Just finished reading Bounce, a great book on the science of success. The author explores all sorts of hidden or underappreciated contributing factors to success, challenging the notion that some people are just born with IT. Among other things, this includes the Gladwellian 10,000 hours of practice idea, along with a range of cognitive behaviour type stuff to do with motivation and perserverance. One of the most fascinating sections looks at the social dimension of motivation. How simple shared connections trigger remarkable behaviours.
In sports, this can be seen in the surge of successful South Korean golfers following the success of Se Ri Pak (though it took the equivalent of 10,000 hours in years to start seeing the results! Same holds for the high rankings of Russian tennis players in the WTA.
But even more amazing was a Yale University study in which they gave a group of students a math test. Half the students were told the story of a yale professor who shared a birth date with the students. The other half of the class was given the same motivational story, BUT did not share a birth date with the professor. remarkably, the motivation level of the students was vastly greater in the first group. They spent 65 percent longer on the math problem, and reported significantly more positive attitudes toward math and greater optimism about their abililties. The shared connection of a birthday was enough to motivate them. Or, as the author puts it, "suddenly it was US doing this, as opposed to ME doing it.