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Practice makes perfect – The rocky road to building better humans

Some people are born to greatness, others have to work at it. Whether musicians or sportsmen, you can usually spot raw talent the second they start playing. Perhaps it’s purely down to pedigree, or maybe their synapses just flash more brilliantly than everyone else’s. Either way, a child prodigy – especially one whose talents have been nurtured properly – is always a fascinating person to see in action.


What hope, though, for the rest of us? In his 2008 book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talked about the 10,000 hour rule. Originally put forward in a paper by K. Anders Ericsson, it boils down to the simple idea that practice makes perfect. Elite performers aren’t born, they are created by huge amounts of regular, dedicated practice over time. Ten years of practice at three hours idea, as a rough guide. 

As you’d expect, there’s a caveat. Practice alone is not enough. It has to be the right sort of practice. If your technique for throwing a tennis ball up for a serve is wrong, it’ll still be wrong 10,000 hours later. For psychologist Daniel Goleman, it comes down to focus. If you’re not utterly focused on the job in hand, concentrating fully on meaningful feedback from a master teacher in every session – and similarly if you overdo it and fatigue your powers of attention –  you’ll plateau and be forever damned by your own competence.

What I find most fascinating is this idea of quality. The 10,000 hour rule is nothing without the right attitude and approach. Comparing athletes of differing levels, it’s the champion who falls more often, risking – and consequently gaining – more in search of the edge. You have to speculate to accumulate, right? But the more sophisticated the experts get, the more their techniques percolate the amateur level.

Our attitude to training has changed hugely in recent years. There’s a much earlier buy-in to the importance of nutrition, of core fitness, strength, speed and mental agility, making players faster, more intelligent, more deft – and more interesting to watch. Look at the difference in the explosive power of Andy Murray’s game since he added strength training and changed his nutrition.

The next crop of juniors will push the bar higher still. With the data stream, we can measure incremental excellence, measure body composure as it changes according to skill and bring a player to maturity with different cognitive skills already hardwired in, different reflexes – even different muscle development. Their reactions for specific skills will simply be better than those of previous generations. And the benefits won’t be exclusive to the professionals.

Whether you’re building better humans or a better business, eveloping best practice and garnering meaningful insight to data streams is crucial. With a real-time computing solution that can easily compress well over 10,000 man-hours of data analysis and insight to an instant, producing game-changing results via the cloud for all industries and all platforms is something we can all benefit from. There might not be any shortcuts in life, but that doesn’t mean have to waste time going the long way around.

Please follow me on Twitter or follow my sons tennis journey putting the 10.000 hour rule in practice.

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