August 21, 2013

The fading of the Gladwell Era

Peter Orszag, the former head of Obama's Office of Management and Budget, writes in his Bloomberg column:
Like many others who read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” when it came out five years ago, I was impressed by the 10,000-hour rule of expertise. I wrote a column (for a different publication) espousing the rule, which holds that to become a world-class competitor at anything from chess to tennis to baseball, all that’s required is 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. 
David Epstein has convinced me I was wrong. His thoroughly researched new book, “The Sports Gene,” pretty much demolishes the 10,000-hour rule -- and much of “Outliers” along with it. 
The practice-makes-perfect theory is certainly inspiring. In 2009, and after reading Gladwell’s book and some of the associated research, a 30-year-old man named Dan McLaughlin decided to quit his job as a photographer, determined to practice golf for 10,000 hours and turn pro -- even though his previous experience consisted of just two trips to a driving range as a child. He now practices six hours a day, and is scheduled to hit 10,000 hours in late 2016. 
Epstein’s book suggests that McLaughlin better have a backup plan, because, while real elite athletes have put in plenty of practice time, their aptitude is enhanced by their genes.

If 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is necessary and sufficient for world-class performance, Epstein asks, why do some people reach the master level in chess after 3,000 hours while others require 23,000? The average number of hours needed for many pros may be about 10,000, but it varies widely.

The comments on the 44-year-old former OMB boss's sudden insight are pretty funny:
jaycal33 1 hour ago

The fact genes are a necessary part of athletic success (along with practice) is so obvious that it is amazing anybody writes a book claiming otherwise, that book receives publicity and people buy it, that book is reviewed in the press etc. 
Really, the popular discourse in the media is really quite dumb.
VivaSam 4 hours ago

Did we leave this Orszag eff-up in charge of something? 
I hope not. 
Somebody run, go check and make sure he's not in charge of something over in DC. 
roquenuevo 7 hours ago

10,000 hours and genes, talent or genius, these are necessary and sufficient. If you have the talent, you still need the 10,000 hours; if you don't, the 10,000 hours are simply practicing the first mediocre hour 10,000 times... Seems simple enough to me. But not to the "vice chairman of corporate and investment banking and chairman of the financial strategy and solutions group at Citigroup Inc. and a former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama administration."

Orszag continues:
The reason for the variation is genetic, Epstein says.

Okay, that's an improvement, but the former head of OMB is still hazy. Stars do mostly have more than 10,000 hours of practice, and it's surprisingly hard to come up with exceptions. For example, Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon, was an intermittently overwhelming Division I college basketball player within 3 years of first trying basketball, but he was also a lot better after a dozen years of playing. The crafty Olajuwon who won NBA titles in 1994 and 1995 would never have lost the 1983 NCAA Final by letting NC State's airball get dunked in front of him at the buzzer.)

But, nonstars mostly have less than 10,000 hours of practice because somebody figures out that the potential of the nonstar is limited enough that it would be stupid for the wanna-be to waste 10,000 hours on this field.

As a commenter at Bloomberg says:
The 10,000 hour experts are a self selected group. Who spends 10,000 hours perfecting some skill?  It is someone whose first 1,000 hours of practice convince him and/or others that he is capable of greater improvement with even more practice.  His second 1,000 hours of practice provide additional confirmation.  The ones who don't have the innate talent to develop recognize this after their initial practicing demonstrates a lack of improvement and drop out.  Who really imagines that the reason their dog can't learn calculus is that he isn't willing to practice?

Rightfielder of champion teams
For example, as a boy I probably spent a thousand hours or so fielding balls I'd bounced off walls or that my dad threw to me on our front lawn. By the time I was 11 or 12, I was an adequate little league third baseman.

In contrast, I was a terrible outfielder because I never learned to judge the flight of flyballs. In part, that was because I got very little practice at catching flyballs. That required two people, one of whom could hit fungoes (which my dad wasn't particularly good at), and a big expanse of turf. If I was Ken Griffey Jr., I'm sure lots of coaches would have volunteered to hit me flyballs. But, with me, it was obvious to coaches within one minute that I was never going to be their star centerfielder -- I was slow and bad at judging flyballs. A thousand hours of practice with me would no doubt have made me a decent judge of flyballs, but I'd still lack natural judgement and still be slow. Moreover, I didn't want to practice catching flyballs for a 1000 hours: you have to do it at a park in public, so it was embarrassing and depressing. So, coaches just stuck me out in right field, until I could convince them that I was much less worse in the infield than in the outfield.

The Gladwellian Answer is that we must re-engineer society to lessen these unfair inequalities. Just because Ernie Sailer wasn't as good at hitting fungoes to his son as Ken Griffey Sr. was, and just because when his father wasn't available, Steve Sailer didn't have coaches volunteering to hit him fungoes the way Ken Griffey Jr. did, why should Steve Sailer be denied his 10,000 hours of baseball practice?

For some reason, the ability to evaluate middlebrow abstractions like the 10000 Hour Rule by the humble lessons of daily life is strikingly lacking in people who get paid to opine.

87 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is the guy with the illegitimate child?

sunbeam said...

You have a lot of different interests on this site.

This particular story troubles me in a number of ways.

The most disturbing is this: eventually the genes, or the combinations of genes that are associated with any particular sort of aptitude are going to be identified.

I expect it is going to take a long time, certainly not in my lifetime, but I do expect to see some of the gross traits correlated to the appropriate genes.

Social, personality, and behavioral characteristics are a lot fuzzier than things like potential for height or fast twitch muscle fiber, but I'm positive something can be found for each of them in time.

You reach a point, that with a test you can know whether you have any capacity for anything.

So why bother? The test will tell you if you have any ability for anything, or whether it is worth bothering with.

What if you have no aptitude for anything? Do you get off the planet?

Of course I also expect AI of some sort to achieve consciousness, or some reasonable facsimile by then. And that will change everything at some point before we reach this stage.

And that is more mind boggling than having our fate written in the stars, or genes as it were.

The other is even more of an existentialist threat.

On a more personal note, looking back it was a waste of time for me to play sports. It wasn't all that enjoyable, and it wasn't a useful chip for anything like college admission or something in my case.

If I were doing it all over, I wouldn't have wasted my time playing football or any of the other team sports. I think I would have taken up an instrument if I knew then what I know now, I could possibly have continued that for life.

Power Child said...

While it may not make you a star athlete (or surgeon, or writer, etc.), 10K hours of practice will probably make you very competent at a normal job.

So, if a lot of people are inspired to go out and practice for 10K to become something normal, that's probably a very good thing, even if they're missing their calling at some other normal job.

And it's especially a good thing if they don't HAVE a calling at anything.

John said...

In Brazil, all young males practice soccer for well over 10,000 hours, and none receives anything like wise coaching. (I'll have to look that one up, though - are there soccer camps in Brazil? Or soccer gurus in Brazil?) Yet some players are reputedly much better than others.

