Ever since I started competing in Track and Field, as far back as freshman year in High School, I was always fascinated with athletic performance, and what contributed to an elite athlete’s athletic performance.
This book finally cleared up that mystery. The answer - no surprise - is a combination of Nature and Nurture - one needs to have the right genetics (i.e. ‘hardware’), to be able to respond to training, but also the right ‘software’ (i.e. the training itself).
Here are a few factoids from the book that I found especially facinating:
the single best predictor of a major league hitters batting average is not reaction time but visual acuity. A study of this comparing batting averages of elite players (even as far back as Ted Williams) all had eyesight around 20/10 - some with score of 20/8 - approaching the biological limit of human sight. This allowed the players to not only see the type of pitch being thrown in the 1/16th of a second it takes to leave the pitchers hand - but gave them the ability to mentally process this information in milliseconds, based on subconsciously viewing the the ball’s trajectory, spin and pitchers’ shoulder (i.e. they had the hardware (eyesight) but the software part (thousands of hours of batting practice) imprinted these patterns on their brain.
A study of Kenyan marathon runners (some of the best distance runners in the world) found NO difference in Vo2 MAX, hemoglobin levels or other physical trains when compared to european runners. What made Kenyans so great? For any given size Kenyans evolved with very narrow leg bones, which made their legs 1-2 lbs lighter than the europeans. A study done showed that even 1/10th of 1lb lighter leg weight contributes to 8% greater running efficiency. That’s why sneaker companies strive to make lighter shoes. Kenyans have significantly more efficient running as a result. Another factor of the Kenyans is that they train at altitudes of 6,000 - 8,000 feet, which is considered ideal for adaptation to endurance. Lastly, Kenyans have a system whereby all students are required to train for endurance sports - so they have a lot more people to choose from.
What makes a great sprinter - someone with long legs relative to body height, with narrow hips, high concentration of fast-twitch muscle fibers, and a center of gravity that’s 3 cms above the navel. It just so happens that Jamaicans have evolved with this set of physiology - but they also have a structured system whereby they seek out the best of the best and have an elaborate training system when they find athletes with potential.
About 6 in 1,000 people come ‘out of the box’ with elite genes - and this blows away the 10,000 hours rule (a reference to the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell) which states that the average time it takes to become elite - is based on 10,000 of ‘deliberate practice’ - in all fields from music, sports or Chess. Not so. The original study of this had a range from 1,000 hours to 40,000 hours. The book talked about the 2007 world champion high jumper - who literally took up the sport 7 months prior to competing - and his first jump ever (taken on a dare when he was in high school - he cleared 7 feet.
The book gave many more examples and was written in a very eloquent manner.Overall - the book reinforced the point that all people benefit from training. But to be elite, you need to have the right genetic factors specific to the sport AND the right training.
I personally thought this was one of the best Sci-fi books I've read in many years. I can't wait for the movie.
This book chronicles the life of Josh Waitzkin's rise in both the chess and martial arts world - becoming a world champion in both domains. Josh gives very detailed accounts of chess and Tai Chi - from learning the arts, to mastery to competition.
Essentially - his learning principles come down to a few basic concepts (note - this is not a complete list - but what I took as his main points):
1) mastering the basics: you can't perform dazzling moves unless you have internalized the basic ones until they become instinctive
2) Staying calm and relaxed (Josh describes various breathing patters he uses)
3) Being able to quickly recover in between rounds (micro recoveries) - Josh advocates High Intensity cardio training to help with this. (actually - I found the chapter dealing with this the most interesting - as he has worked with elite coaches and studied many elite athletes / learners and he said this was the single quality that separated the good from the truly great
4) maintaining focus / going with the flow / not getting frazzled even when things are not going your way.
5) having your form/style be an expression of your personality and not being unnaturally stifled (this comes after learning and mastering the basics)
The book reinforced some things which I knew and tried to work on. I can't say the book was earth shattering or gave me that 'wow - I never knew that' feeling. Also - there are many detailed accounts of chess and martial arts tournaments which set the backdrop for each of the principals. I felt this could have been boiled down into a white paper but, still, there were some good anecdotes. Anyone who competed in martial arts, or any sport, will relate very well to Josh's stories.
The book definitely had some good insight about how to apply special ops tactics to personal and business situations. I even used one of the tools called the FITS (Fit, Important, Timing, Simple) test - which is how Seals select missions - as a framework to help select client targets in my own business. Worth the read if you keep an open mind to the techniques.
