Chapter Preview From My Book "Design For Strengths"

From my forthcoming book, "Design For Strengths: Applying Design Thinking to Individual and Team Strengths." 

Chapter 4: Strengths, Deliberate Practice and Flow: Are Strengths Even Real?

The First Flow

My first bicycle was a Kmart Orange-Crate bike with chrome 20-inch wheels. I got it for my seventh birthday. I remember feeling disappointment with the ugly color, fenders, reflectors, and old-school banana seat: I had wanted a BMX bike resembling a motorcycle, something black and chrome with aggressive knobby tires to shoot dirt into the air as I churned the pedals.

My dad was quickly to the rescue—a half hour later the fenders, kickstand, reflectors, and banana seat were off—and I was sitting on the small seat of a bright orange mini-motorcycle and zooming away in the sunshine. For hours at a time, I would loop around the dirt piles surrounding the foundations dug for new homes in the subdivision the next neighborhood over. I fell in love with the lonesome freedom of the road: the wind in my face, the speed, and the wispy contrails of dust streaming off my tires as I rode the truck tire-pummeled tracks. I loved retracing my laps in the dirt, laying new tracks just next to the old ones and maximizing the width of the trail, leaving my mark.

Perhaps my favorite of all was to accelerate down the steep hill to our lakefront beach club and zoom out into the wet sand near the water. For a few seconds my skinny limbs would generate enough power to lift the muddy sand up and over my head while I turned hard into a slide. It was just me, the bike, the heavy breathing of my exertion, and the cultivated skill of those controlled slides— accelerations through the variable terrains of pavement, gravel, sand, and mud.

Often I would fall into a reverie where time stopped and all I would hear and think about was a low thrumming, a humming in my heart and head—perhaps reminiscent of the motorcycle I was trying to emulate—perhaps just a resonant frequency as I mastered my self-administered task. There was never anyone else around. Hours slipped away with no sensation of time passing and I would only return home when the sun was beginning to set or I heard my mother’s piercing call, “Joooohhhhnnnnn! Dinnneeerrrr is Readddddyyyy!”

Little did I know that this “deliberate practice” would set the stage for the rest of my life. That I had arbitrarily stumbled into one of my few—and very specific—strengths, a unique talent that would carry me to the very pinnacle of the sporting world: the Olympic Games.

The 10,000 Hour Rule

Wait, is there even such a thing as “strengths?” Haven’t I read that it’s just a matter of practice—of putting in the time? Virtually every article, book, or commentary about the most successful people in any field—sports, music, business— always refers to “persistence” or “grit.” The plot that generally emerges is, “I just worked harder and longer than anyone else—and eventually became an overnight success.”

In his book Peak, Anders Ericsson suggests that there is little-to-no evidence to prove something like “innate talent” even exists and comes to the conclusion that even the most seemingly gifted among us are simply a result of lots and lots of deliberate practice.

But there are certainly other perspectives. A sporadic debate over the last decade has been centered on the dialectic between “talent” and “strengths” and the counterargument of practice and discipline. In the “strengths” camp are the popular business books, Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton and Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. In the “deliberate practice” camp, we have Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, Peak by Anders Ericsson, and The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown by Daniel Coyle. Malcolm Gladwell also entered the fray with his classic book, Outliers. From that book, the argument goes:

Exhibit A in the talent argument is a study done in the early 1990s by the psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and two colleagues at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music. With the help of the Academy’s professors, they divided the school’s violinists into three groups. In the first group were the stars, the students with the potential to become world-class soloists. In the second group were those judged to be merely “good.” In the third were students who intended to be music teachers in the public school system. All of the violinists were then asked the same question: over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced? Everyone from all three groups started playing at roughly the same age, around five years old. In those first few years, everyone practiced roughly the same amount, about two or three hours a week. But when the students were around the age of eight, real differences started to emerge. The students who would end up the best in their class began to practice more than everyone else: six hours a week by age nine, eight hours a week by age twelve, until by the age of twenty they were practicing—that is, purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better—well over thirty hours a week. In fact, by the age of twenty, the elite performers had each totaled ten thousand hours of practice. By contrast, the merely good students had totaled eight thousand hours, and the future music teachers had totaled just over four thousand hours.

