Before we left for vacation, I stopped by the library to stock up on some good car ride reads. I knew I’d want something for the long road trip as well as for the time we spent in the tv-less cabin. I chose a good classic novel, a book about web design, and the Outliers, which looked like a good business-motivational read.
In the Outliers, the author shows evidence that practice will definitely make you better at something. He cited a study done in the ’90s at the Academy of music in Berlin. Vilolin students were split up into three groups – those that were the stars who may become world class soloist, those that were thought to be ‘good’, and those that were unlikely to ever become professionals in the music world.
All of these had started playing around the same time – at age 5 – but at the age of eight differences in practice time became evident. Those that ended up being the best in the class practiced quite a bit more than those who did not.
K. Anders Ericsson, who along with two colleagues conducted this study, then looked at amateur pianists and professional pianists and saw the same pattern emerge.
Finding a ‘natural’ – one who could become top professionally without having to practice at all – was not accomplished. In addition, those that worked harder than the others always tended to do better than the others – meaning the researchers didn’t find anyone who worked extremely hard but didn’t do well.
I found this interesting from both the perspective of a parent and the perspective of a business woman.
As a mother, I hear these types of statements from other parents – and I’ve said a few myself. “My daughter/son would like to do (fill in the blank with a sport or activity) but I’m not sure how well he/she will do because of (fill in the blank with a personality trait that contradicts this sport or activity).”
Or, to be more specific, here is my example: “My oldest wants to do ballet, but she goes at 100 miles per hour all the time and because of this seems to do best at fast moving activities.”
In some ways, I do believe that personality lends itself to certain things that become our strong points. In general, those that are extremely shy don’t do well talking in front of crowds and would tend to back away from careers in public speaking.
Those afraid of heights are not as likely to jump out of planes, and those with a lot of energy tend to pick high energy activities, like soccer or running, over those that don’t require as much energy.
As a mother, I will sign my daughter up for whatever she wants to try because I believe that is the point of life – to go out there and experience life in order to find what you love.