How Athletes Get Great

Interview with David Epstein: How Athletes Get Great:

How did Gladwell misconstrue it?
Aside from not having copied the numbers from the actual paper correctly for his book? He says that there is a perfect correspondence between practice and the level of expertise a person attains. And you can’t tell that from the paper. The 10,000 hours is an average of differences. You could have two people in any endeavor and one person took 0 hours and another took 20,000 hours, which is something like what happened with two high jumpers I discuss in the book. One guy put in 20,000 and one put in 0, so there’s your average of 10,000 hours, but that tells you nothing about an individual.

Now, Gladwell doesn’t say there’s no such thing as genetic talent. I think other writers are stricter than him. [Matthew Syed’s] Bounce is a book that minimizes talent. Gladwell does say elite performers are more talented. One of the things that Ericsson criticizes Gladwell about is to say that 10,000 hours is some kind of rule. The paper just says that these performers by the age of 20, these performers have accumulated 10,000 hours but there’s no where that says it’s a magical number where that’s when they become elite or anything like that. These people, by the time they go into their professional careers, have way more than that. That’s just where they were when they’re 20 as an average, not even to mention their individual differences.

[It’s a meaningless quantifier. Opportunity looks a lot like hard work. Not every journey needs an ending. Some devotions are categorical imperatives.]

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