Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

This is another of the ‘how to become successful at a skill’ books. If you liked Outliers,  Mindset, or Bounce, you’ll love this one. In Outliers (life changing book) Gladwell talks about how it takes around 10,000 hours of practice to become a world-class expert at a skill.

It’s worth noting here that I say world-class expert, and practice. Like chinese whispers, that original sentence has changed a lot. I’ve heard people say they don’t think it’s worth learning a skill because they don’t have 10,000 hours (or ten years) to become good at something. Others not only think you have to put in ALL that time to show any aptitude at a skill, every minute of that practice needs to be bone breaking, high concentration work.

I’m taking this time to remind readers that success is not a binary. You don’t either have it, or not. Success at a skill is a long line from ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’ to ‘world class expert.’ Every minute of practice takes you further along that line. And ‘good’ doesn’t take the full 10,000 hours. It takes a lot less. The exact amount of hours depends on how good you want to be.

As for every minute of practice being back-breaking work, that’s not true either. 10,000 hours is the estimated time of total practice it takes to be world-class expert. Some of that is going to be back-breaking, but not all of it. If all of it was high intensity focused practice you’d reach world-class expert in less hours. You’d also be more likely to burn out faster, so there’s a balance.

A quick and easy check to see if your practice is worth it is to ask whether you’re challenging yourself. If you’re a writer, are you improving your craft, reading books and thinking about them critically, trying new things? If you’re a singer are you singing the same songs you’ve sang a dozen times, or are you trying new ones, new ranges, following your teacher’s feedback, listening critically to other singers? And so on.

Now that’s cleared up, let’s go onto this book.

This book spends a lot of time talking about deep practice, and deliberate practice. It’s approached from all areas from music to sports. This is the kind of practice you want to aim for. It helps you get a lot more done in a shorter amount of time. Everyone wants that.

It also looks in-depth at myelin and the scientific mechanisms behind learning. I’m a very visual person, so I loved being able to ‘see’ what was happening when I attempt to learn a skill, and why struggling is so important.

A five-star book with valuable information to add to skill building. This is one of those books that should be read by all teachers and parents, and anyone who wants to become good at something (which is everyone).

For more reviews on this book go to:


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:


I loved reading this book. I found it so interesting, but I didn’t walk away from it with anything I can use.

I’d say if you’re a productivity junkie like me then this book is definitely worth a read. The writing style in engaging, the use of anecdotes kept me glued from start to finish. But the most I walked away with is ‘habits are really good. I need to make more of the things I need to do habits.’ And I already knew that.

So, four stars for interesting topic and engaging style. Not five stars because this is more a read for enjoyment book than something that will help you be more productive.

Still, enjoyment is good. Right?

The best productivity booster of a book is still ‘how to be an A star student’ (even for non students like me). But there are a few more on here I’ve researched, and most of them give you a bit more meat than this one.

So decide from this what you will. For more reviews on this book go to:

This is more or less another of my productivity books. Technically it’s more about the strangeness of human behavior than productivity, but it has this giant section on what motivates us to work, that was interesting, both from a personal and an economic point of view.

So it turns out that high bonuses can actually demotivate you! We need enough money to meet our basic needs, but beyond that the most important thing affecting our motivation seems to be how much we value the work. If for example you’re working hard programming a new piece of software, and at the end of making it it’s going to get scrapped, then it doesn’t matter if you’re highly paid for it. You’re still going to be very demotivated.

The part about motivations was my favorite since I’m hugely interested in anything related to productivity, but the other sections had some cool stuff too. Like, why revenge is so important to us. Or why there’s such a big difference between the things we think will make us happy and what actually makes us happy.

There are some pretty cool tidbits to take from this book. Like how the things we think will make us really happy don’t make us as happy as we think. And the things that we think will make us really sad don’t make us as sad as we think.

I’d say if you’re a productivity junkie the motivations might be worth a glance over. It’s more of a reading for interest thing rather than anything you can use for tactics. Unless you’re a manager and have a lot of employees. Then the parts about what motivates workers could be really interesting for you and you might come away with a few things to use in your workplace.

And if you’re really interested in human behavior, motivation, and why sometimes people act plain irrational, then this book is definitely worth a look at.

For more reviews on this book go to: