It’s not about the genes, darling! It’s practice!
Still many today laugh at the thought of being able to “become a genius”. Most people are convinced that “geniality” is something that happens to you, a bit like having red hair o blue eyes.
Truth is a bit different and it’s science stating it. As the Italian psycologist Pietro Trabucchi states in one of his books, Anders Ericcson, psycology professor at the University of Florida of Sweedish origin “gave scientific support to the fact that in our species the pinnacle of excellency is not obtained thanks to genetic determinism, but through a voluntary process: absolute performances in any field, be it artistic, chess, sport or science research are preponderantly the fruit of practice rather than innate abilities.”
This naturally doesn’t mean that the genetic predispositions we inherited from our parents don’t count, highlights Trabucchi. It’s obvious that a wannabe basketball player who is 7 ft tall (2.13 mt) has basically better chances than someone who is a mere 5ft9inc (1.80 mt). But if the first confides on his height alone to climb the stairways to stardom he can easily be trampled on by the latter if he has trained for years with constant drive and determination.
In other words Trabucchi concludes “without effort and dedication, without exertion and training you can be good, but never extraordinary.
Intentional Exercise vs Mechanical Exercise
The fruitage of Ericsson’s study is known as “the theory of the ten thousand hours”. Take heed. Many – if not all, confused by that teaching according to which you need to read and repeat until you nail it into your brain is as ancient as it is wrong – end up thinking that you get extraordinary results only if you put tons of effort into it ultimately boring yourself to death.
We are so used to thinking studying is nothing more that read-and-repeat that if someone tell us that in order to have excellent results all we need to do is simply work harder longer hours with more determination and effort, many prefer letting it all go.
This is how such ideas as “I’m not cut out for this subject”, “I don’t feel like it”, “I’m too tired”, are formed. All these are in effect form of protection apt at avoiding the burden and boredom that a mechanical study method can have, like repeating till you drop!
If you have read Open, The provocative book by tennis champ Andrè Agassi, you’ll know that you can have extraordinary results like his even if you hate what you do, simply because you want it.
Agassi in fact tells that he hated tennis, sport he was forced into practicing by his father. Whether that is true or not is not for us to say – his father wrote another book altogether to deny what his son wrote – right now we are not interested in knowing where the truth lies as much as understanding that by means of obsessive repetition, full of stress and anger, one can actually reach even great results at time, but at what cost?
Always concerning tennis let’s now consider another tennis champ, Novak Djokovic. In his book “Serve to win”(“Il punto vincente” Italian edition) he tells how since he was a little boy he’d run the risk of being blown up by a bomb coming from American planes during the attacks in ex-Yugoslavia where he lived, just so he could go play tennis. His life and tennis were one in the same, he loved tennis more than anything else, and willingly sacrificed many other “common pleasures” for the sake of tennis, one example is pasta.
Yep, you got it, pasta. Novak says that regardless of his boundless love for tennis, his body couldn’t take the stress on the tennis courts and he would fall to the ground without strength.
After an endless amount of visits a strange and somewhat unconventional doctor ventilated the thought that his problem could be an intolerance to gluten and advised him to abstain from it completely, eliminating it entirely from his diet.
Novak’s rebirth started from that moment onward. Without any more physical limitations caused by pasta and gluten he conquered triumph after triumph, extraordinary results.
The morale. There are two ways you can achieve results: mechanical exercise, repetitive and passive, what you do because you have to, but it bores you to death. In this case scenario the exertion is VERY HIGH, the strain a real killer along with ZERO entertainment. If for any given reason – a very demanding father, a particularly strong or dramatic external need – you can keep this exertion all the necessary time needed to achieve results, you may even conquer a certain mastery, be it in sport or language skills, for a fact however the quality of your life is quite low.
There is however the way of receiving results: intentional exercise which, as far as learning is concerned we can also call “intelligent exercise”, or better exercise in which you apply yourself with pleasure after annihilating what kills you.
In Novak’s case the gluten contained in pasta was his poison, in the case of students in general the poison is the linear method of studying, repetitive and non-associative, that we learn in schools.
Don’t let yourself be blinded by words, I’ll explain. Follow me because what I am about to tell you could literally change your life and your results at least as much as eating gluten free changed Novak’s.
Primitive man, the saber-tooth tiger and the internet
What do: primitive man, the saber-tooth tiger and the internet have in common? Apparently, nothing at all. Well, actually as Joshua Foer, brilliant journalist and US Memory champ in 2006 explains, “our memory is not fit for our contemporary world. Memory like sight, language skills, the erect posture and every other biological characteristic of humans, has evolved thanks to a process of natural selection in a very different environment from the one we live in today.”
Foer reminds us that our brain evolved during the Pleistocene epoch where our ancestors’ problems were definitely not remembering the phone numbers of workmates and family by heart, or remembering the boss’s instruction to the tee, nor did they have to study page after page of written information. At that time their problems were remembering where the food was, where that quite unfriendly saber-tooth tiger usually roamed about, how to get home, what edible plants looked like, and which plants made them drop dead in a flash.
In other words, our mind evolved so as to store data by IMAGES, not long meaningless series of black marks written down on a white sheet of paper.
If you think about it, what is it in fact that most people do in the hope of remembering what they’ve studied more and better? Exactly! they highlight it in the hope of remembering more clearly what they’ve studied, they highlight with bright colors those meaningless lines of letters they need to learn. Unfortunately though, as you might have understood, it’s not that by turning a flat sheet of paper from “black and white” to “black, white and fluorescent yellow” things really change. Actually, all you’ve done is used up ink for no reason at all.
Underlining, or highlighting, “adding color” to the page in order to remember something better is only a pale and ineffective attempt at recreating those circumstances that, unknowingly each and every one of us in him most remote part of the mind knows this should be the best way to remember information: associating them to meaningful images.
So, even if you are armed with good will (we are not talking about those who really could care less!), even if you desire to give it all you’ve got, study and learn because you know you’ll need it e it’ll be useful or because you like what you are doing, but you keep on using your mind differently form how it was meant to work, you will never be able to achieve the results you deserve!
It’s a bit like wanting a Ferrari to go by filling the tank up with canola oil instead of fuel: you might actually even get to travel a mile or two, but it sure will not have the performances that it is meant to have if it ran on the fuel it was meant to be using.
The same thing happens to our mind: if you want to remember more and better, you need to make it work the way it was meant to work. This is like applying “intentional” exercises and not merely mechanical ones we were talking about earlier.
How can you do all this? Easier said than done.
If you are even just a bit curious and you think you might have enough determination to read the instructions on your own and applying them, you can look for a good book on effective learning techniques in your local bookstore.
We obviously advise you to buy ours: we know it’s a great text book, because it stems from tens of thousands of hours of experience with thousands of students from all around Italy and abroad, and from hundreds of thousands of hours spent tutoring, one-on-one coaching that only those in attendance at one of our courses receives in order to use the techniques in complete independence, like real champs..
If, on the other hand, you feel that it would take you forever doing it on your own, that the book would end up – like many others – needlessly collecting dust on a shelf when you really are interested in changing your results for the better and press the turbo on your professional study situation, then we invite you to come visit us and get to personally get to know us in one of our 36 branches we have spread around the Northern Hemisphere: Italy, Switzerland, USA, Spain and England.
PS: At any rate, allow me to remind you a fundamental truth: never allow that a small dose of poison, that can easily be eliminated from your life, stops you from becoming the champion you can be!