The Power of Deliberate Practice: Daniel Coyle

Daniel Coyle (no relation to me) is a contributing editor for Outside magazine and the author of The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown., and Lance Armstrong's War. In our interview, he shared the following:

There has been a lot of talk about the “10,000 hour rule:” the idea that breakthrough performers in all fields put in about that amount of time mastering their field before becoming an “overnight success.” It is a great rule of thumb, but I think it has often been misinterpreted. People see a number and they think quantity. Some sports programs even count the hours. But the whole point is about quality, not quantity. A deep 10 minutes is better than a shallow two hours. It is essential that the type of practice be a very specific type of practice - deliberate practice.

So what is deliberate practice? Simply put, deliberate practice is a specific type of practice where you spend a lot of time at the very edges of your capability, paying close attention to your failures, and being willing to go into this uncomfortable place again and again in order to improve. Master performers in any field do this kind of practice and they do it for thousands of hours to finally achieve breakthrough performance. Hence Ericsson’s proposition of the 10,000 rule. But, when it comes to the 10,000 hour rule the number itself can be misleading - for some it may be 5,500 hours and for others it might be 15,000, but other than a couple of rare exceptions, no one gets a free pass. (The exceptions here being simple activities matched with things people are genetically gifted at. For example, pure speed or power - there are examples of someone becoming very good at the high jump very quickly.) However, for complex tasks there are no exceptions, no free passes, and everyone must put in the time. Yes, some will pick up things faster, others slower, but what all have in common is this strange obsession to make long term progress on a hard task. By staying on the edge, by paying attention to the boundaries and feedback provided by failure, by maximizing the learning with each repetition - this is how deliberate practice leads to mastery. By the way, very few people are willing to put in this kind of sacrifice.

In my book, (The Talent Code) I talk about another mysterious ingredient in the path to mastery, a magic moment where people “suddenly” decide to flip the switch and start putting in the time and the deliberate practice. I call it “ignition,” and it is pretty mysterious. Why do some put in the time, the deliberate practice, and some - most actually - don’t? One essential component is that there is often a perceptual shift in self-image. These peak performers start to imagine or see a future version of themselves that is successful at whatever the challenging endeavor before them is. They start to connect their identity to that future self, and that engages their motivational system in a powerful way. We know how our respiratory system works, and that on a day-to-day basis, we engage very little of its capacity unless put it to the test. That’s how our motivational system works - it runs in the background until somehow triggered (ignition) - and if that happens, you can release or realize a tremendous amount of motivational energy.

Ignition (the process of leaning fully into a hard task) is not something that can be designed or created. You can’t cause lightning to strike. However, you can seed the right conditions for a potential electrical storm. You can manipulate the environment, seed the clouds, and then pray for rain… and magic... and electricity.

Strengths vs. Practice: A Spurious Correlation?

In the case between strengths and practice, the compelling evidence appears to be centered directly in the “deliberate practice” camp. The correlation between roughly 10,000 hours of practice and success is so uniform and consistent it appears to be irrefutable. In fact it seems no one has ever been great at something without thousands upon thousands of hours of practice.

Tiger Woods had most likely practiced more golf than any other child on the planet by age five and Bill Gates almost certainly had more time coding on a mainframe by age 14 than any other child on the planet. Mozart started writing music at age five, but did not achieve mainstream success with his compositions for more than 10 years. As Ericsson puts it, “We don’t know of any evidence...that there are really prerequisites that would make some less likely to succeed than other individuals who are willing to engage in the appropriate training.”

So … practice it is, right?