On second thought, I think we can throw out this idea. The difference between good and bad soccer is so small, who can say nature or nurture matters?

Eric Falkenstein said...

If you ever wonder what the power brokers are talking about, it's clearly informative to see this kind of insight is really surprising. Clinton, Barack, and Bush are often disingenuous and cleverly hypocritical, but most of all... boring.

jody said...

me and my MIT friend used to joke that effort was what decided whether you came in 5th or 15th at the world championship or olympics, but genes were what decided if you were there at all.

for those with the talent, the quality and intensity of their thousands of hours of training mattered a lot. for those without the talent, their workouts would be irrelevant.

10000 hours of practice, or some other relative number, is a good rule of thumb for instrument mastery though. you don't have to be a great natural talent to become quite good on an instrument. lots of people approach music this way. they just want to be able to play ok and don't mind never becoming awesome, and certainly aren't looking to write any music. in fact this is how almost all east asians approach it.

"The crafty Olajuwon who won NBA titles in 1994 and 1995"

he was a major natural talent, but the rockets never would have won the NBA championship in 1994 or 1995 if michael jordan had not decided to go bat .200 in AA baseball instead of winning the NBA championship again in 1994 and 1995.

this does not take away from the point about olajuwon's major natural talent. but on a technical note, under normal circumstances you wouldn't be able to point to olajuwon's rings to prove a point about overwhelming natural talent beating all. jordan, the guy with the overwhelming natural talent AND the 10000 hours of practice, would have beaten the guy going mainly on overwhelming natural talent and with less experience in the sport.

TGGP said...

I will say this much for Orzag: he has learned and admitted he was wrong. Not as great as not being wrong in the first place, but everyone else in power were like him, it would be an improvement.

Glossy said...

"Stars do mostly have more than 10,000 hours of practice..."

I've seen two interviews of Vladimir Horowitz where he claimed to only practice an hour and a half a day. Admittedly, he was up in years by then. Presumably he practiced more in his youth. Arthur Rubinstein was said to have disdained practice.

A video game author could advance the state of knowledge in the nature/nurture controversy by surreptitiously collecting usage stats. Tons of data could be collected on the relationship between hours played and level advanced.

Anonymous said...

These conclusions seem so obvious that they are maddening. Outliers was a tour de force in bad reasoning. It hurt my brain to read it.

Anonymous said...

There's a reasonable middle ground here. The "it's all genetic" crowd are unduly dismissive of practice and hard work, just as much as the "10,000 hours" people are dismissive of in-born aptitude.

The correct answer to "Nature or nurture?" is always "Both".

It's also worth keeping in mind that very, very, very, VERY few people operate at the rarefied level of professional athlete, or chess grand master, or elite brain surgeon. Most of us live and work in that middle ground where a slight deficiency in genetic aptitude can be readily overcome with a little extra practice/hard work.

Anonymous said...

Joe Pass claimed to have been forced, by his father, to practice the guitar for six to eight hours every day from age nine to age fourteen or so when he started playing professionally. This would easily have provided him with 10,000 or so hours of practice and at a young age. He certainly developed an amazing skill. We don't know whether or not his "genes" helped or hindered him but I've tried Googling someone with his surname with a similar talent to no avail.

albert magnus said...

"he was a major natural talent, but the rockets never would have won the NBA championship in 1994 or 1995 if michael jordan had not decided to go bat .200 in AA baseball instead of winning the NBA championship again in 1994 and 1995."

Jordan played in the playoffs in 1995, so we know that isn't true. Also, 1994 is iffy since the Knicks had a very good team designed to beat the Bulls.

People confuse the 1993 Bulls with the 1996 bulls who were a lot better.

TheLRC said...

I read the Epstein book, and found it mostly underwhelming. I'd heard Epstein interviewed on Slate's sports podcast, and he did this big schtick about how he'd agonized over publishing the book because it was so potentially inflammatory and controversial, i.e. because it suggests that Kenyans might be good at distance running because of certain genetic attributes, that most baseball players need genetically superior vision to make it to the big leagues, etc.

To regular iSteve readers like me, this was old hat and often boring, although there are some parts of the book dealing with the details of genetic explanations for certain physical attributes that many here may find interesting.

What Epstein's book brought home to me is how high the double-think walls that surround certain taboo islands in American popular culture really are. The real question is, in the face of mounting genetic evidence, are those walls resilient, or are they brittle?

Semi-employed White Guy said...

Steve, you bring back really bad little league memories for me. I was a terrible hitter, and an even worse outfielder because I had a hard time judging where to field fly balls. But my a-hole coach had this idiotic system for positioning players, according to how well they hit, so it was RF for me! I never got to be a SS which, in practice or neighborhood pickup games was the one place where I excelled! sob ... sob ...

Anonymous said...

Social, personality, and behavioral characteristics are a lot fuzzier than things like potential for height or fast twitch muscle fiber, but I'm positive something can be found for each of them in time.

You reach a point, that with a test you can know whether you have any capacity for anything.

So why bother? The test will tell you if you have any ability for anything, or whether it is worth bothering with.

What if you have no aptitude for anything? Do you get off the planet?





I think your question make it clear that when you say "aptitude" you don't really mean aptitude at all, your mean "one-in-million-level-aptitude" or "one-in-a-hundred-thousand-level-aptitude". In other words you mean exceptionalism, not aptitude.

By definition the average person is average in aptitude. That does not mean he is deficient in aptitude though, any more than the average five-foot-ten-inch man is lacking because he does not have the genes to be six-foot-ten instead.

I've recently started learning finger-style guitar. I'm in my 50's. It is not necessary for me to posses any fantastically rare level of aptitude for the skill in question in order to make the activity worthwhile.

I don't think we have to go back to the days of mocking freaks and outliers, but it would be a sign of good social health if we stopped placing such people on pedestals.

Anonymous said...

A video game author could advance the state of knowledge in the nature/nurture controversy by surreptitiously collecting usage stats. Tons of data could be collected on the relationship between hours played and level advanced.

The problem with this is that most gamers have played many similar games before and the experiences are very transferrable. Ditto with RTS games. And RPG games.

Brett_McS said...

I was at the ground when one of Australia's best cricketers, Greg Chappell (who also played baseball as a youth) caught a towering hit on the boundary. (No gloves!). What struck me was the calm way he just walked to the spot where he immediately judged it would land. Stood there with hands up, cupped together and waited for the ball to plop into his hands. No last second adjustments, no dodging back and forth. And he normally never fielded in the outfield.

Anonymous said...

me and my MIT friend used to joke that effort was what decided whether you came in 5th or 15th at the world championship or olympics, but genes were what decided if you were there at all.

What about Nobel Prizes in the sciences? Which ones over the past decade were "definite head scratchers"?

Cail Corishev said...

