In Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success, award-winning journalist Matthew Syed reveals the hidden clues to success—in sports, business, school, and just about anything else that you’d want to be great at.
Have you ever experienced a transformational moment–what psychologist Michael Rousell calls a spontaneous influence event?
Shaquille O’Neal was seventeen years old when he heard the words that would change his life. He had just spent his summer at basketball camp, and for the first time had begun to doubt whether he had what it takes to become an NBA player.
“Camp was really competitive,” he would later tell Marlo Thomas for her book The Right Words at the Right Time. “You’ve got all the best high school players from everywhere in the country. At Cole High, I was always ranked first, but at camp I saw other guys ahead of me.”
When he got home, O’ Neal told his mother that he was having doubts about his future in the sport. She responded by encouraging to try harder, but O’Neal was not having it: “I can’t do that right now. Maybe later.”
Then his mother said the words that would change everything: “Later doesn’t always come to everybody.”
“That got to me, ” O’Neal told Thomas. “Those words snapped me into reality and gave me a plan. You work hard now. You don’t wait. If you’re lazy or you sit back and you don’t want to excel, you’ll get nothing. If you work hard enough, you’ll be given what you deserve. Everything got easier for me after that.”
For the actor Martin Sheen, the moment of transformation came when he was reading a newspaper report about Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest in New York who organized nonviolent protests against Vietnam.
Berrigan was challenged by a reporter with the question: “It’s fine for you to go to prison, Father Berrigan. After all, you have no children. What’s going to happen to our children if we go to prison?”
To which Berrigan calmly responded: “What’s going to happen to them if you don’t?”
“When I read that statement in the newspaper it hit me like a thunderbolt,” Sheen told Thomas. “His one comment forced me to re-evaluate everything about myself and the world in which I lived. Eventually it forced me to look at social justice in an entirely different light, and that light illuminated every political and social stand I would take for the rest of my life.”
Carly Simon’s pivotal moment came in high school, when her boyfriend referred to her stammer as “charming”. It was a turning point for her self-esteem and her career.
For Venus Williams, it was a pep talk given by her sister, Serena, during a doubles match early in her career.
For Mia Hamm, the American soccer player, it was a team meeting with her coach when he dramatically turned the ligth off in the room before asking if she really wanted to make the grade.