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Failure in the presence of persistence is a reflection of success to come

October 1st, 2007

This title is fueling me for IM-Florida. I know I’ve made errors associated with this year’s performance, but that is okay,…I live and learn,…which yields only net change for the better. One thing Peter made clear to me early on when I started working with him,…there are no excuses – so don’t look for them. As a product of your own choices, you directly determine your life outcomes.

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Another snippet from Mark Allen’s book:

“Ironman gives you a different reference point. My performance didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, but it gave me a total strength that I didn’t have before. When you do shorter races, you’re not always tested to the fullest. You’re not faced with as many moments of inner truth. At Ironman, you willingly put yourself through what can be a completely agonizing test. All of a sudden, when you’re done, other things don’t sound so difficult. The race helps to stabilize you.”

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Now as promised, from Michael Colgan’s (PhD, CCN) article on THE MAKING OF GENIUS in Vista Magazine:

“Studies of elite physical and metal performance confirm what is termed “decade rule”. You have to put in at least a decade of the right focused work to even approach mastery in any field. And you have to want to do it.

…Putting in the time is not only necessary in science and in sport. The best concert pianists take about 15 years to earn international recognition. Top sculptors and mathematicians put in similar amounts of consistent training.

…Olympic swimmers train for an average of 15 years before making the team. Success seems to be only marginally related to talent. The data indicates that the best way to make most Olympic teams is to begin practicing the sport relentlessly shortly after birth. The decade rule applies even for those few who are born with supreme talent. Mozart, for example, was playing the violin at three years of age and received brilliant instruction from the start. By age seven, he was writing his own symphonies, but he did not produce the music that made him a genius until his teens. The same is true for Tiger Woods. He seems magical on the golf course, but was swinging a golf club before he could walk. He got the best instruction and practiced consistently from infanthood. Even today, he outworks most of his rivals. He has laboriously constructed his genius.

MENTORS ESSENTIAL

…[an] important factor that emerged from our study of champions is the necessity of a great mentor. Mentors enable the potential genius to use their time wisely. I was privileged to know violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who died in 1999. Like Mozart, he began to play the violin at age three. Under the tutelage of Sigmund Anker, he presented his first solo performance at age seven. But restricted by his early instruction from several teachers, Menuhin did not reach prominence until 1947 at age 28, when he performed in Germany as the first Jewish violinist to play there after the Second World War. His playing then improved dramatically to genius level in the 1950s, after studying meditation and yoga under the great BKS Iyengar in 1952. He called Iyengar his best violin teacher. Menuhin was acknowledged for his contributions to music by a knighthood in 1965.

The subjects of Bloom’s study above, like most elite performers, almost invariably had great support in their formative years. Bloom came to see genus as less of an individual trait and more a creation of environment and mentoring. “We were looking for exceptional kids”, he said, “and what we found were exceptional conditions.”

He was intrigued to discover that few of the study’s subjects had shown special promise when they first took up the fields they later excelled in, and most showed no early ambition for stellar achievement. Rather, they were encouraged as children to explore and learn, and were then supported in focused ways as they began to develop an area they particularly liked.

CHUNKING

In addition to long-term self motivated study and brilliant mentoring, the research on genius offers another important strategy that can be applied to improving the brain. That strategy is called “chunking” – the skill of grouping details and concepts into easily remembered patterns. With innumberable details to remember, medical schools and law schools are awash with chunking routines. Chess provides the classic illustration. Show a novice a chess game in progress for a few seconds and they will typically be able to remember the positions of only five or six pieces. Show Gary Kasparov the same game and he will memorize the board instantly. He can not only recreate it unseen, but also details all the moves open to either side. Yet chess masters don’t necessarily have innately better memories than you or I; their chunking skills apply predominately to the chessboard. Show a chess master and a novice a random list of 20 digits for a few seconds and the memory difference declines dramatically. Neither will be able to recall all the digits in sequence. In a chess game, the master sees not the 20 or more pieces that confront him, but patterns of power relationships, well-learned chunks, each of which is already in his memory. By long and correct study, he has altered his brain to construct a mental map of chess. We all use chunking skills when we read. Conventional instruction in reading starts with being taught to recognize letters. Then you learn chunks of letters as words, then chunks of words as phrases and eventually, whole sentences. That’s where most of us stop learning to read, about the end of high school. It is not even close to the capacity of your brain. In fact, conventional methods of learning to read may interfere with some software in the brain, which is capable of processing reading without most schooling. Some savants, such as Kim Peek, can read and totally recall whole pages of text in a few seconds. To improve the work on brain plasticity of Michael Merzenich and his techniques of Fast For Word, to advance reading a step further. We have successfully taught ourselves – and some children with above average IQ – to read by whole paragraphs at the same pace that the average person reads a sentence, with no loss of comprehension. This level of chunking quadruples reading speed, proving a great asset for academic studies and personal affairs.

…[research] shows that both the number and strength of the nerve connections that process a memory or skill increase in proportion to how often and how effectively the lessons are repeated. From this recent research, it is likely that the right focused study may allow one person to build the connections faster than another, but the lessons can be learned by almost everyone. And the lessons do have to be learned. You cannot appreciate the genus of Shakespeare unless you have studied his works. No matter what age you are now, if you want to improve your thought processes, and with them every aspect of your existence, you should begin today to grown your brain with the right study and the guidance of an expert mentor. There is no more important task in your life. The new research shows that within a decade, you may well begin to think like a genius.”