"In contrast, I was a terrible outfielder because I never learned to judge the flight of flyballs."

Man, you too? I can catch line-drives all day, but hit me a fly ball and I stagger in circles until it falls 20 feet away. I blame it on the time I was waiting for a high fly to come down and moved my glove just in time for it to hit me in the face. I think my brain is trying to protect me.

"The 10,000 hour experts are a self selected group. Who spends 10,000 hours perfecting some skill? It is someone whose first 1,000 hours of practice convince him and/or others that he is capable of greater improvement with even more practice."

Bingo. I was talking to a friend whose kids don't like to read. It frustrates him, because he's always been a voracious reader, and he thinks if they'd just give it a chance, they'd find something they enjoyed -- a particular genre or whatever -- and they'd learn to like it. I pointed out to him that reading always came easy to him -- he was always way ahead of his age group in reading, so almost any reading was enjoyable for him, or at least not painful. If his kids just aren't good at reading, it may be unpleasant for them no matter what the book is about. (Which isn't to say they shouldn't learn to read capably; it's too important a skill to ignore. But they may never read for pleasure the way he'd like.)

Cail Corishev said...

Fortunately, I don't think anyone really believed Gladwell's thesis anyway. It was just a handy mantra to recite to declare your blank-state bona fides and keep dangerous race topics away.

If anyone really believed it, they'd be pushing to assign each kid a specific skill to start work on early, so he could get his 10,000 hours in by adulthood and launch onto a fabulous career in that area. As far as I know, no one has done that or even suggested it. The closest anyone comes is Asian "Tiger Mom" parents, but even they spread the effort across various academic subjects, and they were doing it before Gladwell anyway.

Brent Lane said...

Regarding the title of this post, could the fact that Gladwell's blog, which was quite active when Blink and Outliers were hot SWPL cocktail party fodder, hasn't had a new entry in over three years be indicative of the author's decline?

Or, perhaps, his realisation that the jig was up and he could safely slink back to anonymity, only a few million richer for his few years of profitable credibilityamongst the Orszags of the world?

guest007 said...

Most professional athletes were the best athletes in their neighborhoods when they were kids, in their schools, on their high school team, and probably on their college team. No amount of practice and coaching is going to turn a normal person into that type of athlete.

What most top athletes have in common is that someone recognized their talent early in life and promoted it. What affects which sports are popular in the U.S. is how easy or hard it is to sport talent. It is just so much easier to identify who is going to be a good sprinter than a good distant runner.

Anonymous said...

Man, you too? I can catch line-drives all day, but hit me a fly ball and I stagger in circles until it falls 20 feet away. I blame it on the time I was waiting for a high fly to come down and moved my glove just in time for it to hit me in the face. I think my brain is trying to protect me.

It's line drives that are harder, because you have to judge whether you can catch it or if you have to back off and let it bounce.

Anonymous said...

It seems like a lot of pro ballplayers, regardless of position, were star pitchers or shortstops when they were young and in high school. They have the best arms and best skill overall, so they end up pitching and playing shortstop, the position that sees the most action, when they're young. As they get older, they seem to transition as there are even better pitchers and fielders at the top level.

secretariat excepted said...

If evolution is correct (which, according to the most intelligent products allegedly thereof, it isn't, but that is another story), each generation is populated by only those people whose progenitors won thousands, millions, and if you go way back possibly billions of violent encounters with nature and with competitors. Sports like baseball, football, and basketball are the equivalent of playing over the exact same battle, with the exact same rules, a few thousand times. Problem is, our progenitors won those thousands of violent encounters under drastically shifting rules, not under traditional repeating rules. One of the few things I like more about the modern world than the world of my day (when the only respected non-rich high school athletes were almost exclusively in the three sports mentioned, unless you lived in a part of the country where horse riding or hockey was affordable) is that there is more respect for a greater variety of sports. At least this is a more honest approach to the evolutionary worldview. The book under discussion here may be a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the author does not seem capable of answering a question that I don't have the background to research myself,and which I would love to hear the answer to, which is why almost every top athlete in traditional sports is
said to be not just boring but devastatingly boring in real life.

Anonymous said...

Man, you too? I can catch line-drives all day, but hit me a fly ball and I stagger in circles until it falls 20 feet away. I blame it on the time I was waiting for a high fly to come down and moved my glove just in time for it to hit me in the face. I think my brain is trying to protect me.

The key to outfield is to take a step back or brace yourself back when the bat makes contact with the ball. Then judge whether it's going to behind you or in front. The most important thing is to try to keep the ball in front of you. The initial step back prevents you from moving forward as soon as it's hit, only to realize the ball is going to go behind you, creating even more distance between you and the ball.

Cail Corishev said...

There's a reasonable middle ground here.

There should be, but there's not. First of all, there's no "all-genetic" side that claims nurture is irrelevant, so that's a straw-man. Even those who believe that IQ is 100% set at birth, for instance, also think it matters what you learn with it. They say genes are important and probably put some outer limits on ability (no one with a 70 IQ will ever learn calculus; no one 4 feet tall will ever play in the NBA), but not that they're everything.

On the other hand, as Derb has pointed out, a 50/50 nature/nurture split, or any split other than 0/100, isn't acceptable for the blank-slate side, because that still leaves some people with an inborn advantage over others, which is unacceptable to their ideology. They have to insist that nature is irrelevant, which is why they loved Gladwell's silly concept so much.

So there isn't a battle between nature and nurture, but a battle between people who think it's a mix of the two, with the percentages still being determined; versus people who insist nature is meaningless and you're a bigot if you say otherwise. There's no middle-ground available there.

Anonymous said...

I cant catch fly balls well and have to do semidifferential equations in my head to parallel park and only found out why at the age of 52, apparently I have only one full vein of blood going to the brain where other people have one on each side, so its like everything I do is leaning to one side. No kidding, theres a name for this genetic condition but I forget it...

RonMexico said...

AI didn't become a baller with 10,000 hrs of practice. "We're talking about practice! Practice, man!". Seriously, it is of course both. You may not need 10,000 hrs to become a great NBAer (Iverson), or you may not need the best genetics for your sport (Stockton), yet you certainly need a combo of both.

Cail Corishev said...

The key to outfield is to take a step back or brace yourself back when the bat makes contact with the ball. Then judge whether it's going to behind you or in front.

There's the problem: I can't seem to judge that, no matter how long I wait.

I'm not saying I couldn't do it; I'm sure with practice I could get better at it. But that's the whole point of the article: because I was good at catching line drives and bad at shagging flies, when I played with other kids I got put in the infield, so I got more practice at what I was already good at.

Or take handedness. Any of us could learn to write with either hand if he had to. But for most of us, one hand becomes dominant early, so we get lots of practice doing things with it, and before long doing the same things with the other hand feels awkward. Learning to do something like shooting weak-handed layups in basketball is difficult and takes loads of tedious practice. No one would do it unless his talent with his strong hand had already convinced him he could be good enough to make it worth the time.