Wait a minute. In the world of statistics, making definitive conclusions based on correlations is a cardinal sin. “Correlation does not prove causality” is gospel. While it may be tempting to use correlations to suggest causality, doing so is a dangerous game riddled with many examples of erroneous and spurious correlations. Why can’t we “prove” something from highly correlated data? Because there is the risk that unidentified factors—also correlated—are actually driving the results. Here are some humorous, spurious correlations:

● The number of people who annually drown in a swimming pool correlates nearly precisely with the number of films Nicholas Cage appears in.

● The age of Miss America correlates with the number of murders committed annually by the method “steam and hot vapors.” (How does one murder with “steam and hot vapors?” No idea.)

● The divorce rate in Maine correlates precisely to the consumption of margarine.

Humor aside, incorrect correlations have led to some pretty terrible conclusions on things that matter:

● Margarine consumption soared in the 1950s and 60s, replacing butter on tables in the United States. This was based in large part on USDA guidance based on a famous study by Ancel Keys in 1953 that showed a strong correlation between diets in countries high in saturated fat and heart disease. This led, over time, to USDA guidelines recommending reduced consumption of saturated fat and a strong argument for margarine instead of butter, since it has one-quarter the saturated fat of butter. The correlation was strong, and the logic seemed impeccable: eating saturated fat makes you fat and increases your cholesterol. Sales of margarine took off, butter consumption fell off a cliff, and everyone was healthier … except they weren’t.

In fact, a precipitous rise in heart disease followed these guidelines—most likely because it is yet another spurious correlation. As George Mann, a biochemist at Vanderbilt Medical School wrote: “Ambitious scientists and food companies [had] transformed [a] fragile hypothesis into treatment dogma.”

Keys was not the unbiased scientist he should have been—he self-selected countries to support his hypothesis and ignored countries like France, where heart disease is rare despite diets very high in saturated fats.

According to Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, “When researchers went back and analyzed some of the data from the Seven Countries study, they found that what best correlated with heart disease was not saturated fat intake but sugar.”

Meanwhile, the latest data (while still correlative) paints a stark picture. It basically completely reverses the long-standing guidelines. Margarine’s trans fats are the new enemy and butter is now being used as a superfood in “Bulletproof Coffee” and ketogenic diets. The latest correlation? A Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine.

Other claims that were ultimately disproved as nonsense include:

  • Crime reduction in the 1990s in New York City was attributed to implementation of the “broken windows theory,” which postulated that crimes of all kinds could be reduced by minimizing small crimes in a neighborhood. The correlation was simple—in neighborhoods with clean sidewalks and buildings in good repair, crime was drastically lower.

So, the theory was that by ticketing turnstile jumpers, removing graffiti, cleaning up litter, and fixing broken windows, more serious crimes would decline. This police effort in NYC was then followed by a drastic decrease in crime and the causal narrative was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point. That is, until a better correlation emerged: that the decrease in crime was directly correlated to Roe v. Wade, which had led to a birth rate reduction in low-income mothers, thus reducing the number of potential perpetrators growing up in poverty. This “better correlation” was popularized in the book Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner and directly challenged the “broken window” theory.

But then … a new correlation was found in the data. As it turns out, the birth rate of at-risk children actually increased after Roe v. Wade. And so, we are left holding a empty bags of correlation with no cache of causality. What caused the reduction in crime in NYC in the 1990s? The answer is possibly “We don’t know,” or more likely it is, “A whole bunch of things, all at once.”

But wait, in 2016 emerged yet another new correlation, one worthy of serious consideration. The crime decline in the 90’s was not limited to New York City - it was widespread all around the country and simultaneous. But, it was stronger in some communities than others. A new correlation tying the amount of lead in the soil (from leaded gasoline in cars) to the declines appears to be the current candidate for the most likely cause. Zip-code by zip-code or even block-by-city-block the declines appear to tie directly to known degenerations of the brain caused by lead that are directly linked to crime. As the lead faded from the soil, so did the overall crime rate recede.

Here are a few others:

  • “Eating breakfast everyday causes weight loss.” Probably not true. The weak correlations that exist are not strong enough to suggest eating breakfast is a cause for weight loss.

