News Apr 22nd 2015

Is practicing enough as to reach performance at anything?

We all know the saying “Success is 10% talent and 90% perspiration”; but can one succeed with 0% innate talent and 100% hard work? And here, we are not talking about a meaningless achievement, like being the best in the neighborhood. We are referring to national recognition and the participation at international contests.

There is someone in Britain who took on this bet and tried to turn an ordinary young man into a top table tennis player.

high performance

How did all begin

Ben Larcombe lives in London and he is a table tennis coach. He has been hearing about the possibility of excelling at everything just by practicing hard enough, and wanted to test this theory. He chose Sam Priestley (24-year-old) as the subject of this experiment. Sam had no passion for sports, so he has been the perfect man for the job.

Ben offered Sam more than 500 hours of coaching in a year. Because this amount of time wasn’t that generous, they focused on the quality of the game, constantly trying to improve Sam’s techniques. They have even recorded every session, as to spot flaws.

The verdict

Rory Scott, an experienced coach, has closely followed Sam in the latest game and came with a negative verdict. He said the man plays worse than an 11 year boy. However, the trainer found solid reasons as to explain the failure of the experiment: table tennis is one of the most difficult sports. Yes, it may look easy to hit one tiny ball on a table, but things are far more complicated: the playing field is small, the bat is small, the reaction time must be rapid, one has to always spin, and the player has to face two surfaces – the one he is standing on, and the table.

So innate talent does matter?

Well, of course it does. If Ben Larcombe had been working with a sporty man, the results would have been way better. Those who have an innate talent for a certain thing are able to faster develop their skills in that area. A sportsman would have moved more rapidly and would have had a better ability of reaction.

Anyway, Ben is not giving up. He thinks that Sam only needs more hours of training and eventually, a full time dedication to this activity.

This experiment has still succeeded at something. It has shown people that performance does not come from heavens! Every national and international sports star has worked hard for dozens of years in order to reach the actual level. And just like they did, everyone can manage to complete an assignment with the right attitude. After all, humans are adaptable beings. So why not adapt to a positive change?

Differences in thinking around the globe

Western cultures have no problem with giving up after a short period of time. Let’s take school pupils, for example. The most common subject students give up at is math. And the main reason is: “I’m just not good with numbers, I don’t have this talent.” There are indeed several minds born with this numeric skill, but they only represent a small amount of mathematicians. The rest of them have worked hard just as Sam did.

On the other side of the globe, Chinese pupils don’t choose their fate based on natural talent. They only know the concept of on-going practicing and daily improvement. In this case, failure to complete an assignment is not attributed to lack of innate talent, but to lack of hard working.

In conclusion, practicing is the key to success, no matter if one has or hasn’t innate talent for something in particular. Just remember that performance does not come over night! It needs time to build.

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