Anonymous said...

So, with just another 9,000 hours Steve Sailer might have been the Dodgers starting CFer by the mid 80s along with a chance to play in the 88 WS vs the A's.

Ah, the beauty of hindsight.

sunbeam said...

An Anonymous wrote:

"I think your question make it clear that when you say "aptitude" you don't really mean aptitude at all, your mean "one-in-million-level-aptitude" or "one-in-a-hundred-thousand-level-aptitude". In other words you mean exceptionalism, not aptitude.

By definition the average person is average in aptitude. That does not mean he is deficient in aptitude though, any more than the average five-foot-ten-inch man is lacking because he does not have the genes to be six-foot-ten instead.

I've recently started learning finger-style guitar. I'm in my 50's. It is not necessary for me to posses any fantastically rare level of aptitude for the skill in question in order to make the activity worthwhile.

I don't think we have to go back to the days of mocking freaks and outliers, but it would be a sign of good social health if we stopped placing such people on pedestals."

Yeah, but that's what matters now. The trend now is for the best to walk away with everything. The above average get nothing. It's winner take all, and heaven help you if you don't have some kind of special ability.

I also have developed a kind of belief from reading this blog, and others concerned about trends and what they see developing.

Namely that an average IQ, say 100, is no better than being retarded. The bar has been raised. The work that matters needs more brainpower than that. And if you don't have that, you are useless.

Let's be blunt about it. If you were a cold blooded ruthless despot, and you were told you could trade 1000 loyal citizens of IQ 100, for one individual with an extremely high IQ...

Why wouldn't you take the deal? Assuming of course that the person in question did something that was a force multiplier like physics?

Heck it would be a good deal to trade a million, maybe two, maybe 10, for a guaranteed Feynman or Newton.

I've seen comments that the posters on this blog fetishize IQ, but exactly what other conclusion are we to draw from the evidence?

I'd like to say that I think the rules have changed. It used to be having a massive population was desirable. You had mass groups of cannon fodder, field workers, people to labor in factories. You needed people to administer things, count things, handle things, do the accounting, clean your toilets...

None of that matters anymore. If the population isn't smart, then they are not assets, they are liabilities. And a strong work ethic isn't going to change that. Someone willing to work 15 hours a day isn't as useful as someone who can come up with a new algorithm, or understand genetics and dna analysis.

Most of the posters here are hung up on Mexicans and the like, but the fact remains that a majority of the white citizens of this country can be indicted on the same issue.

Steve Sailer said...

Right. The only difference between me and Kirk Gibson is 9000 hours of practice.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight: The book put forward the claim that you could become a championship basketball player simply by practicing for 10,000 hours, even if you're five foot four inches tall?

And people bought the book, praised the book, and took it seriously?

Anonymous said...

"Most professional athletes were the best athletes in their neighborhoods when they were kids, in their schools, on their high school team, and probably on their college team. No amount of practice and coaching is going to turn a normal person into that type of athlete."

I think it was Shannon Sharpe who said you wake up in the morning a great athlete.

Cail Corishev said...

"The work that matters needs more brainpower than that. And if you don't have that, you are useless."

To the extent that this is the case, it's because we've outsourced so many manufacturing jobs and imported workers to drive down the wages of ag and service jobs. We still employ lots of people of average and sub-average intelligence; they just aren't Americans anymore.

Steve Sailer said...

DNA testing of kids for athletic ability: I think the main use would be to estimate how tall they'll wind up being. There is a lot of uncertainty over that -- for example, I was above average but not exceptionally tall in grade school. My pediatrician plotted on my height over the years and repeatedly predicted I would be 6'0". Unexpectedly, however, I just kept growing and wound up 6'4".

That would be the kind of information a rich Tiger Dad could make good use of in hiring coaches for his son. But, otherwise, let him play and see what he likes best. Height is important both in quarterbacks and in professional tennis players, but whether your son doesn't mind holding on to the football until the last moment even if he gets flattened or would be better off playing a noncontact sport is something that should be more apparent from watching him play rather than from a test tube.

sunbeam said...

Steve Sailer wrote:

"DNA testing of kids for athletic ability: I think the main use would be to estimate how tall they'll wind up being. There is a lot of uncertainty over that -- for example, I was above average but not exceptionally tall in grade school. My pediatrician plotted on my height over the years and repeatedly predicted I would be 6'0"

Useful information to know, but I think if you do this, then you know what HGH does.

I'm not omniscient, but I'm convinced a lot of adolescents are being supplied this now so they get to be as large as possible before the caps on the ends of the bones set, or whatever it is. You can't get a height increase with a 30 year old, but giving HGH to a 13 year old is going to give you a taller 14 year old than otherwise would have been the case.

Anonymous said...

a slight deficiency in genetic aptitude can be readily overcome with a little extra practice/hard work.

No, it cannot.

jody said...

"Jordan played in the playoffs in 1995, so we know that isn't true."

ah, true true, but he was probably not all the way back. sort of the same thing tyson went through after being out of boxing for years. came back, tried to go up against the number 1 ranked guy, got TKO'd. they were only 75% of the way back or so.

"People confuse the 1993 Bulls with the 1996 bulls who were a lot better."

never heard anyone confuse them.

how much did the knicks change from 1994 to 1995 to 1996. after 1994 they never got back to the eastern conference final during the remaining jordan bulls years.

Portlander said...

For some reason, the ability to evaluate middlebrow abstractions like the 10000 Hour Rule by the humble lessons of daily life is strikingly lacking in people who get paid to opine.

I'm a little more cynical about it. You get what you pay for, and, as you can attest, no one wants to pay for middlebrow abstractions about the humble lessons of daily life.

... hey, daily life is boring enough already. It needs some sexing up as a certain Prime Minister would be wont to say.

Alice said...

Academics liked the 10,000 hour rule because they are, almost to a number, jealous of genius.

The rule allows them to lie to themselves that "if i'd only practiced more, I could have been Newton/Macaulay/Einstein/Mozart/Ruth. They aren't actually better than me, and I'm not just a loser with tenure making no difference in history at all."

It is just their fragile egos needing stroking.

jody said...