First of all - you can skip the first 4 chapters, which were rather long and boring and dealt with his family history, his time as a youth, etc. Chapter 5 is where it really all begins and discusses his WWI exploits and the post-war years leading up to WWII.
This book really brought to bare some of the idiosyncrasies and events which defined Patton's character. Repeated head trauma from polo injuries, for example, may have been the cause for his often violent temper later in life. Also, despite what anyone might think, Patton was often plagued with self-doubt that he was never doing enough, or being all he could be. In his mid-50's before the start of WWII he had a major mid-life crisis where he thought the Army would feel he was too old, and miss the next war - thus denying him of what he believed was his destiny. Destiny, was something that Patton believed in - that he was born to lead men into combat. Even throughout WWII as various decisions were made by Eisenhower and other commanders, Patton often wondered if he would ever realize his true destiny, and would often become depressed - whenever he was not leading men, or in combat.
Right after WWII there several very close calls Patton had - nearly freak accidents - which made him think that someone was trying to kill him. He even said to his children, upon returning home from the war briefly before going back to keep peace in Europe, that they would never see him alive again. He was right. Somehow, he knew he was going to die - but, as many friends and family believe - it was better than having him living the rest of his life in a world without a war. Patton said himself that, "Now that there is no war, I have lost all my value to this world". Nevertheless, it makes me wonder if there really was a plot to kill him from various political beliefs he held, including wanting to go to war with Russia, and showing public sympathy for some Nazi business leaders in Europe.
Overall - an interesting book - but as I stated - the first four chapters were not really relevant.
I almost didn't pick this one because there were some mixed reviews. I'm sure glad I did as this was one of the better first-person accounts I've read. The author writes with such incredible detail that you feel as though you are in the cockpit next to him.
IMO this book serves a a lesson to today's generals as well. First- we succeeded in the gulf wars because we had trained to fight a super power (Russia). Also, in an era where many rear echelon generals are in charge of the military, and claiming that robot plains will replace fighter pilots and ground troops - we must never forget that wars will always be won through a combination of combat pilots AND infantry working towards a common objective.
The book was informative and entertaining and I'm certainly glad I selected it.
I found this book to be enjoyable and cover a large gamut of relevant information. I especially liked the middle chapters which discussed human psychology which is useful for trying to sell.
The benefit of having a condensed reference guide such as this is that you only get to scratch the surface in-terms of content. Also, I reject the notion that this summarizes an MBA program. No single book can capture two years of case-study, problem solving, networking and business simulations - not even close.
I took a few key ideas / phrases with me that I will apply on some clients - that's about it - but I still consider it a good overview of many key business / selling concepts. Also - the author references many sources of information that the reader can seek additional background information.
Reading this book made me realize that the participants in RAAM are no doubt the toughest, baddest, and most mentally focused athletes in the world. Going through RAAM is like subjecting yourself to Navy Seals Hell Week - except with the added pains of saddle sores, neck paralysis, pulmonary edema, swollen hands and feet, hallucinations, and a host of other ailments. The author did a great job in helping the reader understand what motivated each of the main contestants portrayed in the book, and how they dealt with the tortures of this grueling race. I can't say it was motivational - as some sports books are. This was more of a drama / documentary - but gave me a greater appreciation for these athletes.
As a fan of his earlier movies, this was a must-read for me, and I enjoyed it. Like some other reviews stated - the reading can be a bit dry at times. Nevertheless, it's a great story about someone who worked hard and is living the dream. Until I read this book - I assumed that everything came easy for Arnold. This was not the case. He worked harder than anyone to pursue his dream despite a very humble and difficult childhood. Growing up in post-war Austria was by no means easy. He recalls that when he was a boy and became ill - is father had to carry him 4 miles through deep snow to the nearest doctor. Despite all of this, he used bodybuilding, and his incredible drive and business sense, to turn his life around. If there is a moral of this book - I think it would be 'Think Big and then work like hell to make that dream come true."
Well - I don't usually listen to any books twice - but if I had this in hard copy I would surely keep it on my bookshelf as a reference guide for leadership. He takes us through key points in his career - from a young Army infantry officer in Viet Nam - General and Secretary of State. Along the way, he describes key decisions he had to make, and the reasons behind them. I thought this was one of the better books on leadership I read. One could easily use the same approaches in most situations in business.
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