Interest and Effort

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

This NYT article on a test for athletic ability caught my interest:

In health-conscious, sports-oriented Boulder, Atlas Sports Genetics is playing into the obsessions of parents by offering a $149 test that aims to predict a child’s natural athletic strengths. The process is simple. Swab inside the child’s cheek and along the gums to collect DNA and return it to a lab for analysis of ACTN3, one gene among more than 20,000 in the human genome.

The test’s goal is to determine whether a person would be best at speed and power sports like sprinting or football, or endurance sports like distance running, or a combination of the two. A 2003 study discovered the link between ACTN3 and those athletic abilities.

I’m close to completing Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which is a thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis of certain types of success, athletic, intellectual, and professional. Why is it thought provoking? Because I work knee deep in a world where success, ability, and knowledge are systematized by human decisions and traditional frameworks. Gladwell’s conclusions basically come down to a few key success factors: hard work, an ecology of opportunity, interest, and attention. I might have the speed gene, in other words. But I wasn’t really sized right for wide receiver. A yellow front tooth is proof that the playing field wasn’t for me. But I did have parents who could see beyond the neighborhood and they had lots of interesting books on the shelves.


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