to bolster his argument: personal anecdote from his sporting days, knowledge he has gained about athelets and their backgrounds he has gained from being a sports writer, and summaries of studies done by psychologists (many of the same ones appearing in the two above-cited books). The first chapter is largely Syed's retelling of his own ascent to the top of table-tennis, where he points out that the fact that his town produced quite a few table-tennis stars is enough to at least call into question the 'talent myth.' Later, he goes into some histories of great artists and sports stars - Mozart, Federer, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, the chess champion Polgar sisters - to show that it was not so much raw talent, but extraordinary dedication and deep practice that helped them succeed. By way of studies, Syed cites several by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson whose work suggests that the difference between 'good' and 'great' is better predicted by practice than most any other factor.

As a former high-school teacher, the second section of the book was equally interesting and encouraging: the thesis here is that belief in oneself and desire to keep practicing is is a key contribution to success at a domain. Natural talent, in other words, goes only a small way: it is whether that talent leads one to practice voraciously or sit on one's laurels that really matters. Syed discusses an oft cited study by Carol Dweck (and colleagues): Dweck and company gave two groups of elementary students the same (fairly easy) test. One group got their tests back with praise of their talent ("You are so talented at this,") and the other group got the tests back with praise of their effort ("You must have studied and practiced a lot,"). Students were offered to take either a test of the same ease or a harder test. Unequivocally, students in the first group chose the easy test while those in the latter group chose the hard test. Message: effort gets us way farther than talent because it pushes us.

Two things I did not like about Syed's book. First, much of the information is the same info in the two above-cited books, and Syed even cites those books to excess. Truth be told: the three books are quite interchangeable and it is a bit disappointing to see the same data repackaged like this.

Next, I don't think Syed really dealt with counter-evidence much. There is a decent amount of studies and books demonstrating that genetics may be more important than Syed's work implies. Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders: How Your Genes Affect Your Work Life, Born That Way: Genes, Behavior, Personality and others describe interesting research into genetics' effect on our interests, innate talents, and - here's the kicker - work ethic. So, Syed's thesis can be complexified a bit: it is very strongly possible that one's ethic toward practice, and one's interest in certain subjects to the degree that one would practice obsessively, have a strong correlation with genetics. Certainly, it is not all "nature," but it is not really all "nurture" as Syed seems to imply either.

All in all, though, this is a really well-written and quite interesting book. I simply wish that Syed would have (a) come up with a bit more original data that hasn't been discussed in popular literature before, and (b) devoted a piece of the book to objections and challenges to the thesis.
16 von 17 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Many good ideas 25. Mai 2010
Von Dr. Peter Davies - Veröffentlicht auf
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 Else and 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.
27 von 32 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Very interesting 20. April 2010
Von Terry L - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
This is an incredibly interesting book that basically claims that practice makes perfect (it must be PURPOSEFUL practice, however). The author makes the case, with plenty of examples, that excellence in many areas--from Mozart in music to Tiger Woods in golf--comes not from any inborn talent, but from sheer practice. It also gives us who work in the business world evidence that a person who may be great at managing, for example, an electrical service company may not be any good at all at managing an automobile company--that experience and knowledge of automobiles (in this case) is more important than the experience of simply managing.

There are fascinating accounts of how the brain works throughout the book. For example, why a chess grandmaster playing ten games simultaneously while blindfolded can remember the placement of every chess piece on every board and win most, if not all, of the games; but when in a non-game situation with the chess pieces set randomly on the board, can not remember the placement of pieces any better than you or I.

The author makes the argument that practice is more important than natural talent. In fact, he makes the argument that what many consider natural talent is simply the accumulation of purposeful practice. The book is well-written, interesting and informative reading all the way through (although the last chapter or two are a bit weaker than the rest). It should be of interest not only to the sportsworld and such but also to educators and business.
16 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen If you are into sports you may enjoy this, but not scientific. 2. Juli 2010
Von Two kids mom - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
The author comes down squarely on the side of nurture in the "nature vs. nurture"
debate. He maintains that 10,000 hours of focused and deliberate practice,
(based on a studies by Anders Erricsson published in Psychological Review in 1993)
are the difference between true excellence and being just good. This is territory that has been covered in "Outliers" and "Talent is Overrated", and I think in at least a slightly more broad manner.

Although he does mention fields such as chess and music, "Bounce" focuses mainly on this theory applied to sports. Specifically he uses as an example throughout the book on his own mastery of ping pong. Since sports IS dependent on physical characteristics (there are no 5 foot tall NBA players or 7 foot tall Olympic gymnasts) it is interesting that this is not really covered. The premise seems not to be "if you have the physical characteristics, then 10,000 hours of practice will make you an expert" but simply that "practice really does make perfect" , talent, ability or physical build matching the sport are not necessary.

The issue I have with these sort of books is that they are very one sided and often based on just a few studies which the author then extrapolates to a much broader conclusion. Perhaps the study shows that 10,000 hours of practice does make a chess champion. That does not necessarily mean 10,000 hours of practice would make a world class scientist. The book also presumes causation (Practice=expert). Perhaps there is another confounding variable. For example, perhaps kids who start out good at something are more likely to pursue it, practice more, get better, repeat cycle.

Generally I found the book an easy read, but was put off by the premise that giving a bunch of examples constitutes proof of a theory. Because the book includes in the title "The Science of Success" I expect more actual science.
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