Freakonomists Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner probably got the ball rolling back in 2006 with their article about how people get really good at something. Malcolm Gladwell threw his hat into the ring with Outliers and the 10,000-Hour Rule. More recently, David Brooks stepped up to the plate and delivered a review of two recent books on how genius is made, not born: Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code and Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated. I even stuck my oar in briefly; the deliberate practice concept fascinates me, tangentially related as it is to relaxed concentration. From Brooks’ article:
The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.
Athletes have long been ridiculed for the cliches they use when talking about how they won, particularly during post-game interviews. You know them by heart:
We just have to keep working hard.
It just comes down to staying focused.
We gave it 110% tonight.
We worked hard in practice all week.
We never gave up.
If the writers above (and the researchers their writings are based on) are correct, maybe the jocks have it right: it all comes down to preparation, working harder, and wanting it more than the other guy. Simple…except for that pesky 10,000 hours thing.