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If you practice, you can prevail.

But you’ll have to start early, you’ll probably have to practice for more than ten thousand hours to prevail at the highest level, and your practicing will have to be focused, precise, and probably supervised by someone who really knows what he or she is doing.

In Bounce, Matthew Syed argues that such practice is far more important than natural talent. He discusses numerous alleged naturals in fields as diverse as tennis, chess, and musical composition whose triumphs were the products of exceptional training rather than great genes.

He argues that people who succeed magnificently in business, medicine, and mathematics do so because of long, failure-riddled experience and precise, specific training. He debunks the idea that great managers can manage anybody doing anything, or that some people are simply inclined to be good at math, whereas others aren’t.

Bounce is an ambitious book, and readers may find themselves taking issue with some of the particulars. Syed argues, for example, that “it is only an expert performer…who has the capacity to choke.” What about passionate amateurs who can play Beethoven’s Fifth flawlessly in their own living rooms, but whose fingers turn into bananas when they’re asked to play for company?

Still, the book is full of provocative thinking and some conclusions very much worth entertaining, including the prescriptions against racist perceptions with which Syed concludes Bounce.

This program aired on April 23, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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