  • “Eating dinner together as a family leads to less teen drug use.” Not true. Other factors, including the strength of family relations are the better correlation.

  • Vaccinations cause autism and other issues.” They don’t: there are no validated studies proving a correlation. This idea emerged after a 1998 study (since retracted) inaccurately tied the two.

As I read all the stories reinforcing the 10,000-hour rule, I was rationally convinced. The data was clear: the correlation between practice and mastery appeared to a 1 to 1 ratio. Nearly one hundred percent of the time it seems, masters in their field practiced tons of hours and usually more than just about anyone else. Certainly my own experience mirrored the data:

After a year of zooming around the neighborhood on the orange Kmart bike, my father bought me a bright yellow, red and orange Raleigh 10-speed the next summer when I was eight. He then invited me to join him on club rides that were 15 to 20 miles long. I enjoyed them, so we tried a half-century ride (50 miles) early in the summer. I didn’t struggle with that, so then we tried a “century ride” (100 miles). And then another and then another. All told, that summer I completed 13 century rides. I might have ridden my bicycle more miles than any other child on the planet by age eight. This reflection supports the validity of the 10,000-hour rule.

Talent is Overrated… Or Is It?

But … my intuition wouldn’t completely let go of the natural talent side of the equation. As hard as it might be to pinpoint or prove the reality of native strengths, most people have an inkling that they are naturally good at certain things and other things not so much. From an early age, many children tend to have an affinity or capacity for certain activities and an aversion to others. The hard part is that strengths tend to be fairly specific, while weaknesses—these tend to be very broad and are usually pretty clear.

I know this personally. I am a terrible athlete in almost every way. I have a host of native weaknesses that are extraordinarily broad in swath and enduring no matter how much I practice or invest in them. My strengths though? As it turns out I have only one real (and very specific) strength as an athlete, one that emerged over the years. Chapter Five will examine those strengths and weaknesses in detail, but for now, back to the potential correlation error.

In this example, the correlation error is related to the question itself (remember the most important principle in Design Thinking: “Are we asking the right question?”). The question that was being asked and answered with a near-perfect correlation coefficient of 1.0 was the following: “When it comes to practice hours, what do the very best in the world all have in common?” And the answer is definitive—in fact worthy of a causal relationship: “All master performers in all fields put in their equivalent of ‘10,000 hours.’”

But, are we asking the right question? Are we solving the right problem? If that is the right question and answer, then each one of us should arbitrarily go choose some area of business, music, or sports regardless of our real or perceived natural talents, double down for the 5,824 waking hours we have each year and in two years time we can then be the best in the world in anything we choose. It sounds impossible and ridiculous… and it almost certainly is. Nonetheless, this appears to be exactly what Ericsson is suggesting. “...instead of spending years noodling around in search of a true calling, we all might be better off to pick an area we are interested in and fearlessly dedicate ourselves to that area…”

So, following this logic, I could commit, for example, to swim every single day for the next two years for 8 hours a day. Sure, if I did that I would get better at swimming. How much better? Well that’s anyone’s guess, but it is a bit of a moot point, because, almost for sure I won’t last even a week or two. Why? Because I have no talent for swimming. Case in point -  as a kid my parents took me to swim lessons each Tuesday and Thursday for two months the summer I was 7 years old. But I was so terrible that unbeknownst to them, after the first floundering failure of lesson one, I quit. I quit, but I didn’t tell them, and each Tuesday and Thursday I would dutifully get in the car and head to the lake, whereupon immediately after getting dropped-off I would go hide in the woods for duration of the lesson.

The debate rages on, Douglas Detterman, a psychology professor at Case Western University, cites a number of factors that researchers have linked to expert performance, including intelligence, motivation, and personality. “Ericsson denies ability differences and claims that all differences are due to instructional differences,” he says. “I find that to be blatantly ridiculous.”

