I found this interesting entry entitled 'Ericsson's 10,000-hour rule':
'It's tempting to look at truly exceptional achievers - such as Olympic athletes and celebrated musicians - and conclude that they must have been born with a unique gift for what they do.
According to influential research by psychologist Anders Ericsson, however, the path to expertise is available to anyone who's prepared to put in the necessary levels of practice. How much? Studies of elite musicians, athletes and chess players suggest at least 10,000 hours of practice spread over a period of more than ten years.
What's more, not just any kind of practice will do. Ericsson says it needs to be what he calls 'deliberate practice', in which you don't just repeat what you know but instead constantly seek to stretch yourself. This inevitably involves forensic self-criticism, repeated failure and a dogged ability to keep dusting yourself down and trying again - a process that's not particularly enjoyable and quite distinct from leisurely practice.
Although Ericsson's perspective argues against the idea of innate gifts, his concept of deliberate practice does of course require a rare mix of motivation, good health and opportunity.'
Hmmm.....so if we all give up our full time jobs and practice lots, we can become elite cyclists and compete in the grand tours or Olympics? Maybe not - I suspect that physiological giftedness does count for quite a bit, plus that 'opportunity' that is mentioned, such as racing cyclist parents, getting an early start as a junior in competition and training etc.
Where this theory IS useful for the rest of us though, is as a reminder that we shouldn't get down on ourselves so readily for not being the fastest, most skilled cyclist in our group (something that I need to repeat to myself regularly). We so quickly jump to the conclusion that we should be as good as that person we are riding next to, or behind (sometimes a fair way behind!), when all of us have had different amounts of time or opportunities to practice those skills and develop that power and speed.
I thought it was also valuable to read that we shouldn't expect that those hours of practice will always be easy or fun. It helps a lot to know that 'failure' and determination to stick with it even when it's hard and scary - to 'constantly seek to stretch yourself' - is key to improvement and success, even for elite athletes.
Of course, it shouldn't always be challenging - if every single training session is seen as a chore or 'hard work' rather than an opportunity to have fun, motivation to continue soon peters out - but it seems that a balance between the two is vital to improvement and success. And ultimately that's what gives long lasting satisfaction and a sense of achievement that keeps us all coming back for more!