'What about Nobel Prizes in the sciences? Which ones over the past decade were "definite head scratchers"?'

you should go back and read my comments over the last couple years and you'll see. but you're not interested in that. you're just interested in being annoying.

i'll tell you one thing though. the nobel science prizes are restricted to 3 fields, and cannot deviate from them. especially in a well developed field like chemistry, which has been explored for centuries and would be considered "mature" if it were an industry, like automobiles or firearms or airplanes. all the basic and intermediate stuff is well understood and well known.

certainly humans don't know every thing there is to know about chemistry, but there are not many major discoveries or advances left to be made, and all of the new things would complicated, sophisticated, very difficult - and it is unlikely for one of these major new things to be detected/uncovered/accomplished for the first time every single year, or even every couple of years. more like, there might be something really significant happening in chemistry once a decade. so if intellectual work in chemistry has to be recognized every single year, without out fail, indefinitely, you run out of really important or even moderately important stuff to recognize and start just simply trying to get the award filled sometimes.

there's more to learn and discover in physics and medicine but they have the same issue to a lesser degree. there just isn't some huge big groundbreaking event happening every single year in these fields. and for decades, the physics prize would not even recognize any work in astronomy. for instance, the 2011 prize could not have been awarded in 1951, because to the nobel committee in 1951, "that's not physics". today, thanks to ed hubble, astronomy is recognized as a part of physics, and the nobel committee actually relies on work in astronomy to fill out their physics award every couple years.

step outside the rigid boundaries imposed by the nobel committee on these 3 fields, and something more important sometimes is happening in another field. needless to say, the committee now sometimes has to break their own rules about waiting for years and years to see if some new development in physics/chemistry/medicine turns out to be important or has some significant application. they don't do that anymore in a few cases. they have that award to fill, every year, year after year, and things can only be discovered/done of the first time/started a revolution in science once. and oh, look at the calendar. october approaches.

Laura said...

" First of all, there's no "all-genetic" side that claims nurture is irrelevant, so that's a straw-man."

Wasn't the theme of the Tiger Mom book that American parents today believe in the all-genetic theory, at least when it comes to their own kids? She spends a lot of the book mocking the idea that you can just sign your kid up for piano and then pour yourself a glass of white wine and head off to yoga class, because if the kid has the talent she'll be great without anyone making her practice. She suggests that all non Chinese people in her social circle think this way, which is probably an over statement. But I'm sure that there are some people who think like this, too many to dismiss it as a strawman.

Now I'll also believe that these same people who believe that their own children's talents will shine out without any work from them, also believe that the poor life outcomes of other people's children are the fault of those other children's parents not of genes. But again, there's a difference between a belief that's widely held in an inconsistent and self serving way, and a belief that no one holds.

Reg Cæsar said...

a slight deficiency in genetic aptitude can be readily overcome with a little extra practice/hard work.

No, it cannot.
--anonymous (and terse)

Then how do you explain the presence of three of the WASPs in America's songwriting pantheon-- Cole Porter, Vincent Youmans, and Hugh Martin? All of them had great difficulty composing, yet plowed through and wrote standards. (And you didn't.)

Compare that to Richard Rodgers, who once said he could pee a melody.

Anonymous said...

you should go back and read my comments over the last couple years and you'll see. but you're not interested in that. you're just interested in being annoying.

I am interested to find out which science Nobels over the past decade have been "definite head scratchers". That's why I'm asking. I don't recall you ever specifying the "definite head scratchers". You've mostly commented about sports, Obama, and fracking over the past couple years.

So which were they? If you've been pointing them out over the last couple years, you should be able to specify them readily.

so if intellectual work in chemistry has to be recognized every single year, without out fail, indefinitely, you run out of really important or even moderately important stuff to recognize and start just simply trying to get the award filled sometimes.

This is something everybody understands already. People already recognize, for example, that the Oscar winners for Best Picture vary in quality. They understand that this is the case with any sort of award, including Nobels in the sciences. What they generally don't know, however, are which of the awards are "definite head scratchers". Most people aren't knowledgeable enough to recognize them. Since you claim to have recognized at least 5 "definite head scratchers" over the past decade, why don't you enlighten us and specify them?

Truth said...

I didn't read Gladwell's book, but did he write anywhere, ANYWHERE, that there is no genetic component to success?

Seriously, any hack with 10,000 of guitar lessons is going to be a better guitarist than Hendrix the day he first picked the thing up

Silver said...

"Namely that an average IQ, say 100, is no better than being retarded. The bar has been raised. The work that matters needs more brainpower than that. And if you don't have that, you are useless."

That is a depressingly common conclusion among people new to wrapping their heads around hbd concepts. Although today I consider that perspective is phenomenal bullshit I too once felt similarly. I'll offer this bit of advice: as anxious as you might feel, tough it out any way you can and I bet in time you'll find yourself able to genuinely consider other perspectives and then eventually you'll be able to look back and laugh at what you once thought.

And my advice to Sailer and other hbd writers is that you'd make many more friends and more quickly if you were to give your hard-hitting hdb conclusions a human touch.

TGGP,
"I will say this much for Orzag: he has learned and admitted he was wrong."

Good point, but I would respect him even more if he admitted he was misled rather than merely "wrong," because that would point to the systematic deception occurring, whereas being wrong is merely the mistake of an isolated individual. But hey, it's a start.

Reg Cæsar said...

First, why all the attention to the fatuous Gladwell? There are a lot of better and more interesting-- and more useful-- writers on this general subject: Anders Ericsson, Geoff Colvin, Daniel Coyle, Charles Duhigg, Frans Johansson,
David Sudnow, Josh Kaufman, Cal Newport…

One of these guys-- Colvin, if I remember right--pointed out that not so long ago, there were no Korean golfers or Russian tennis stars, and now they dominate the ladies' games.

And a lot has been posted and commented on here, mostly derisively, about the 10,000 hours. But I've seen no mention here of deliberate practice , which seems like a more productive path of research and application.

Finally, I just mentioned Cole Porter. He's considered a giant of both words and music. Yet his natural gifts seem limited to the former. It's like there are two paths to greatness, and he took both.

Antioco Dascalon said...

If hard work leads to success means that nurture wins over nature, what if capacity for hard work is genetically determined?

If hours spent practicing is the primary determiner of achievement, then why are there such differences in a ability in kindergarteners, even when playing games that none have played before?

How can 10,000 people who practice 10,000 hours to be a professional basketball player do so if there are only 300 NBA players at any one time?

The average age of a AAA minor leaguer is 27. These guys have been playing baseball since Little League, putting in tens thousands of hours in batting cages and base paths and outfields at very high levels, but never make it.

Did Jennifer Lawerence put in 10,000 hours of acting before she won her Oscar? Is that why Quvenzhané Wallis lost? Maybe we'll see her after she puts in 9000 more hours.

And I'm sure that the only reason Adele at 20 won a a Grammy, but your average American Idol contestant hasn't is that she put in 10,000 hours of singing but these others didn't.

Hasn' t Gladwell heard of child prodigies? Did Michael Jackson put in 10,000 hours of performing by the time he was 6?

Anonymous said...

You played the hot corner? Impressive. I did for a while until I got a line drive smoked off my cheek. It cracked my cheek bone and chipped two back teeth somehow. The most humiliating part was that the ball went 50 feet in the air and was caught by the shortstop for an out. I stayed in the game but moved to right field. The NEXT batter crushed a line drive right at me which I caught. I was in pain and sort of frustrated at balls being hit at my face so I left soon thereafter....never to return.

