Business Book review of Mathew Syed – “Bounce”

Bounce by Mathew Syed The subtitle of this book is “The myth of talent and the power of practice”

This is not really a business book at all. But at the same time it is very relevant. It explores the way we are programmed to look at successful people and say things like “wow he is really gifted” or “she has a natural talent for the sport”.

“Bounce” looks at what is behind the great success of so called talented people like Tiger Woods, The Williams sisters, a family of Hungarian chess masters and others.

This book gives credence to the idea that if you put in enough effort you will be successful. To be a grand master or a violin soloist, or the best at whatever you commit to takes about 10,000 hours of practice. Not just any practice either. Dedicated, focused, learning and productive practice.

To drive you through the 10,000 hours you need the will and the want. As Felix Dennis said in his book How to Get Rich:  “Analyse your need. Desire is insufficient. Compulsion is mandatory. “

To succeed you must be driven. Then you must practice – a lot.

Mathew Syed also explores how we can affect our children with the way we speak to them about talent and success. Over praising or suggesting that they have talent for something is not good. It suggest that they don’t have to try. It also adds to risk if they do try as they worry about failure and loosing status a “gifted”.

Mathew Syed was a national champion ping pong player and Olympian for the UK. But once he got to the Olympics he “Choked”. This is when nerves or our doubt get the best of us and we fail to perform.

He looks at the way we choke and what happens to all the things that we have learned. Things that were once automatic have to be thought through and all our skills can desert us. Self doubt can destroy a performance.

Sometimes we want something too much. We have worked towards one moment for our whole lives and when it finally comes we get nervous and stall. The stories of this and how people have overcome this are well worth a read. Bounce is all about skill over talent. And learning not to choke is another skill to be learnt.

I enjoyed reading this book and found the insights into the talent myth fascinating. Mathew uses stories well to get his message across and they go a long way to back what he is saying. The research quoted is also quite eye-opening.

He quotes a book by Marlo Thomas “The right words at the right time” in which the words that ignited the spark for Shaquille O’Neal NBA champion, came from his month – “Later doesn’t always come to everybody”.

That was enough for him to redouble his efforts and not give up. Keeping at it is a common theme with success books because it is the main ingredient in success. “Never give up never surrender” is my motto (from Galaxy Quest).
So the moral seems to be once again; if you are dedicated enough and have the personal drive to keep at it, if you never give up, if you seek out the best help you can get – you will, one day, succeed.

You can’t be born brilliant, god can’t give you a gift, race, aptitude, genes, your schooling need have nothing to do with the outcome if you have the burning desire to get what you want.  “Just do It!”

**** 4 stars – well worth reading

Favourite bit:

The power of belief – the placebo effect; how belief in the outcome can be self-fulfilling and a strong faith in god can enhance your performance. As an atheist this bit is particularly interesting.


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