21 July 2011

On being condemned to expertise

I've just been reading Matthew Syed's excellent Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice (2011, Fourth Estate*). I'm not a great sport fan, or music or chess buff, and those are the fields he discusses most, but he has an entertaining approach to Ericsson, and Dweck and other usual suspects.

I may be perverse but I do wonder about the opportunity cost of acquiring such expertise. In other words, what is the trade-off between what these people could have done with their childhood and adolescence, and what they ended up doing with it? I'm sure that they learned a great deal about perseverance and commitment and mind-set; but... Often it wasn't their idea--the Williams sisters and Tiger Woods and many more had to forgo many "normal" experiences of growing up because they were too busy and too focused--and it was not nexessarily their vision which drove them. See the controversy provoked by Chua's (2011) Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother London; Bloomsbury.

See also this post and its links

* I'm not signed up to Adsense or any other scheme, and I have decided not to link to Amazon any more. If you want it you can find it--preferably at an independent local, physical bookshop. I'm prompted to this by a belated epiphany. I had occasion to go to Ampthill yesterday and came across Horatio's bookshop (and artist's materials purveyor...). Quirky and independent--and I'm sure endangered (although according to the website it started in 2009). And what about Topping's in Bath and Ely? Or even grumpy County Town Books in Bedford... Use them or lose them! Yes, they're not as cheap, but buying the book is only a small part of your investment in it--consider how long you spend reading it.

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