Dan in DC

Anonymous said...

While on the subject of white middle class types celebrating their stupidity there is a wonderful item on the Englandcalling blog at the moment.

It is about a journalist at the BBC who woke up one day and realised he had no black friends. Or colleagues or atendees at his wedding.

He decided to embark on a journey to discover why is unintentionally hilarious.

"I wondered aloud why it would be quite reasonable for Petal to say publicly that she was proud to be black, while for me to say that I was proud to be white would cast me, in some people’s eyes, as either a football hooligan or a Nazi.

“So are you proud to be white?” Petal asked me.

“Actually, no.” I shouted back, startling an elderly woman, who was struggling past with her shopping. “I just want to know what the difference is.”

It is full of stuff like that.

http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/the-chiles-test-for-white-liberal-racial-hypocrisy/

Anonymous said...

Jody- you know your stuff but Olajuwon was not going to be denied winning at least one championship. No chance Jordan wins 8 titles in a row- preposterous. The Knicks had them at the brink twice by couldn't get it done. Jordan only missed one full year btw. Houston also swept the Shaquille led Orlando Magic after they beat the Bulls with Jordan easily.

Dan in DC

Cail Corishev said...

Wasn't the theme of the Tiger Mom book that American parents today believe in the all-genetic theory, at least when it comes to their own kids?

That may have been her accusatory caricature, coming from her nurture-is-everything perspective, but that doesn't mean it's true. No, just because American parents aren't as fanatical as Tiger Moms about pushing their kids doesn't mean they think practice is irrelevant. In some cases it means they don't particularly care, and in others it means they think pushing a kid too hard is counterproductive.

slumber_j said...

You describe my own Little League trajectory precisely--right down to the move from poor RF to stunning adequacy at the Hot Corner. One thing that's better at Third than in the outfield: the infield position tends to hold your attention a lot better.

Captain Tripps said...

Yes, but I don’t think it is so deterministic; as others have pointed out, it’s a combination of nature/nurture. Sunbeam is worried about humanity becoming Gattica, unless the Skynet machines destroy us first. But how do we account for late bloomers? Someone who develops a drive to excel later in life, like Ethan Hawke does in Gattica? As you and others have noted, you weren’t very good at judging fly balls; neither was I at age 8. But by 14, I was good enough to be pretty versatile for my high school intramural softball (12-inch slow-pitch) championship team (of course that’s not saying much compared to MLB), and my two-time college league championship team. I played shortstop, second base and center field (I was wiry and fast; by 14 I could judge the flight of fly balls/line drives off the bat pretty well, and had learned the basics of playing the middle infield/outfield positions through reading and watching the pros). Again, of course this is softball, not baseball, but the differences in ball flight mechanics are simply a function of speed; we would practice shagging flys with regular baseballs, which clearly helped. Was I ever going to make it to the majors? No, but I was successful and accomplished at the level I played at.

Sunbeam also said:
“On a more personal note, looking back it was a waste of time for me to play sports. It wasn't all that enjoyable, and it wasn't a useful chip for anything like college admission or something in my case. If I were doing it all over, I wouldn't have wasted my time playing football or any of the other team sports. I think I would have taken up an instrument if I knew then what I know now, I could possibly have continued that for life.”

I wouldn’t be so quick to throw that experience away as a complete waste; playing a team sport at any age has a lot of secondary and tertiary benefits beyond just developing physical skills. You learn how to work together with others as a team toward a common goal. You develop/hone communication and social skills as well, in the give-and-take of competitive camaraderie. And you learn how to deal with adversity when you lose, or make a bad play.

Anonymous said...

Dan McLaughlin's website
http://thedanplan.com/statistics-2/

Logging in 30-plus hours a week he will hit the 10,000 hour milestone by December 2016. During this time, Dan plans to develop his skills through deliberate practice, eventually winning amateur events and obtaining his PGA Tour card through a successful appearance in the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School, or “Q-School”.

Anonymous said...

Now, I completely agree with the idea that talent is very much innate, however I don't believe it's best that the talented pay much attention to it. I think we should teach all people that success is obtained through hard work. If we don't, if we tell people "You're so talented, you can do anything." Or "You're a moron you'll never amount to anything." We can create a lot of slackers who learn early on that things are easy and that having to work hard at something means you aren't innately talented at it. Then these folks fail when they meet their first challenge and often never recover. No, I think we need to recognize that talent is important but also teach everyone that success is obtained through hard work, talent doesn't make the entire journey easier (except at the early levels), it just raises the level of what you can achieve at the top of you 'game', whatever that may be.

So, yes pretending that everyone is the same is foolish, but so is labeling some 'talented' and letting them slack. I'm not saying you're in favor of that Steve, just suggesting that happens quite a bit, in my own experience.

Of course the problem in the end comes back to: what do we do with the left side of the bell curve... Once we find the few people with extraordinary athletic, rhythm, song, dancing ability there's still a huge blob of humanity left that needs to be accounted for... We can't bitch about them being on welfare and selling drugs if we don't have a place for them to go work, to make enough to get by.

~Sisyphean

Cail Corishev said...

"a slight deficiency in genetic aptitude can be readily overcome with a little extra practice/hard work."

No, it cannot.


That depends entirely on your definitions of "slight" and "a little," of course. A guy with a "slight" deficiency of 5 IQ points might be able to make up for that in school with "a little" extra work of one hour of study a day, for instance. But if "slight" means 20 points? Not with a little extra work; maybe not with a lot.

I was a darn good shot with a basketball, but I had the "slight" deficiency of being about 12 inches shorter than Larry Bird, and no amount of hard work could have brought me to his level. Had the difference only been one inch, it's at least possible that it could have.

chucho said...

10k hours of practice will not make you a great musician. You may be able to 'play' the song or composition, but there is no guarantee that it will sound good. I know people who have been playing guitar for 20 years that still can't really hack a three chord tune, mainly because their rhythm is poor.

Otis McWrong said...

Steve Sailer said "Height is important both in quarterbacks and in professional tennis players, but whether your son doesn't mind holding on to the football until the last moment even if he gets flattened"

I've played golf on a couple of occasions with a former NFL QB that was a backup on a couple Super Bowl champs and then a starter for a number of years for a different team. Before playing in the NFL he was a star for a Pac-10 program. In the course of our conversations he mentioned he was from Pennsylvania. I asked him how a PA kid ended up playing for a glamorous West Coast program. He said that was the only program that would let him play baseball (this Pac10 program is also a major baseball power, recently won the College World Series) and football.

He said baseball was his true love. He didn't play football until his junior year of high school and - based on that one year of play - was named a high school All-American before his senior year. Five years later he was in the NFL. That's something for the 10,000 hour crowd (as well as all the dads sending their sons to QB camps and paying for private coaches) to consider. "Coach, all you want me to do is throw this ball 50 yards downfield and hit that fast guy in stride? No problem".

