What it takes to be good enough

So we may not have it in us to be the best there ever was, but we can be pretty damn good. Good enough to win a local race, good enough to finish a half-marathon, good enough to delight ourselves. But that good enough-ness comes with a price, but it doesn’t cost ten years and a decade of passed up opportunities.

10,000 Hours vs. The Sports Gene

Then a thought occurred to Gladwell: what if the source of genius wasn’t starting really early in life, nor having a mythical, genetic natural talent gene? What if, he mused, it was as simple as “fit”? The performer was lucky to stumble upon a sport, a discipline, an art so early in life and it just “felt” right and, because it was so natural and fun, they just kept doing it. And doing it. For years.

The Five Elements of Expertise

I have a strange habit. I like to imagine what world-class athletes would be doing if they weren’t world-class athletes. Because the odds of them, of anyone really, becoming great at something has to be a combination of hard work, opportunity, dumb luck and perhaps some mystical, fate-driven push from the gods.

Why We Watch Sports

There is a moment after Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon: standing to the side during the ceremony for just a moment, he wrapped his arms around The President’s Trophy and grinned down at the gleaming surface, content and happy. It lasted just a second or two and revealed the four year old boy inside the man. That kid wanted to win Wimbledon twenty years ago. In early July, 1977, I saw my first tennis match at Wimbledon on television. We didn’t have

Why You Don’t Quit

We strain to improve, each of us separately and all of us, as a species. You’re motivated to get better, pushed by forces inside and often outside of yourself: Hunger, thirst, your dad, your mom, your coach, your deep fear of what happens if you fall short of your goal, your hatred of the bite of losing. It’s obvious to talk about motivation in sport because the goals are clear and discrete. The score tells the world if you succeeded,

On Being an Expert: Are you an Exploiter? Or an Explorer?

You become an expert by digging more deeply into your discipline than anyone around you. It could be chess. Or playing the piano. Or medieval banquet  artifacts. Or becoming a great manager. Or software developer. Or tennis player. It could be anything, but what you did was spend thousands of hours focused on your specific discipline. It’s such a curious thing to do, to apply yourself so diligently when there are so many other interesting things to do, to read,

Why are we motivated?

Athletes, artists, dancers, musicians, chess players and surgeons (and pretty much anyone who strives for mastery) put in an enormous amount of time and effort to become an expert. In my last post, I referenced the 10,000 hour threshold, which works out to about 9-10 years of solid practice. That’s a really long time.   I just watched Nancy Etcoff presenting at the 2004 TED, her topic was “The surprising science of happiness”. Not surprisingly, she talks about what makes


Jim Collins, Stanford Business School professor and author of “Built to Last” and “Good to Great” brought forward the idea of “fallure” when talking about the value of failure on the path to mastery. He describes a rock-climbing experience when he was attempting an “on-sight”: climbing a rock face the first time without ever having seen the route. He let go off the rock before reaching the top. Later, after feeling the regret for not making the on-sight, he realized


Much more about motivation in later posts, but I came across this nugget today from a July 2009 article in Nature by Kielan Yarrow: “…the big question in sport is the nature of the motivation underlying the thousands of hours of practise (sic) required to achieve elite status. There is evidence to suggest that those who practise the most enjoy it the least, which might reflect their awareness of the real goal of practise: to get better at what you