Regardless, here is the harsh reality: almost no one puts in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is necessarily hard. Deliberate practice can be boring. Deliberate practice requires motivation and persistence and grit. Deliberate practice requires intense focus for hours a day on activities where tiny margins will separate the winners, the achievers, the famous from the also-rans and everyone else. As Ericsson points out, “...there's nothing inherently wrong with being average. In fact, working toward expertise in any area can be a grueling, lonely, and often ugly undertaking.”

If the vast majority of people eventually give up—fail to follow through, fail to persevere for the required 10,000 hours for success—then this begs the original question: instead of what leads to great performance (we now know: 10,000 hours) then perhaps the better question is why does anybody bother to sweat, ache, and toil through 10,000 hours of deliberate practice?

Simon Sinek would agree that this is a better question. As he says, “Always start with ‘why.’” If it is a better question, then it should deliver a better answer. The answer to this potentially more important question actually circles back to the case for native strengths and talent—and features something called "Flow."

What is “Flow” and how is it related to talent? If you have missed the waterfall of books and articles on “Flow” (sorry), just pick up Steven Kotler's book The Rise of Superman. “Flow” or “the zone” or “the peak performance state” are all labels for those moments of intense concentration where time simultaneously stops—and speeds up—and we deliver our very best performances.

The “Godfather” of Flow is a man with a complicated name but a singularly striking perspective regarding its importance. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first coined the term and is the author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, published in 1990. Flow research has recently been amped up with the help of modern measurement techniques from neuroscience. Here’s why:

The Science of Flow: Steven Kotler

Steven Kotler is the author of The Rise of Superman and coauthor of Stealing Fire and Abundance. He is also co-founder and Director of Research for the Flow Genome Project. When I interviewed him, he had this to say about Flow:

What is Flow? Flow is an optimal state of consciousness, one where you feel and perform your very best. It’s those moments of total absorption: action and awareness merge, sense of self vanishes, time passes strangely—sometimes it slows down and you’ll get a freeze frame effect, more frequently it speeds up and five hours can pass by in five minutes. And throughout, performance, both mental and physical, goes through the roof. The brain takes in more information per second, processing it more deeply and more completely. You may know it by other names, being in “the zone,” the “runner’s high,” the “peak performance state”—but they are all describing the very same thing.

If you have ever lost an afternoon to a great conversation or gotten so involved with a work project that all else is forgotten, then you have experienced Flow.

In terms of the brain, in the Flow state we actually use much less of the brain—not more. The main portion of the brain that is deactivated is your prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that governs all your higher cognitive functioning—complex decision-making, long-term planning. Why does time pass so strangely? Because time is calculated all over the prefrontal cortex and as parts of it shut down we can no longer perform that calculation. Another part of the brain that winks out is the dorsal lateral area of the prefrontal cortex. This is the area that houses your “inner critic,” your “inner Woody Allen,” that nagging, defeatist, always-on voice in your head. This voice turns off during Flow and as a result we feel liberated. We are finally getting out of our own way, creativity goes up, risk-taking goes up, performance skyrockets.

Besides these changes in neuroanatomical function, the brain also produces changes in neurochemistry and neuro-electricity—the way the brain communicates with itself. During Flow the brain produces a giant cascade of neurochemicals. Besides being performance enhancing, these are also “feel good drugs.” Five of the most potent neurochemicals known to man are released. Hence Flow is considered one of the most addictive states on earth. Once we have an experience that starts producing Flow, we will go extraordinarily far out of our way to get more of it. Researchers now believe that Flow is the source code to intrinsic motivation.

Why is it important? Because it is remarkably clear that Flow speeds up learning. Studies have shown that we can be up to five to seven times more creative and learn up to five times faster in Flow. Flow might very well be a shortcut to chop the 10,000-hour rule in half or more. Perhaps as important or even more important—the people that have the most Flow are the happiest people on earth.

Here’s the challenge though—Flow might be the most desirable state on earth, but it is also one of the most elusive. While seekers have spent centuries trying, no one, until recently, has found a to reliable way reproduce the experience.

