Max#26: Matthew Syed – author of BOUNCE

Matthew Syed has been an achiever all of his life.

A triple Commonwealth Champion and two-time Olympian, Graduating with a first from Oxford, A writer for The Times since 1999 and to top it all off, he’s also a winner of Sports Journalist of the Year.

His most recent accolade however, and the focus for our interview on Maximise Potential, has been the launch of his first book, called ‘BOUNCE’, where he creates a compelling argument which dismisses the traditional view that success is based around talent.

Here’s Matthew to explain his perspective in far more detail whilst relating it to his own life and career.


Everyone knows that David Beckham crosses the ball better than anyone else and that Tiger Woods never “chokes”. But what are the hidden factors which allow the most successful sports stars to rise above their competitors – and are they shared by virtuosos in other fields?

In Bounce Matthew Syed – an award-winning Times columnist and three-time Commonwealth table-tennis champion – reveals what really lies behind world-beating achievement in sport, and other walks of life besides. The answers – taking in the latest in neuroscience, psychology and economics – will change the way we look at sports stars and revolutionise our ideas about what it takes to become the best.

From the upbringing of Mozart to the mindset of Mohammed Ali – via the recruitment policies of Enron – Bounce weaves together fascinating stories and telling insights and statistics into a wonderfully thought-provoking read. Bounce looks at big questions – such as the real nature of talent, what kind of practice actually works, how to achieve motivation, drugs in both sport and life, and whether black people really are faster runners.

Along the way Matthew talks to a Hungarian father whose educational theories saw his daughters become three of the best chess players of all time, meets a female East German athlete who became a man, and explains why one small street in Reading – his own – has produced more top table-tennis players than the rest of Britain put together. Fresh, ground-breaking and tackling subjects with broad appeal, Bounce is sure to be one of the most talked about books of the year.


Thought provoking read – ounce is a very interesting and thought provoking book. It basically argues that for any significantly complex human activity (especially sports like tennis, football and golf, and games like chess) natural talent is of pretty low importance because the wiring of the brain required to succeed can only be achieved through a massive amount of “purposeful” practice.

life changing insights – Bounce is a remarkable book. Its central argument is that there is no such thing as natural talent and that top achievement is the consequence of huge amounts of a very particular kind of practice. This may sound radical, but the evidence is compelling.

What a moorish read! – Wow what a great book. It’s extemely well written and full of substantive, supportive evidence to back up each point. Even for a non sports fan like me (my husband actually bought this book for himself) I would thouroughly recommend this book -you’ll be hooked once you read it.

Bounce – Bounce is the most interesting book that I read in 2010.

Very informative and challenging – This is a challenging book. The author rejects the concept of talent, innate ability and genetic pre-disposition almost entirely. He backs up the thesis with some impressive anecdotes and makes a good case.

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Tom Burkinshaw, I co-produce the Maximise Your Potential Podcast and Website and my goal is to help as many people as possible be successful in life, careers and business, by offering free coaching and mentoring through a series of unique interviews from inspiring people who all display exceptional self-belief, mental toughness and desire to achieve. Thank you for taking the time to visit Maximise Your Potential!