I found the Matthew Syed talk very interesting but hard to agree with. I do solidly believe that some people have natural talent and that it does play a part in achieving their goals, but I also agree that this isn’t the be all and end all of the situation. There are many other factors involved such as, hard work, high quality practice, want/desire, engaging with the task and dynamic learning, environment, efficiency, stretching yourself to the limit, good feedback in a variety of sources and constant slow small changes. If all of these were to be implemented it would make you successful.
However even if I did all these things I would not be a better swimmer than Michel Phelps as I was not born to be a swimmer. “He has a 6 ft 7 inch arm reach. He has short legs for his height, which gives him even more of an advantage in the pool. In addition, his knees are double-jointed and his feet can rotate 15 degrees more than average, allowing his feet to act more like flippers.” So I think that there is such thing as natural talent/ good genes but it’s what you do with these advantages that counts. If you were to decide that because you are talented you do not need to try or work hard you will ultimately fail. If you look at Phelps training regime it is very intense “Phelps swims minimum 80,000 meters a week, which is nearly 50 miles, practices twice a day. And trains for around five to six hours a day at six days a week he uses numerous training gear in the water, such as kickboards, pull buoys, training paddles, and snorkels. He recently added a weightlifting regimen to his dry-land work He lifts weights 3 days a week also he does bodyweight exercises like push ups and weighted pull-ups for muscular strength and endurance.” (Paraphrased from http://www.muscleprodigy.com/michael-phelps-workout-and-diet/) If he did not work that hard he would not be the best swimmer in the world.
I also did not agree with some of his analogies, such as practise alone is enough, this website was created after a study was done to see if someone could become an expert at table tennis in a year. The participant practised every day but was still not able to break into the top 250 players in the UK. (Read more about it here http://www.experttabletennis.com/expert-in-a-year/) This shows that just practise is not enough. In my opinion talent as well as the factors I have previously spoken about are required.
I liked the article on Student memory by Daniel Willingham as it raised a few questions in my head.
For a person to remember something they must be engaged with what they are doing, there is no point in just going through the motions. For example driving has now become almost automatic for me and when I am driving to University a route I am familiar with and complete 4 times a week I barely have my full focus on the driving or route, I am listing to the music and news on the radio thinking about my day and what I wish to achieve at university that day and what I am doing in the evening for example I could not recall what car I was driving behind or how long it took to get there.
A good way to make sure you are engaged with what you are doing is to constantly ask why? As it makes you truly think about what you are doing. For example, why is Pythagoras theorem a^2+b^2=c^2? rather than take the formula as gospel think why is that the case? does it work on all triangles? By doing this you will be much more likely to remember the formula. Another way is to make sure you start the revision early and regularly as the more times you cover the topic the better your retention of the material.