Building off of Csikszentmihalyi's work, Kotler examines the neurobiology of these “altered states” and finds two interesting things: 1) The Flow state is dependent on a relative mastery of the task at hand, where level of skill meets the level of challenge (native or developed talent, it doesn’t matter), and 2) The Flow state simultaneously produces the world’s most desired (and addictive) set of chemicals: dopamine, norepinephrine, anandamide, endorphins, and serotonin. Here’s Kotler again, from an interview with Chase Jarvis:

For example, when you snort cocaine, all the drug does is cause the brain to release copious amounts of the neurochemical dopamine. Well, dopamine is released in Flow. So are norepinephrine (speed), anandamide (marijuana), endorphins (heroin), and serotonin (ecstasy). You actually couldn’t produce this cocktail with drugs. Trying to take all those drugs at once and you’re going to end up drooling or dead. But the brain does it naturally.

Operant Conditioning: Getting to “Why”

So, an interesting potential conclusion: peak performers are addicted! Seeking that neurochemical feedback loop, peak performers put in the time because of the chemical reinforcement.

Back to our central question: “WHY do great performers practice more than their peers?” I think the answer is becoming clear: they enter into the Flow state more often than their peers, they experience this chemical cocktail more often than others, and hence they are willing to practice more than anyone else.

And here’s the interesting wrinkle: an essential component of the Flow state is mastery, the ability to match the level of skill with the level of challenge. I believe that the reason that some people enter the Flow state more often than others is simply because they are better at whatever the challenge is than others. Thus, they achieve the mastery required for a state of Flow faster and easier than their peers. From a behavioral psychology standpoint, the way “Flow” provides its rewards encourages both practice and commitment.

Consider elements of behavioral psychology around the “reward” of Flow. One interesting aspect of Flow is that achieving it is almost always unpredictable. Athletes say, “I couldn’t get into the zone.” Performers say, “I lost the line.” Flow tends to come in fits and starts and only a very few masters can enter the zone predictably. So, from an “operant conditioning” behavioral psychology perspective, Flow can be categorized as form of “variable-ratio reinforcement.”

What does that mean exactly? Well, consider an experiment where the reward of “Flow” and all its enticing neurochemicals is replaced with a “pellet.” And in this same simplistic exercise, instead of an artist performing or an athlete competing, let’s simplify it to a rat (performer/athlete) pulling a lever (practice) to receive a pellet (Flow) and their relative willingness to do it for long periods of time—or not (commitment).

This is a classic version of an operant conditioning experiment popularized by B. F. Skinner and his Skinner Boxes—controlled studies with birds, rats, and other animals in order to study their responses to certain positive or negative rewards. What we learn from those experiments is that, in the cases of positive reinforcement (the pellet), there are significantly different outcomes based on how those rewards are provided.

In this kind of experiment there are two outcome elements to test, based on the schedule of how the rewards are delivered. First there is the response rate, the rate at which the rat presses the lever (how hard the rat works, or “practice” in our metaphor). And second there is the extinction rate, the rate at which lever pressing dies out (how soon the rat gives up, or “commitment” before quitting).

There are a number of methodologies to deliver rewards. For example, one method is continuous reinforcement, where the rat receives a pellet for every push of the lever. In this case the response rate is slow (low levels of effort or practice), and the extinction rate is fast (low levels of commitment). The rat knows he’ll get a pellet for every push, so he doesn’t work (practice) very hard, and quits as soon as he is satiated (low commitment).

In the world of athletics there is a sad but common adjacency. Often, the most talented athletes quit early. They win every race for a long interval (continuous reinforcement) and hence their level of practice and commitment is low. As soon as the dynamics change and they can’t win every time, they quit—usually for good.

Then there is the fixed-ratio reinforcement, where a certain number of presses are required to bring a reward. In this case the response rate is fast (lots of effort/practice), but the extinction rate is relatively quick (low commitment). The rat has to push 5 or 10 or more times to get a pellet and so will work hard at first, but as before will quit after it is satiated, because it knows it can simply press 5, 10, or 20 more times again to get the next pellet.

