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 Post subject: How Champions are Made
PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2010 8:39 am 
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I saw a fascinating interview with Matthew Syed (3 time Common-Wealth Table Teenis champion) a few mornings ago. He's written a book called 'Bounce-How Champions are Made' in which he draws together Neuroscience, Psychology and economics to see what makes Federer, Tiger Woods, Beckham, Mozart et al., champions in their field. One of the obvious conclusions he drew based upon data, was the amount of time champions have spent developing their art compared with amateurs. He found that champions spent a significantly longer period of time than non-elite sports people. Where amateurs will spend 3 out of 168 hours per week at their classes and maybe do a bit of other practise, the champions spent a much larger proportion simply doing their chose sport-typically 10,000 hours (that's about 10 years) before becoming at the top of their game! This was completely invariable and was often the only factor that separated the best from the average. It seems to have nothing to do with genetics or 'talent' but this rule does not apply to unskilled activities like running, lift weights and throwing things a long way. One of the caveats it that it has to be purposeful practise, where the difficult things are concentrated upon or obstacles are put in ones way to overcome them. Seems obvious when you think about and how much time do you actually spend purposefully practising your guitar and does that say something about your progress?

This whole idea has been around for years it seems (I've been back reading the literature) and the the evidence is compelling. So when you see someone play guitar really really well, its not because they're musically talented or have 'guitar genes', its because they've practised really hard when most of us would give up.


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PostPosted: Sat May 22, 2010 12:03 am 
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To quote a french writer Michel Houellebec:
(talking about a great professionnal drummer)

"actually that may be the biggest secret; there isn't any, it's "just" hard(dedicated) work(or practice)".

My personal theory is that part of their "talent" is the mental ability to dedicate yourself to so much work.

:peace


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PostPosted: Sat May 22, 2010 12:27 am 
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That's interesting. It makes me think of Steve when he says that true artists have no choice other than making their own art real in the world. Therefore, for many great guitar players it wasn't boring to spend 8-10 hours a day practicing in their teenage years, because they loved it and would not consider doing anything else. In general, I would consider that the best way to the fulfillment of your life - you end up doing what you love to do and make a living out of that. Not everybody is so blessed, I guess. I mean, not everybody is capable of figuring out early in their lives their true calling and setting out to make it real. Maybe 'talent' is just that ability.

I'm not sure whether this applies to people like Federer, Tiger Woods, Beckham or Mozart. Maybe it does to a certain extent, but I guess they all spent a tremendous amount of time perfecting what they do/did, and I think I read somewhere (biology class books, maybe?) that when you do that over and over your brain cells build up more synapses, thus making it easier to perform the same task in the future. So yes, I would say that at least Neuroscience and Psychology support Syed's conclusions, but I'm not an expert.

I hope this makes sense. :)


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PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2010 9:21 am 
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If Mozart is one of the persons used as an example, the reasoning falls short right away.
Betwen the age 5-10 he wrote all these pieces:

http://www.mozartproject.org/compositions/ko_61_65.html

We could discuss how "good" the pieces are but it doesn't seem relevant.

I've heard about this theory before though. It's interesting, but it seems to be more applicable in fields where you can actually be a champion like golf. In music or art, who's to decide if you're a champion or not?


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PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2010 9:25 am 
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Roger wrote:
If Mozart is one of the persons used as an example, the reasoning falls short right away.
Betwen the age 5-10 he wrote all these pieces:

http://www.mozartproject.org/compositions/ko_61_65.html

We could discuss how "good" the pieces are but it doesn't seem relevant.
It is relevant and prodigies are discussed at length in the book. Mozart's early works are regarded as average at best (compared to people who have studeid music for a similar length of time) and are mostly mediocre rearrangements of others work. He didn't start producing his brilliant work...yes you've guessed it...10 years after he started practising. Does that remind you of anyone else? Beatles perhaps? Their early work was pretty much like their contemporaries, until they were together for about 10 years when Rubber Soul, Sergeant Pepper etc were written.

Roger wrote:
I've heard about this theory before though. It's interesting, but it seems to be more applicable in fields where you can actually be a champion like golf. In music or art, who's to decide if you're a champion or not?
But we do this all the time. Da Vinic good, Emin bad, Beatles good, Spears bad, Vai good, The Great Kat bad, Italian food good, American food bad...shall I go on?


