Matthew Syed is a three-time Men’s Singles Champion at the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships and a two-time Olympian.

With such a background in table tennis he knows much about how one becomes a champion. In his book “Bounce: How Champions are Made” he discusses the rules for success. He refers to Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers.” In “Outliers” there is a concept of the “10,000 hours rule.” According to the research that Gladwell refers to, all masters in the arts, sciences or sports have spent at least 10,000 hours on their craft in order to excel in their field. Mozart, Itzhak Perlman and The Beatles are the examples of the 10,000 hours rule. Syed delves deeper into the 10,000 hours rule.
He starts with his autobiographical story. In 1978 his parents bought a tennis table for their house. Their house was located in an ordinary suburb of an ordinary town in southeast England. He did not know why his parents bought this table. However, this table provided a great opportunity for him to play table tennis at any time.
His older brother, Andrew, used to love to play table tennis as much as Mathew did. They used to duel after school, try new spins and try out new paddles. Without knowing, they were accumulating thousands of hours of practice. The following is an excerpt from his book.
“Peter Charters … was a teacher at the local primary school. … He was the coach of almost all of the after-school sporting clubs. … But Charters cared about one thing above all: table tennis. He was the nation’s top coach and a senior figure in the English Table Tennis Association. … Such were his zeal, energy and dedication to table tennis that anybody who showed potential was persuaded to take his or her skills forward at the local club.”
Peter Charters invited children who were interested in table tennis to Club Omega. The Omega Club was not a luxurious club for table tennis, but it provided a great opportunity for training and matches. The Syed brothers had become members of this club at Charters’ invitation. They even had the keys to the club and so they could play table tennis whenever they wanted.
The above personal story confirms that success depends on the time spent on one subject.
Moreover, Syed claims that talent is just a myth. There is nothing like talent, there is only time dedicated to one subject. Anybody who spent time on one subject can excel in that field. To support his argument he refers to the research of Anders Ericsson. Ericson carried out a study of the renowned Music Academy of West Berlin. He divided students into three groups. The first group comprised the outstanding students: These boys and girls were expected to become international soloists. These kids were described as super-talented. The second group of students was expected to end up playing in the world’s top orchestras, but not as star soloists. The final group was the least able students. They were studying to become music teachers. After long set of interviews, Ericsson found that the biographical histories of the three groups were remarkably similar. The only difference between the groups was both dramatic and unexpected: the number of hours devoted to serious practice. The best violinist had practiced an average of 10,000 hours. The second group practiced 8,000 hours. The third group practiced 6,000 hours. The difference was not dependent on talent; it was the time spent practicing that created the distinction.
There are several examples in Syed’s book that support the idea that success is the function of time devoted to one subject.
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