Also of interest, this guy never tried golf until he retired from the NFL and at the time I played with him, he had a handicap index of around 2.

Anonymous said...

In Outliers, Gladwell does say that innate talent matters a lot. I think he was referring to the additional work necessary for excellence in cognitively complex fields. Here's a post from yesterday's NewYorker.com.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/sportingscene/2013/08/psychology-ten-thousand-hour-rule-complexity.html

Anonymous said...

In Outliers, Gladwell does say that innate talent matters a lot. I think he was referring to the additional work necessary for excellence in cognitively complex fields. Here's a post from yesterday's NewYorker.com.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/sportingscene/2013/08/psychology-ten-thousand-hour-rule-complexity.html

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of lazy talented people. It's the talent that makes them a bit lazy as they can afford to cruise a bit.

So the whole "practise makes perfect" schtick does have some value. If you have a 6/10 talent then you'll never beat someone with a 10/10 talent but you might be able to beat a lazy 8/10.

pat said...

The lesson here is that Gladwell doesn't have to panhandle his readers for contributions. He tells them an attractive lie and grows rich. Your great flaw, Steve is that you have a need to tell the truth as you see it. Gladwell is not so constrained.

The 10,000 hour rule is of course absurd. It is not a serious idea at all. It is simply a con. "You could have been Bill Gates except you didn't have the opportunity to practice programming as he had had". "You too could have been Mozart if you had just been allowed to write operas when you were six".

Really! Who could believe such nonsense? How can anyone be so self deluded as to take such a loony notion seriously?

In the bad old days the slimiest courtier would shamelessly flatter the aristocracy. Gladwell's genius is that he has devised a ploy by which to flatter the masses. It's better than "Every man a king" or "A chicken in every pot".

He's put being Walter Mitty on an industrial scale.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

As Richwine says, the whole PC button is reset all over again, and no one learns anything.

So, Gladwell will be back again because if he didn't exist, the media would have to invent him.

Camlost said...

Right. The only difference between me and Kirk Gibson is 9000 hours of practice.

Actually, make that the full 10,000 hours for football, since Kirk Gibson was also an All-American quality Tight End at Michigan State.

Anonymous said...

If 10,000 hrs rule is true, how come Gladwell still can't think?

But maybe he's been practicing at self-delusion, in which case he is indeed the master, and maybe there is something to be said of the 10,000 hrs rule.

Maybe he will come up with the 20,000 hr rule.

Anonymous said...

"In Outliers, Gladwell does say that innate talent matters a lot."

But not across groups. But as the other scholars have shown, group differences do matter in sports.

Anonymous said...

"a slight deficiency in genetic aptitude can be readily overcome with a little extra practice/hard work."


No, it cannot.


Yes, it can.

Anonymous said...

Let's be blunt about it. If you were a cold blooded ruthless despot, and you were told you could trade 1000 loyal citizens of IQ 100, for one individual with an extremely high IQ...Why wouldn't you take the deal?


I'm not a cold blooded ruthless despot, and neither are you, so what exactly was the point of this question? Even from the point of view of a hypothetical "old blooded ruthless despot" the answer is far from obvious.

Anonymous said...

there's no "all-genetic" side that claims nurture is irrelevant, so that's a straw-man.


If you really believe that then you're kidding yourself.

Anonymous said...

I also have developed a kind of belief from reading this blog, and others concerned about trends and what they see developing.


Namely that an average IQ, say 100, is no better than being retarded.



Then you need to stop reading this blog, because it's twisting your mind. Just as some people really should not drink strong liquor, some people should not be exposed to strong ideas which they can't properly handle.

Nothing in HBD says that an IQ of 100 is the same as being retarded. If you've come away with that idea then Steve needs to write more carefully, and you need to read more carefully.

Anonymous said...

Power Child said...

So, if a lot of people are inspired to go out and practice for 10K to become something normal, that's probably a very good thing, even if they're missing their calling at some other normal job.

And it's especially a good thing if they don't HAVE a calling at anything.

Most people don't have any sort of calling or vocation. It's abnormal and might as well be illegal. For the past half-century, educrats have done all they can do stamp out any sort of calling that children may have at an early age, in favour of moulding well-rounded socialized brats.

It is a VERY GOOD THING that Mozart was born in 1756 and not 1956!

Anonymous said...

Let's be blunt about it. If you were a cold blooded ruthless despot, and you were told you could trade 1000 loyal citizens of IQ 100, for one individual with an extremely high IQ...

Because in the world of politics, unlike science, mass is everything. That applies even in despotisms. Why lose 1000 loyal citizens for one individual of questionable loyalty no matter how brilliant?

Anonymous said...

If you were a cold blooded ruthless despot, and you were told you could trade 1000 loyal citizens of IQ 100, for one individual with an extremely high IQ.



Because those 1000 are loyal to you, while that "one individual with an extremely high IQ" is likely to figure out a way to depose you and take power for himself.

Reg Cæsar said...

"You could have been Bill Gates except you didn't have the opportunity to practice programming as he had had". "You too could have been Mozart if you had just been allowed to write operas when you were six".

Mozart wasn't "allowed" to compose at 6; he was forced to at 4. You can't separate Wolfgang from his extreme training regimen, so using him as an example of HBD is problematic, to put it gingerly.

Mozart= moderatrly above-average innate talent + intense (effective) training+ hard work + willpower + desperation

I'm willing to consider that Salieri actually had the higher IQ.

Really! Who could believe such nonsense? How can anyone be so self deluded as to take such a loony notion seriously?

The same self-deluded folks who believe a Korean child adopted in the West will grow up speaking anything but Korean?


Reg Cæsar said...

Revised Mozart equation: WAM = moderately above-average innate talent • intense (effective) training • sheer hard work • willpower • desperation • good taste

Can't leave out the most important factor!

Anonymous said...

If Obama gets his 10000 hours in he might be the next Tiger Woods.

NOTA said...

So, what did/do real-world ruthless dictators actually do when in power? As of 1930 or so, eugenics was mainstream elite thought, and there were plenty of dictators or near-dictators for the next 30 years or so: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, the Japanese (ruling junta rather than a single dictator, but not what you'd call squeamish), later Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh. We have had plenty of ruthless dictators. What did they actually do? I'm not aware of any of them making the tradeoff you're imagining. Hitler may have talked abot the master race, but his supporters were mostly not the intellectuals or scientists, and he drove out and then mass-murdered the highest-IQ group in his society. Stalin had plenty of very smart people shot or sent to the gulag, though both the USSR and Nazi Germany did manage to keep some first-rate scientists working for them alongside their mass support. Under Mao, educated professionals were sent to the countryside to be peasants for awhile. And so on.

