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Matthew Syed Quotes

Matt Syed Author

Matthew Syed quotes: smart sayings from the author of Bounce and Black Box Thinking.

“Learn from the mistakes of others.  You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

“Every endeavor pursued with passion produces a successful outcome, regardless of the result.  For it is not about winning or losing – rather, the effort put forth in producing the outcome.”

“Lowering standards just leads to poorly educated students who feel entitled to easy work and lavish praise.”

“Studies have shown that we are often so worried about failure that we create vague goals, so that nobody can point the finger when we don’t achieve them.  We come up with face-saving excuses, even before we have attempted anything.”

“Excellence is not reserved for the lucky few, but can be achieved by almost all of us.”

“We cover up mistakes, not only to protect ourselves from others, but to protect us from ourselves.  Experiments have demonstrated that we all have a sophisticated ability to delete failures from memory, like editors cutting gaffes from a film reel.  Far from learning from mistakes, we edit them out of the official autobiographies we all keep in our own heads.”

“When two people share a common passion: they are capable of empathizing with each other’s misery.”

“It is only by starting at an unusually young age and by practicing with such ferocious devotion that it is possible to accumulate 10,000 hours while still in adolescence.  Far from being an exception to the 10,000 hour rule, Mozart is a shining testament to it.”

“World-class performance comes by striving for a target just out of reach, but with a vivid awareness of how the gap might be breached.  Over time, through constant repetition and deep concentration, the gap will disappear, only for a new target to be created, just out of reach once again.”

“The only way to be sure is to go out and test your ideas and programs, and to realize that you will often be wrong.  But that is not a bad thing.  It leads to progress.”

“Child prodigies amaze us because we compare them not with other performers who have practiced for the same length of time, but with children of the same age who have not dedicated their lives in the same way.  We delude ourselves into thinking they possess miraculous talents because we assess their skills in a context that misses the essential point.  We see their little bodies and cute faces and forget that, hidden within their skulls, their brains have been sculpted – and their knowledge deepened – by practice that few people accumulate until well into adulthood, if then.  Had the six-year-old Mozart been compared with musicians who had clocked up 3,500 hours of practice, rather than with other children of the same age, he would not have seemed exceptional at all.”

“It is partly because we are so willing to blame others for their mistakes that we are so keen to conceal our own.”

Michael Jordan, the basketball great, is a case in point.  In a famous Nike commercial, he said: ‘I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed.’  For many, the ad was perplexing.  Why boast about your mistakes?  But to Jordan it made perfect sense.  ‘Mental toughness and heart are a lot stronger than some of the physical advantages you might have,’ he said.  ‘I’ve always said that and I’ve always believed that.'”

“Failure is rich in learning opportunities for a simple reason: in many of its guises, it represents a violation of expectation.  It is showing us that the world is in some sense different from the way we imagined it to be.”

“Marginal gains is not about making small changes and hoping they fly.  Rather, it is about breaking down a big problem into small parts in order to rigorously establish what works and what doesn’t.”

“The practice sessions of aspiring champions have a specific and never-changing purpose: progress.  Every second of every minute of every hour, the goal is to extend one’s mind and body, to push oneself beyond the outer limits of one’s capacities, to engage so deeply in the task that one leaves the training session, literally, a changed person.”

“Scientific ideas should succeed or fail according to rational argument and evidence.  It is about data rather than dogma.”

“If we interpret difficulties as indictments of who we are, rather than as pathways to progress, we will run a mile from failure.  Grit, then, is strongly related to the growth mindset; it is about the way we conceptualize success and failure.”

“Black box thinking is about the willingness and tenacity to investigate the lessons that often exist when we fail, but which we rarely exploit.  It is about creating systems and cultures that enable organizations to learn from errors, rather than being threatened by them.”

“Failure is a signpost.  It reveals a feature of our world we hadn’t grasped fully and offers vital clues about how to update our models, strategies, and behaviors.”

“Memory, it turns out, is not as reliable as we think.  We do not encode high-definition movies of our experiences and then access them at will.  Rather, memory is a system dispersed throughout the brain and is subject to all sorts of biases.  Memories are suggestible.  We often assemble fragments of entirely different experiences and weave them together into what seems like a coherent whole.  With each recollection, we engage in editing.”

“Trying to increase discipline and accountability in the absence of a just culture has precisely the opposite effect.  It destroys morale, increases defensiveness, and drives vital information deep underground.”

“Mere experience, if it is not matched by deep concentration, does not translate into excellence.”

“Progress is built, in effect, upon the foundations of necessary failure.  That is the essential paradox of expert performance.”

That’s a wrap.  Know what pairs nicely with Syed’s quotes?  The author of Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin’s quotes.

Cory Johnson: CEO of a business he has yet to launch. As seen on your mom’s phone. Scaled to 7-figures in seven seconds selling a course on selling courses. Kidding. Watch this.