More interesting is when variable mechanisms for reinforcement are introduced. Variable-interval reinforcement schemas provide a reward once, at random, during a particular time interval, and then none until the next interval starts. This dramatically increases both the response rate—the rat presses feverishly until it gets the reward—and a slow extinction rate. The rat will keep pressing for long intervals, until it finally figures out that there will only be one reward per five minutes or one hour or whatever the refresh rate is. Eventually, the rat figures out the interval and only works hard at the beginning of each interval until the reward is received.

The most effective in terms of response rate (level of practice) and extinction rate (level of commitment) is the variable-ratio reinforcement schema. This method provides a pellet randomly for a certain number of lever pulls. Maybe it is 20 or 50 or 100. Because the reinforcement is not time based and is instead based on the amount of work, the rat is motivated to pull the lever more and more to provide the greatest number of pellets. And the uncertainty around if—or when—the pellets might run out (remember this is not based on any kind of time interval) drives an extinction rate that is the lowest of any of the test-and-response mechanisms (i.e., it provides the highest level of commitment).

The Talent – Flow – Practice – Commitment Cycle

The Flow state is a variable-ratio reinforcement program for humans. If—and this is a hugely important precondition—IF someone can achieve the Flow state in a particular activity, THEN a non-predictable reinforcement correlated to an amount of work (not to a time interval) will motivate these individuals to work harder AND longer than in any other scenario. As Kotler put it to me in our interview, “Once we have an experience that starts producing Flow, we will go extraordinarily far out of our way to get more of it. Researchers now believe that Flow is the source code to intrinsic motivation.”

But here’s the giant barrier to entry into the Flow state. In the Skinner box, the rats had to stumble into the lever in order to release a pellet. In the continuous-reinforcement program, one stumble into the lever one time leads directly to a pellet and the rat almost immediately adopts the lever-pulling practice. In the fixed-ratio experiment, enough touches on the lever will eventually lead to rewards and again the rat almost always figures out the rules quickly.

However, in the variable-rewards scenario the rat sometimes never learns the game. The longer the interval before the first reward—or the greater the number of required lever touches before the first reward—the more likely that the rat NEVER learns the game and hence NEVER receives a reward. In the literature around the variable-reinforcement programs the language begins with, “Providing that one correct response has been made …” Then the response and extinction rates will improve. BUT if the rat never achieves a “correct response”—i.e., the first Flow (the first pellet), then that rat will discontinue pulling the lever and give up altogether.

Consider the analogy to the Flow state. In this metaphor a “correct response”—i.e., a lever pull resulting in a pellet (a first Flow)—comes in a variable-ratio reinforcement form of operant conditioning. In this case, though, the variable ratio is not completely random—it is exactly and perfectly correlated to the relative talent or natural capacity that someone has for the activity on hand.

Most humans, given repeated failures at something, will naturally give up. But those that achieve some success in the early goings will keep pulling the “Flow lever” over and over to repeat the state. The trick is to find the lever and be good enough to get a reward early. Those lucky few with the talent to achieve Flow before quitting—well, those few have a shot at greatness. This group, and only this group, will put in the required hours of diligent practice (lever pulling) required to achieve peak performance (a huge hoard of pellets equaling the “10,000 hours”).

In summary, this research—applied back to people, practice, and performance—suggests the following: breakthrough performers practice more than everyone else. They practice more than everyone else because they garner the reinforcing reward of the Flow state at least once and, then, more often than everyone else. They enter the Flow state more than everyone else because they have a natural talent for whatever the activity is. Talent leads to the first Flow, the first Flow leads to Practice, the variable-ratio reinforcement of Flow leads to Commitment, and Commitment leads to the 10,000 hours required for Mastery. All are required and many, if not most, people never experience the first Flow and hence have absolutely no motivation to practice.

Csikszentmihalyi and Susan Jackson, in Flow in Sports, conclude:

In many ways, one might say the whole effort of mankind throughout the millennia of history has been to capture these fleeting moments of fulfillment and make them part of everyday existence.

