Talent and Pain

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

When Aretae mentioned the recent refutation of the 10,000-hour rule, Dr. Pat chimed in with a story about a chat he had with a graduate of the Chinese Olympic program:

She’d be selected from a nationwide search at the age of 7 and spent the next 13 years living and training in specialized facilities.

There was an initial selection: For swimming all the children were lined up on the edge of a pool, some objects were thrown in, and the kids told to retrieve them. Talent spotters grabbed the children who “showed promise” and they were selected.

This particular woman got into both the swimming and ballet programs. And stayed in both until at about 15 she had to choose, because nobody could specialize and keep up the training for both.

About the training, she just kept talking about pain. Lots and lots of pain. Hours of pain every day.

We were talking about the movie Black Swan, and she said that in real life it is much more brutal and painful than shown in the movie.

There was also a weird psychological thing about how a child who didn’t come from a horrible, poor, background could never be a good dancer because you needed pain to be able to put it into the dance. I’ve heard the same argument about music and I didn’t understand it then either. I’ve classified this as “Stuff I’ll remember the words to, as it may well be true, but that’s all I can do.”

To get back to the point: The Chinese certainly think it is a combination of innate talent combined with years of practice.

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