Shelves and shelves of self-help books are stocked in America with the canon of the quick fix. The 10,000-hour concept, though, is based on academic research into the idea that success is a choice — made, not born. At first glance, it feels like a very American idea — you can be anything you want to be — but it is an unsentimental view of the world. It helps to be tall in basketball, and it helps to start violin lessons at a young age, but what separates the few truly great from the many merely good is not talent or magic or luck. It’s dedication and discipline.
The secret to success isn’t a secret. It’s work.
Dan played competitive tennis as a boy, and was good at it, and then quit. He ran one year of cross country in high school, and was good at it, and then quit. He wanted to run on his own. He followed his brother to Boston University for a year and was a physics and math major, and then quit. Instead, he traveled, alone. He graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in photojournalism and was a photographer for a newspaper in Chattanooga, Tenn., for a year, and then quit.
He has started five novels.
He took one piano lesson. . . .
Steve McLaughlin also didn’t think his son would take this as far as he has. Neither did his mother. Neither did his brother or his sister or his girlfriend.
“Dan’s always been an ideas guy,” his brother, Matthew McLaughlin, said. “The fact that he would think of such a thing isn’t surprising. But ideas are one thing. Execution is another. He would get frustrated and quit.”
At this point, though, more than 1,000 hours and nearly a year into the plan, they’re more than surprised. They’re impressed.
To its proponents, the A-11 [offense] represents the logical and inevitable evolution of a game that is becoming faster and more spread out at all levels. The alignment diminishes, or eliminates, the need for a traditional offensive line, where players can weigh 300 pounds even in high school. And, coaches say, it reduces injury because it involves glancing blows more than smash-mouth collisions.
To its detractors, the A-11 is a gimmick that cleverly but unfairly takes advantage of a loophole in the rules. To these critics, the offense places an inequitable burden on defenses to determine who is eligible for passes and makes the sport nearly impossible to referee.
Whatever one thinks of the offense, it complies with the current statutes of the National Federation of State High School Associations. And it is as entertaining to watch as it is radical in design.
“My wife says it looks like basketball on grass,” said Coach Johnny Poynter, who has installed the A-11 at Trimble High in Bedford, Ky., fearing injuries would leave his team unable to finish the season in a more conventional offense.
Fans tuning in to the playoffs, which begin Wednesday, can expect to see 45-foot-wide swaths in a broadly woven pattern at Fenway Park, cross-hatched diamonds at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, straightaway outfield stripes at Dodger Stadium, a classic checkerboard at Wrigley Field, and the mingling three-directional outfield lines at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium, among others planned for the postseason.
Such designs adorn and distinguish nearly every major league ballpark these days, but no one takes as keen an interest in mowing patterns as [David] Mellor. He has written a book on the subject (“Picture Perfect: Mowing Techniques for Lawns, Landscapes, and Sports”), and is generally considered the top grass-cutting artist in the game. High-school geometry classes visit him at Fenway Park to study ways that an odd-shaped field can be divided and subdivided by straight lines and sharp angles.
“I’m not looking for more work,” Mellor said on a recent afternoon at Fenway Park. “But the grass has to be mowed anyway. So why not do it well, with straight lines, or checkerboards, or something more festive?”
We recently had the rare privilege of attending a private screening of Leni Riefenstahl’s famous but seldom-seen film Olympia, made to celebrate the 1936 “Nazi Olympics” in Berlin. The powerful artistry and technical mastery of “Hitler’s moviemaker” left everyone stunned.
Naturally, the number one question asked afterward was about the relation of art to morality. There has been no clear answer to this question, but here are two sets of reactions that some of us shared:
Overall, the movie is apolitical. The overwhelming effect at the end of the very long movie is of the beauty of the human body in action. Riefenstahl’s amazing camera angles, often catching the athletes from below in motion against a sky filled with fair-weather clouds, are indeed “Olympian” in more ways than one. The astonishment of the second half, which covers the athletic events themselves, tends to cancel out the creepiness of the first half.
The first half of the film is deeply disturbing. It depicts the carrying of the Olympic torch by fleet, proud runners (looking for all the world like the old Modern Library logo) and then the opening procession with numerous shots of a beaming Adolf Hitler taking the salutes of the various teams as they pass. It is impossible to resist the powerful emotional effect of this pageantry. As the team members from the various countries (including the USA) pass in review, many give the Nazi salute with Rockette-like precision, all others turn their heads toward the Führer with perfect symmetry as they march by. What did they know? (By 1936, they should have known plenty.) Did it matter to them? I found myself choking on tears and fury. Here were the principalities and powers on review. Human nature is irresistibly drawn to spectacle, and can be manipulated in almost any direction through pageantry when it is harnessed to nationalism and the will to power. We should beware of our own proclivities when we watch the Olympics this summer.