Thursday, February 26, 2009

Success is All in the Mind

We recently read a great article by Shelley Gare in The Weekend Australian (24-25 January 2009), which questions whether success is based on natural talent or hard work. It cites the work of Swedish Professor of Psychology Anders Ericsson who champions the notion of "deliberate practice". The article tells us that:
For him, deliberate practice is the magic bullet that takes someone into the stratosphere of brilliance, whether they're golfers or ballet stars, business tycoons or doctors. Not innate talent, which he's not sure even exists, but practice, albeit practice of a particular, concentrated, gruelling kind...

The only thing he will allow is that very occasionally certain physical gifts, such as height in a basketballer, will help. But in every other case, what's at work in such massive successes as golfer [Tiger] Woods is a complex cognitive process that pushes the body and mind to extraordinary heights.

And almost anyone can do it... Deliberate practice, whether it's applied to sport or business or the arts, begins in the brain... what makes someone spectacular in their field – and keeps them there – is training via a kind of focused, repetitive practice in which the subject is always monitoring his or her performance, correcting, experimenting, listening to immediate and constant feedback, and always pushing beyond what has already been achieved.
This brings to mind Australian batsman and cricketing legend Sir Donald Bradman who reminisces in his 1948 autobiography Farewell to Cricket about his early training:
At the back of our home was an 800 gallon water tank set on a round brick stand. From the tank to the laundry door was a distance of about eight feet. The area underfoot was cemented and, with all doors shut, this portion was enclosed on three sides and roofed over so that I could play there on wet days. Armed with a small cricket sump which I used as a bat, I would throw a golf ball at this brick stand and try to hit the ball on the rebound... The golf ball came back at great speed and to hit it at all with the round stump was no easy task. 
It is now part of Australian folklore that Bradman would spend hours and hours each day honing and perfecting his batting technique in this manner. He went on to be recognised as the greatest batsman in cricketing history.

This got us thinking about who has earned the moniker of the greatest comics writers and artists of all time and who had learned their craft through their own specific brand of  "deliberate practice". As a starting point we would suggest the person who had coined the term "graphic novel" – the great Will Eisner. We'd be interested in your thoughts on the matter.

Check out the article on The Australian website. 

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