Opportunity is necessary for success. But is opportunity alone sufficient?
What about the natural gifts, talents and hard works that bring out the best in the individual? In fact, this is not even a question. Your inborn abilities as well as your hard work are absolutely vital to reach the top of your field.
“‘When most people practise, they focus on the things they can do effortlessly’, Ericsson has said. ‘Expert practice is different. It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well – or even at all. Research across domains shows that it is only by working at what you can’t do that you turn into the expert you want to become’.”
Top performers learn no faster than the rest.
Researchers found that groups progress at an identical rate, hour for hour. The difference was that top performers put in more effort and practiced for more hours.
What about child prodigies then?
On the surface, prodigies seem to possess extraordinary gift that allows them to learn in a super-fast rate. Child prodigies do not have extraordinary talents nor gifts. Instead they have extraordinary upbringings. They have endless opportunities from their birth to their adolescence that they can seize to put in practice and build on their skills. That is how they become world-class.
Likewise, sporting success of African athletes isn’t due to their genes.
It’s due to the inequal opportunities and tremendous practice. This becomes apparent by the research that black-sounding applicants are far less likely to be invited to an interview than whites with precisely the same CV. If black people observe that their academic success is being overlooked by the employers, they may intentionally choose to focus their effort elsewhere, causing a further decline in Black educational standards. This in turn feeds the employers with the notion that blacks are less intellectually qualified than whites.
When it comes to sports, the bias is reversed. Now the prevailing assumption favors blacks while deterring whites. Whites are often overlooked particularly in sports that draw on strength and speed because of the notion that they lack natural aptitude in this area. Blacks on the other hand will be perceived as naturally gifted and encouraged, leading to extra practice and better performances.
If you want people to work harder, praise them for their hard work.
Carol Dweck found that children who was praised for their effort took on more and more challenging task compared to the group who were praised for their talent. The former also tend to perfume better, preserve more and enjoy their more than the latter.
“Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and harms their performance.”
Double think: The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both.
The ability to double-think contributes largely to the success of elite athletes and top performers.
Take for example, golfers must make scrupulously rational choices about shot selections. But once they’re committed to a selection, they have to be what they trained themselves to be – irrationally optimistic about execution. Nick Faldo made this point.
“You have to be very calculating in selecting the right shot. You have to make a decision on the realistic assessment of your own weaknesses and the scope of failure. But once you’re committed to a decision, you have to flip on the switch and execute the shot, as if there was never any doubt you would nail it.” That is double-think in action.
Why top performers choke and what we can do about it.
Choking happens when you get in your own way mentally and prevents you from performing at your best. Often, an expert can choke in high-stake situations like a clueless novice. Instead of getting uptight, say yourself: “It’s only a bloody (sport).” Temporarily your belief that winning is a life-changing circumstance. Replace it with the belief that race doesn’t really matter. It’s a form of psychological manipulation and it should take you a lot of work to master.
“I’ve learnt the art of playing as if it means nothing when it means everything.” – Steve Davis (six times world snooker champion)
Anti-climax is normal and it makes perfect sense.
Anti-climax is when we feel miserable in the aftermath of long-awaited triumph. Anti-climax helps us disengage from our triumph, enabling us to focus on the next challenge and prevent us from being complacent. From this point of view, anti-climax lays psychological foundation for the next win.
Practicing without taking feedback is just spinning your wheels.
“Feedback is, in effect, the rocket fuel that propels the acquisition of knowledge, and without it no amount of practice is going to get you there”.
Practice without feedback is like taking shots in the dark. No matter the amount of swings you have, you will never know where your shots are landing and how you’re performing. It’s only when you switch on the lights and take the feedback that you can fine-tune your shots and improve as you go.