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PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2010 9:30 am 
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Practise makes perfect.


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PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2010 9:32 am 
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Anders Ericsson, a leading researcher in this idea of purposeful practise over 'talent'/genes, took 600 music students from the Berlin Conservatoire and got their tutors to separate them into three groups, those who they thought would become world class soloists, those who would play in the top orchestras and those who'd become music teachers. Ericsson and his team looked at the backgrounds of all these people, their upbringing, their socio-economics, the number of music teachers they'd had, their parents interests and enthusiasms, their schooling etc etc. To their surprise all three groups were remarkably similar in all but one account: the potential top soloists had all practised far more than the ensemble players who'd had in turn practised more than the future music teachers. And what was the magic number for the top soloists? About 10,000 hours!

Its compelling stuff and like I've said I think its very empowering because it means that give sufficient purposeful practise we area ll capable of great things if we stick to it. There is no such thing as 'champion's genes' or a 'natural talent'.


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PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2010 9:41 am 
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Steve Brown wrote:
Practise makes perfect.
Purposeful practise makes perfect! All the exercise science literature on performance suggests that the combination of lots of practise (10,000 hours in the case of champions) and purposeful training is the way to make steady and exacting progress. For example Tiger Woods would stamp his golf balls in the sand of a bunker to make the shot really difficult and then repeat his swing thousands of times, covering himself in sand and failing frustratingly before getting to the point where the minor adjustments in his swing meant he could perform these shots effortlessly and consistently. Its not 'genius' when he does this in a tournament (as the commentators are apt to say), its sheer hard work, repetition and purposeful training. Venus and Serena Williams would place a cigarette, standing on its end, on a spot on the tennis court and spend hours and thousands of balls, adjusting their shots very slightly so the ball got closer to the target until they could hit it consistently. Then they'd move it somewhere else and start all over again!

We have to do the same with the guitar, not just play the same old riffs and songs and 'box shapes' that we're prone to falling back into. Isn't this exactly what Steve did/does?


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PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2010 3:14 pm 
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Big Bad Bill wrote:
Roger wrote:
If Mozart is one of the persons used as an example, the reasoning falls short right away.
Betwen the age 5-10 he wrote all these pieces:

http://www.mozartproject.org/compositions/ko_61_65.html

We could discuss how "good" the pieces are but it doesn't seem relevant.
It is relevant and prodigies are discussed at length in the book. Mozart's early works are regarded as average at best (compared to people who have studeid music for a similar length of time) and are mostly mediocre rearrangements of others work. He didn't start producing his brilliant work...yes you've guessed it...10 years after he started practising. Does that remind you of anyone else? Beatles perhaps? Their early work was pretty much like their contemporaries, until they were together for about 10 years when Rubber Soul, Sergeant Pepper etc were written.


This takes the discussion one step further into the very subjective field of opinions. I bet there are people who think that Mozart's and the Beatles' earliest work is the best they ever made. Just because they probably are fewer than the people who prefer the later work doesn't make their opinions any less valid, or make the songs any less "championesque".

Big Bad Bill wrote:
Roger wrote:
I've heard about this theory before though. It's interesting, but it seems to be more applicable in fields where you can actually be a champion like golf. In music or art, who's to decide if you're a champion or not?
But we do this all the time. Da Vinic good, Emin bad, Beatles good, Spears bad, Vai good, The Great Kat bad, Italian food good, American food bad...shall I go on?


This is exactly the problem with art forms. It's impossible to decide what's good or bad. Who's opinion are you supposed to listen to? I think Nirvana's "Smells like teen spirit" is a kick ass song that puts a lot of other songs to shame. I can't imagine that Kurt Cobain had spent 10000 hours practicing the guitar or writing songs. And the next guy will say it sucks and can't think of a worse song in the whole world. The same goes for Vai, Britney Spears and everyone else we can think of.
Using this theory is like saying: "you can't express yourself properly unless you have spent 10000 hours practicing it."
I do think it works in the realm of classical music because in my opinion it is a much more mechanical practice where there are a lot of predetermined ways of playing the pieces and how to express them. Unlike pop/rock etc. where you are all on your own more or less.


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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 12:13 pm 
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^
It's a great point. You really could write an S.A on it.

Champion can be considered different from an artist. True both can be considered as art forms but the end result variables are different. Even if they do share many common factors.

