Not about cars…but a great read.

The Iceberg Illusion

The visible part of an iceberg is only a small portion of the total size of this incredibly large chunk of ice. An iceberg that towers 100 feet in the air will have  a depth of 600 feet and 9 times the volume of ice is under water!  In life, we often are influenced by what I call the “iceberg illusion.” It is easy to explain away someone’s amazing performance to natural talent or being “gifted” with certain skills. In truth, it is like the iceberg. We see a small portion of the work that was necessary to reach the level of “world’s best.”  This leads us to the case of the three Polgar sisters from what was then called Hungary.  Their father, Laszlo Polgar was an educational psychologist who was an early advocate of the “practice theory of expertise.” The theory holds that even someone with no apparent talent could achieve world class status in a skill or task given enough rigorous practice over time.  Laszlo was laughed at and ridiculed for this theory based on the fact that most psychologists and the general public believed in the concept of “child prodigies.” The general consensus even to this day is talent is a necessary prerequisite to world class success.


Laszlo had no way to prove his theory except with his own three daughters, Susan,  Sophia, and Judit.  He chose the game of chess to put his experiment in play.  Polgar was a “recreational player” at best but embarked on a mission with all three daughters to make them world chess champions and even boasted that they would all attain the level of world champions. Why  chess? Polgar felt that chess was an objective game that required reasoning and intelligence and could not be explained away to inborn talent.  He started all the girls at the age of three and sought expert help as they practiced and played for hours on end.  The results?


In August, 1981 at the age of twelve, Susan won the world title for girls under sixteen.  Two years later she became the top female player in the world. She went on to win four world championships for women. Talent?  Let’s take a look at the other sisters.


In 1980 at the age of five, Sophia won the Hungarian under eleven championship for young women.  Her most extraordinary achievement was the “Miracle in Rome” where she won eight straight games against the top “male” players in the world! One chess expert commented that the odds against this happening would be “a billion to one.” This was rated as the fifth best chess performance in the history of the world. Still not convinced in the power of hard work and practice?


In 1988 Judit Polgar won the world under twelve championship. This was the first time in history a female had won a world title in the open class for men and women! Three years later at the age of fifteen she was the youngest chess grandmaster in the history of the world. She has maintained her top ranking for over two decades and is considered the greatest female chess player in the history of the world!


Were they all “child prodigies?”  Not likely, they were the product of hard work and endless hours of practice and preparation.  The good news is, it’s never too late and talent is overrated! What’s the message to each of us? Whether in sales, sports, business or life, we can achieve beyond the more talented competition by our passion and dedication to our chosen field of endeavor. Whether in mathematics, computers, athletic performance or the arts.  Mozart had logged over 10,000 hours playing the piano when he was hailed as a “child prodigy.”


Never underestimate the power of hard work and perseverance in the game of life. Champions are made and not born. Winners pay the price to win and once paid they are forever changed.


Author:  Ken Taylor, “America’s Corporate & Personal Coach”


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