More recently, we have had Hussein, Assad, Pinochet, and Castro as ruthless dictators--what did they do w.r.t. smart people vs dumb people, eugenics, etc? Were they all inept at being dictators?

Anonymous said...

Since everybody is offering up little league memories, I'll give some of mine. I was smaller than most kids but I could throw accurately and field reasonably well. That landed me at second base and pitcher. I could throw strikes and while the other kids were uncoordinated enough to miss easy pickings, I was a great pitcher. As the kids got better, I got crushed. I wasn't strong enough to throw fast so every time I served up anything over the plate, I got crushed. It was fun while it lasted. I found a different sport more suited to my skills and personality.

"Unfortunately, the author does not seem capable of answering a question that I don't have the background to research myself,and which I would love to hear the answer to, which is why almost every top athlete in traditional sports is said to be not just boring but devastatingly boring in real life."

I suppose it depends on what you mean by boring. I competed and coached with several Olympians and a current Olympic coach. It's a traditional sport but not a hugely popular sport in the US so my observations might not satisfy you. Anyway I found some of the top athletes to be quite interesting. But that might be because I spent a lot of time in the sport myself and found their world class knowledge of it interesting. I found studying the personalities of world class athletes to be fascinating. I was also able to meet some international stars and the cultural differences were interesting to me.

However, since I've moved on with my life and no longer coach (I finished grad school), I think I would probably find the day to day life of a full time coach somewhat boring. I would guess the reason others might find top athletes boring is because they don't typically have lots of other interests. They don't have time. Some lack the brainpower. Some lack the interest. Why learn new stuff when whatever they do now is enough to make them famous? They are good at one thing and that's about it. That's why they are famous. Of course some people might say the top athletes are boring out of jealousy or because the athlete seems to be arrogant or have some sort of personality disorder - like Jordon or Lance Armstrong.

And of course there are the top minor sport athletes. Dave Schultz was an interesting character. I believe they are making a movie about his death now...

Anonymous said...

Mozart wasn't "allowed" to compose at 6; he was forced to at 4. You can't separate Wolfgang from his extreme training regimen, so using him as an example of HBD is problematic, to put it gingerly.

That's a myth. Mozart wasn't forced; he had more personal freedom than "normal" children did, then OR now. He loved music with a passion that would have made him a psychopathic Aspie had he lived today.

The "enlightened" modern age is the one where talented inspired children are forced NOT be themselves in the name of socialization and communization. (Sports are somewhat of an exception.) But when was the last time you heard of a 12-year-old graduating from university?

Anonymous said...

"Just as some people really should not drink strong liquor, some people should not be exposed to strong ideas which they can't properly handle."

That's a little harsh. I didn't know that HBD was a dogma. I have my doubts, and I often search the net to see if anyone shares them. Chip Smith, an avid atheist, puts them into words much better than I can:

"Well, high intelligence may very well be an evolutionary dead-end. I’m certainly at a loss to come up with a good reason as to why a once-adaptive trait that you and I happen to value should enjoy special pleading before the blind algorithmic noise that is natural selection."

I'm not sure if he is aware that C.S. Lewis, it goes without saying-a devout Christian, always wondered why people believe that nature will endlessly select for intelligence - many commenters here believe it will, or at least It should. Sunbeam see a discomforting implication of HBD (it offers no consolation to the average working guy) and he is being told to put his eye somewhere else.

I imagine that if society abandons the religious idea of the innate value of man and recognizes only his abilities it is not unreasonable to adopt a perspective like the character in this video.

Dan Kurt said...

re: Catching a high fly ball

I played baseball from age 8 until age 15 I didn't make the team after that year so my playing days ended. I had apparently good coaching as I remember still today how to catch a high fly ball.

1) oberserve the ball rise at the instance just after contact and never lose sight as it rises.
2) move laterally to the right or to the left depending if the angle of the rise is oblique to you on the left or right.
3) if the ball is rising straight up from you, that is it rising at a 90 degree angle, it is coming directly at you. If the ball is beginning to slow that means it probably will soon reach its maximum height so you should be moving forward as long as you see it dropping. The moment you see the ball stop dropping it is coming to you so stop running forward and prepar to catch the ball. If as you are running forward the ball seems to be rising again it means you are over running the ball and it will fly over your head so stop running forward and move back until the ball is not moving up or down but is on a direct path to you and catch it. If the ball when hit is normal to your position (90 degree) and keeps rising without slowing move back until it slows and eventually stops then you stop and the ball will descend usually into your glove with you only having to move one or two steps forward or backward. If the ball never slows as it rises even as you are running backwards it probably will be a home run well out of reach.
4) in the case of an oblique rise either to the right or left move in that direction until the ball is rising at a normal angle then treat it as in case number 3. If it never is seen to be rising at a normal angle before it starts down you never will catch it and if you see it coming down before you can get normal to its flight it probably will pass you in flight or on a bounce.
5) learning the sound of a bat on a ball also is a great clue to fielder.
6. Always, always keep your eye on the ball and move fast.

Dan Kurt

Anonymous said...

I just finished "The Dream Team" by Jack McCallum, and the recurring theme is exactly what jody pointed out. These guys all had that something that made them special (all but late college addition Christian Laettner are in the Hall of Fame), but the work ethic (even Barkley) was what set them apart as superstars.

Gene Berman said...

I may have expressed it here previously but it's been my suspicion for more than 50 years that, in addition to genetic characteristics influencing the more obvious physical characteristics involved in specific activities, the is a genetic something (or some "things") which provide the possessor somethinhg necessary over and above the mere physical attributes: the WILL TO WIN.

12

Jahn Ghalt said...

Lots of interesting comments here.

Among the major American team sports, Baseball seems the most ruthlessly demanding of long regular practice. That Michael Jordan couldn't get out of single-A-pro-ball seems to verify this (and he played high-school ball and probably started like most of us at age ten or younger).

Can anyone cite an example of a major-leaguer (or even AA or AAA) who DIDN'T start in little league?

I'll bet even the supremely-talented Bo Jackson started early.

Said another way, there are no Olajuwon's, or that QB who picked up the game with ease, in Baseball.

Semi-employed White Guy: as one who was blessed with excellent coaching in three sports over a decade I'm sorry to say that I've since found that your lousy coach was all too typical.

Dan Kurt on catching a high fly: that's a lot to think about. I'll bet if you went out right now (well, wait for morning) you'd catch flies just fine without any of that overtly conscious self-instruction - even with your mouth closed

; - }

Talent is interesting, however. Bubba Watson, during his successful run at the 2012 Masters, was said to rarely practice (can anyone corroborate?).

John Daly is another, said to be oozing with talent - but even he alluded to having to work on his game in his memoir.

Here's a John Daly story. Once after a tournament round he asked Tiger Woods to join him and some others to skip his workout and pound some beers. Tiger's reply: "If I had your talent, I would"