That’s the mantra my fellow Canadians are chanting to encourage Canadian athletes to deliver gold at the Winter Olympics. The games, as you know, open this Friday in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. The expectations are high and the pundits predict that this will be Canada’s most successful Winter games.
The Olympics gives cause to reflect on the amount of practice and perseverance required for success. I’ve often spoke about my son and his skating coach who informed him that it took 800 repetitions before a movement became embedded into muscle memory; and that Olympians generate over 16,000 repetitions to achieve a modicum of success. I suspect that number is a conservative one.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell – a Canadian – mentions the “10,000 hour rule”, namely that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in any area or endeavour. I have certainly logged over 10,000 hours of practice and plan on logging easily that many more hours. It is easy to do if one views practice as part of the process rather than the end goal.
Recently, while conducting research on Max Malini (mentioned in an earlier post), I came across an article published in March 1920 in The Magical Bulletin (Vol. 8, No. 3) in which the author, Edward H. Philbrook, spoke with Malini about the secret of his success. It wasn’t Malini’s technical virtuosity or bold personality that made him successful; the real secret was “rehearsal”.
Interestingly, Margaret Wente in her Globe and Mail column “Have you done your 10,000 hours”, discusses an alternate point of view Steven Pinker, another Canadian, tables in his book The Blank Slate. Pinker, a Professor of Psychology at Harvard, claims that innate talent and intelligence matter more than we like to openly champion. We emphasize the power of hard work – 10,000 hours – because it is politically correct.
While I believe talent, intelligence, practice and persistence are all required, practice and persistence are key. The reason being there are now so many talented and intelligent people in this world, one must look to other factors – practice and persistence – to separate those who truly excel from those who don’t. Persistence, what Canadians call ‘heart’, has always been our strong suit. When it comes to ice hockey, however, as I’m sure these games will demonstrate, the playing field – or ice – is now much more level. Canadians, and Americans, have adopted the best practices of European skill development; Europeans now understand the importance of heart and tenacity. Now, it’s anyone’s game.
Perhaps it comes down to a matter of faith. If so, that’s good.