Book Review Wednesday: Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success (4 stars)

Posted: August 12, 2015 in Book Reviews
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This is another of my ‘how do we learn and become mega successful’ books.

I’ve read a few of them since Malcom Gladwell’s epic ‘outliers.’ I love that book so much. This book is very much along the same lines, but focuses more on sports. I’ve read a few books around the 10,000 hour rule (which for those who haven’t heard, is the researched idea that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a world class expert at something). But this book still had some interesting material related to sports that I hadn’t heard about.

The book starts off talking about the 10,000 hour rule and various people from all fields who became a world class expert, and how they line up with the idea. He debunks the natural talent myth well, and entertains us with tales of ‘innate talent’ that turn out to be products of hard work and more than a little luck.

Syed was a table tennis champion, so he understands well what it takes to succeed in sport. He weaves together his story with those of other champions, and those of the places that made them champions. It often took extraordinary luck to give them the circumstances they needed to succeed. A mentor, or several were needed. And more than anything else, an effort based mindset was needed, along with the resulting dedication to improve and practice.

An effort based mindset, for those not in the know, is the opposite of a fixed mindset. A person with a fixed mindset believes they are what they are and can’t change that. People are born good at maths, or music, or sports. People are naturally clever. Those who aren’t will never become so, no matter how much practice they put in, so they might as well not try.

A person with a fixed mindset is right that they’ll never become good at anything. Not because that’s their lot in life. But because they won’t try. Those who succeed in a skill at high levels tend to have a effort based mindset.

A person with a effort based mindset believes that with every hour of practice they put into a skill, they improve. They put in a lot of practice, they improve, and they become the successful people those with a fixed mindset wish they were born as.

All that stuff is wonderful, and I never get tired of reading about it, but the real special aspect of this book is the parts where he details how all of it relates to sport. Most of it is pretty similar, though he goes into more detail about what makes a good mentor than other books. Pretty obviously a good mentor uses language that promotes a effort based mindset. They praise efforts instead of results. They don’t punish failures, and do give constructive feedback. If the person is bothered by a failure they remind them to practice, and they’ll improve.

There’s an interesting study about one of the most successful sports coaches. They found that very little of his language was praise or negative talk. Most of what he said was feedback. Simple short sentences that only addressed how they could improve what they were doing. It worked very well. There are a lot of examples in this book of world class coaches and how they work.

It also covered things I haven’t read about before. Such as the science behind why world class athletes sometimes choke (seem to lose all their skill in a stressful moment). You see, we carry out complex tasks intrinsically or extrinsically. When we start learning a skill, we have to think about where to put every part of our body, what to move when. This is carried out through the extrinsic pathway.

When we learn a skill, the movements become second nature. We don’t have to think. We just do them, freeing up brain space to watch our opponent, or keep an eye on where a ball is coming from. This is carried out through the intrinsic pathway.

When a person chokes, their brain switches to extrinsic, and they’re back to monitoring their every body movement. All their skill goes, and they’re back to where they started. I hadn’t ever read about that before, and it made so much sense. You know how when you’re really nervous about something, and suddenly you turn into the most clumsy person on the planet? That links really well to that.

Anyway. This was a four star book for me. Sure, a lot of it is recycled from outliers, mindset, and other books like them, but there is some new material here that’s worth a look at. Worth a read if you’re interested in these types of books, or if you or your kid wants to be a champion at some kind of sport.

For more reviews on this book go to:



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