You could argue both sides of the coin for weeks.lol


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PostPosted: Wed May 26, 2010 12:10 am 
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This 10000 hour idea has been around for some time and I tend to agree with it, all the people who are great in their field wether it's a sport, playing an instrument or even selling double glazing have generally spent all there waking hours practicing or thinking about their training or practice.

The line obviously becomes blurred when you bring into the conversation music as then opinion becomes involved when what we are talking about here is the dexterity of the guitar player or the physical skills of a sportsman.

My experience as a flying instructor reflects that practice makes perfect, those with previous experience progress quickly and appear to be "naturals" when in fact they arrived with a set of skills already in place. Those that immerse themselves in study, ask questions and generally show interest in all aspects of flying progress rapidly but are still behind those that have previous experience.
Some of my students who don't have previous experience appear to be "naturals" but when quizzed often have other interests and hobbies which have cross over skills to flying, for instance one 16 year old guy was a motorcross champion and drove cars and bikes on a relatives farm so operating machinery was second nature to him.

I find some students have an uncanny ability to do exactly as I've taught or demonstrated, now that skill is a double edged sword as bad instructing leads to them picking up bad habits but it certainly makes me up my game and endeavour to give a good teach.
Others really struggle to replicate what you have shown them.

Ultimately there is no substitute for practice, practice, practice!


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PostPosted: Wed May 26, 2010 2:21 am 
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The idea of cross-over skills is discussed in the book too, but not in the same light as you boswell. The author describes helping Federer with a photo shoot for the wrist watch company he endorses. They asked him and the author, a champion table tennis player, to play medieval tennis (which uses a shorter courts, a larger heavier ball with less bounce etc) for the shoot. Surprisingly they were both terrible and just couldn't play at all. They were no better or worse than the beginners who were playing in neighbouring courts and even after hours of play, they improved no more than expected for a complete novice! This, together with proper research, suggests that the idea of transferable skills over very different disciplines is probably unlikely! So different planes and racing cars may have a degree of transferability, but a motorbike and a plane...unlikely. Its far more likely that your student is better at following instructions. I had a friend who was in the Territorial Army's SAS and I asked him how he managed to get there. He replied "I just do exactly what they say-EXACTLY. Most people are too stupid or think they know better to do that"!


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PostPosted: Wed May 26, 2010 7:47 am 
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Big Bad Bill wrote:
The idea of cross-over skills is discussed in the book too, but not in the same light as you boswell. The author describes helping Federer with a photo shoot for the wrist watch company he endorses. They asked him and the author, a champion table tennis player, to play medieval tennis (which uses a shorter courts, a larger heavier ball with less bounce etc) for the shoot. Surprisingly they were both terrible and just couldn't play at all. They were no better or worse than the beginners who were playing in neighbouring courts and even after hours of play, they improved no more than expected for a complete novice! This, together with proper research, suggests that the idea of transferable skills over very different disciplines is probably unlikely! So different planes and racing cars may have a degree of transferability, but a motorbike and a plane...unlikely. Its far more likely that your student is better at following instructions. I had a friend who was in the Territorial Army's SAS and I asked him how he managed to get there. He replied "I just do exactly what they say-EXACTLY. Most people are too stupid or think they know better to do that"!


Probably right about the following instructions, the statement "I just do exactly what they say-EXACTLY. Most people are too stupid or think they know better to do that" is certainly true about teaching people to fly I come across both the stupid and the know better and both types really do struggle.

I do know a lot of people who are good with cars, bikes, aircraft etc. so I still think good hand eye co ordination is a transferable skill.


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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 4:07 am 
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boswell wrote:
I do know a lot of people who are good with cars, bikes, aircraft etc. so I still think good hand eye co ordination is a transferable skill.[/color]
Yeah, but what is the similarity between cars bikes and aircraft in terms of their control? I'd say very little-the control inputs are in totally different domains: steering wheels and peddles, handle bars and twist grips, stick and rubber-there's no similar skill to be transferred. The only thing I can thing of it the ability to respond appropriately and with minimal time lag and at a low gain to feed back from your movement. Car veers to left, steering wheel to right, bike goes too fast, twist throttle control, nose goes up, push stick forward. But they're very different skills in the way playing guitar and playing trumpet are very different although the out come is the same-music!


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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 5:49 am 
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I would think more in terms of a guitarist picking up a lute, ukelele or even a harp! Some of the skills are already in place.


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