Wednesday, 18 April 2012

O Outliers – can practice make perfect or is talent more important?

O Outliers – On a previous vacation when I could not read my book on my IPad in the sunlight, a friend lent me a REAL book – yes, one printed on paper. They still exist. It was Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a truly fascinating read in which he explores the factors that create outliers, extraordinary successful people who stand out from the crowd – whether professional athletes, performers or scientists.
In his discussion of talent, hard work and timing, he quotes from a 1993 article in Psychological Review, in which Ericsson et al, show that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is the "magic number" for success. As I had  wondered for a while where this 10,000 hour statistic  came from, I found the original article on line and it is most interesting.
What, you may wonder, does any of this have to do with my theme of dance-cruising, travel, food and culture that I chose for the A to Z Challenge? Well I guess in my own way I would qualify as an outlier among women of my age (and I am not specifying what that is) in that I took up ballroom dancing as a passion on retirement from my profession. And despite or perhaps because of my recent back surgery, I am in reasonable enough shape to dance with energy for several hours a day. 
But though I quote my instructor - "practice makes perfect"  - I figure it would take me the next 13 years at 3 hours a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year to achieve 10,000 hours of dance practice. And natural talent? Well I think strength and musicality are strong points for me, but lack of flexibility and an innate introversion are definite negatives for performance. So as perfection is clearly beyond my reach, I will have to settle for steady improvement and hope I can continue to dance for the next 13 years.

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