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Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success Paperback – May 3, 2011


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Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success + The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How. + Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061723762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061723766
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Syed, sportswriter and columnist for the London Times, takes a hard look at performance psychology, heavily influenced by his own ego-damaging but fruitful epiphany. At the age of 24, Syed became the #1 British table tennis player, an achievement he initially attributed to his superior speed and agility. But in retrospect, he realizes that a combination of advantages—a mentor, good facilities nearby, and lots of time to hone his skills—set him up perfectly to become a star performer. He admits his argument owes a debt to Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, but he aims to move one step beyond it, drawing on cognitive neuroscience research to explain how the body and mind are transformed by specialized practice. He takes on the myth of the child prodigy, emphasizing that Mozart, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, and Susan Polgar, the first female grandmaster, all had live-in coaches in the form of supportive parents who put them through a ton of early practice. Cogent discussions of the neuroscience of competition, including the placebo effect of irrational optimism, self-doubt, and superstitions, all lend credence to a compelling narrative; readers who gobbled up Freakonomics and Predictably Irrational will flock to this one. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Sport is often used as an analogy for business, education, and personal relationships. In this insightful and entertaining book, Matthew Syed takes us a step deeper into the world of sports, showing us how much we can learn about our own behavior.” (Dan Ariely, New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational)

“A cutting edge dissection—and ultimate destruction—of the myth of innate talent in the pursuit of excellence. Syed synthesizes his evidence with the precision of an academic, writes with the fluidity of a journalist, and persuades with the drive of a sportsman. Read this book.” (Mark Thomas, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics, University College London)

“Intellectually stimulating and hugely enjoyable at a stroke. . . . Challenged some of my most cherished beliefs about life and success.” (Jonathan Edwards, Olympic Gold Medal Winner in the Triple Jump)

“Compelling and, at times, exhilarating—Bounce explains high achievement in sport, business, and beyond.” (Michael Sherwood, Chief Executive, Goldman Sachs International)

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Customer Reviews

A well researched and well written book.
Frankie Cannon
Mathew Syed in his new book talks about the importance of practice and debunks the myth of natural talent and child prodigy.
Maneesh Sah
Then people believe you have talent, without realizing how much effort you have put to obtain the good results.
Fernando Bayo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Ivan on May 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As you probably already know, the main message/goal of Matthew Syed's book Bounce is to discredit the established notion that success in highly complex tasks (athletics in this case) is entirely due to innate ability. Instead, he argues, it is thousands of hours of purposeful, challenging practice and determination to improve that create the superior skill observed in top athletes, chess players and professionals in other fields.

Syed writes in a conversational tone that is very engaging and easy to follow. He does a decent job articulating his arguments and uses scientific evidence, personal experience as a table tennis Olympian and anecdotes from famous athletes to back up his claims. Additionally, this book has plenty of good insight, for example: the amount of practice it takes on average to acquire a high level of skill in a particular activity; the difference between regular practice and purposeful practice; why certain races are falsely perceived to be "naturally" good at certain sports; how children respond when they are rewarded for talent vs. hard work; the physiology of choking during a performance and many others.

Despite the good stuff, certain parts of the book were not entirely convincing. Here is an example. Rationally, it's not too hard to buy into the idea that hard work and talent breed excellence. The problem is that this still doesn't quite explain what makes those people that start mastering a skill at a very early age gravitate towards say soccer ball vs. violin. Or why some children who are as young as two (before any meaningful parental intervention) enjoy being challenged and thrive on practicing a skill, while others shy away from it. Another interesting notion that is not discussed in this book is the speed of learning.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Matthew Syed's Bounce has an interesting thesis. In the vain of Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success and Colvin's Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, Syed attempts to argue against the idea or 'raw talent.' A former table-tennis champion, Syed wants to show us that excellence - particularly of the sporting and artistic variety - is a better predictor of success than innate talent.

Syed presents three lines of data to bolster his argument: personal anecdote from his sporting days, knowledge he has gained about athelets and their backgrounds he has gained from being a sports writer, and summaries of studies done by psychologists (many of the same ones appearing in the two above-cited books). The first chapter is largely Syed's retelling of his own ascent to the top of table-tennis, where he points out that the fact that his town produced quite a few table-tennis stars is enough to at least call into question the 'talent myth.' Later, he goes into some histories of great artists and sports stars - Mozart, Federer, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, the chess champion Polgar sisters - to show that it was not so much raw talent, but extraordinary dedication and deep practice that helped them succeed. By way of studies, Syed cites several by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson whose work suggests that the difference between 'good' and 'great' is better predicted by practice than most any other factor.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Peter Davies on May 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a good book, but not a great one. It has many good ideas within it, and it also does a good job of demolishing some old icons. It is a work of synthesis and it is honest enough to acknowledge the influence of many other books including Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else and Outliers: The Story of Success As I had already read these two books I found the ideas in Bounce familiar. Its main failing is the lack of a summary chapter at the end bringing the book to a conclusion. It just ends.

Bounce is superb at demolishing the ideas of "innate talents" and "genetic endowments and "racial characteristics." Syed points out the combinations of factors that come together to allow top performance to emerge. It is usually some combination of focused and genuine enthusiasm, opportunity, certain local quirks; disciplined practice and well trained experience. The initial enthusiasm for a task has to come from within- which allows the learner to put up with the knocks and setbacks on the way to becoming good at something. He explains very well why parents can try pushing their children into something...but probably won't get great results by so doing. The proverb about leading the horse to water, but not being able to get them to drink comes to mind. This leaves open an obvious niche for a book that helps parents to recognise and go with their child's talents and abilities.

The idea of disciplined practice being necessary to get good at something is stressed throughout the book.
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