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Beating the Odds

How to Become Great at Anything

Do you want to be a great coach? Athlete? Entrepreneur?

No matter what you’d love to do, you must rely either on nature (innate talent) or nurture (skill acquired through practice and feedback).

The question is, which one?

For baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, there was no doubt. His opinion — and Cobb had very strong opinions — was that successful people are made, not born. The following words come from 1925, when Cobb looked back at the first 20 years of his career.

“I never wonder nowadays at the natural gifts of some great business man or lawyer. I know that his ability and polish were not born in him. I know that he had to learn every bit of it, one detail at a time and that he had to concentrate his whole intelligence and strength on the learning. Men are not born with a grasp of intellectual or physical undertakings. Some men are born with more muscle and some with more brains than others, it is true, but unless those brains are trained to the mastery of details they are of no great value. Less brains, if well trained can do a better job.”

What a beautiful tribute to what experts now call deliberate practice! To win success, a person must “concentrate his (or her) whole intelligence and strength on the learning.” And then there is the reference to “one detail at a time.”

No wonder Cobb was the greatest player of his era, setting records that still stand. He knew what we know now. Success depends on how you practice. This is how anyone beats the odds, reaches peak performance, or wins the big one.

Here’s the best news of all: You can practice in your field the way Cobb did in his!

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Would you like to improve at what you do? “The Improvement Factor: How Winners Turn Practice into Success” can show you how! Are you a coach? “Ten Things Great Coaches Know” can make you a better one.


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