Whoa! The whole effort of mankind throughout history? That’s possibly confirmation bias on Csikszentmihalyi and Jackson’s part. But, given the estimated $4 trillion spent annually in the global economy on legal and illegal ways to produce these Flow chemicals in our bodies, perhaps not as grand a statement as it seems.

Talent is NOT overrated (but it alone is not enough.) Flow is underrated. It is time to discover our strengths and talents and spend more time in Flow. This leads me to one of my favorite questions—and conversation starters: “What are you best at?”

Strengths and Natural Talent?… Or 10,000 Hours of Deliberate Practice?

Thought leaders hold conflicting views on strengths. On the one hand, research from Gallup (Now, Discover Your Strengths, Strengthsfinder 2.0) suggests that our innate strengths create the best route for growth and success. On the other hand, studies and stories from authors like Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers) Daniel Coyle (The Talent Code), and Geoff Colvin (Talent is Overrated) suggest a different approach: that “diligent practice” and the 10,000 hour rule form the path to success. Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 5.17.10 PM

So which is it? Natural strengths or practice?

The answer lies in the interaction between the two. The reality is that we all DO have natural strengths and talents that we were either born with or developed at an early age, that we tend to have corresponding mirror-like weaknesses, and that these traits are unique and specific. Deliberate practice overlaid on a natural strength leads to breakthrough performance. 10,000 hours of deliberate practice at a weakness leaves to "lives of quiet desperation."

Want to learn more about finding your strengths and designing a life for them? I would be so pleased if you would join us for our Strengths 2.0 Summit February 13th in Chicago - details below:


Join John K. Coyle and Dr. David Rendall Feburary 13th in Chicago for our Strengths 2.0 Summit, a half day workshop to use design thinking to find your strengths and design through your weaknesses. Click the link below to learn more and register.

Strengths 2.0 Summit

Mike Walden

People I owe: Mike Walden What do a tennis school in Siberia, a soccer club in Brazil, a music camp in upstate New York, and a baseball club in Curacao all have in common with a bicycling club from Detroit?

They are all “chicken-wire Harvards,” a term coined by Daniel Coyle in his great book “The Talent Code”. That is, each of these remote destinations has a number of things in common: they tend to be underfunded, they have programs with a relentless focus on the fundamentals of a sport or activity, and at their helm they have or have had iconic coaches who “say a lot in a little,” and “repeat a little a lot.”

They also produce champions. Lots of them. So many that, when plotted on map in red, they become a “talent bloom” – a rose against the white of the page. In fact, one small, yet famous tennis club in Siberia, called Spartak, which has only one indoor court, achieved eight year-end top 20 women’s rankings for professional tennis players for 3 years running (as of 2007.) During the same period, the entire United States only had 7. As it happens there is also a little cycling club in Detroit with even more striking results.

Statistically speaking, it is impossible to conceive that there was more talent concentrated in the environs of Spartak in 2007, or around the Dorais velodrome in Detroit in 1980 than the entire United States. In fact the preponderance of talent from these locales belies their demographics – the argument can, and should be made that these coaches and environments created talent. But how?

Detroit, 1978. The Wolverine Sports Club was one of many of its ilk – typical in many ways. Underfunded, provided for primarily by largesse from Mike Walden’s bike shop in Hazel Park, the club also supported its activity through fund raiser “bike-a-thons” (also a Walden invention.) The Wolverine Sports Club (WSC) ran a regular series of practices – Tuesdays at the run-down Dorais Velodrome in Detroit, Wednesdays were the iconic “Wednesday night ride” from the Royal Oak Library complete with fans in lawn chairs who blocked traffic for the huge peleton, and Thursdays featuring practice races in Waterford on a 2.2 mile race car track. Weekends were for racing, because “racing is the best training,” or so we were told.

To an 8, 10, 12, even 18 year old kid, it all became so normal. I remember my first visit to the Dorais velodrome. Names were inscribed in the cement along the homestretch – Fred Cappy, Mike Walden, Clair Young, Jim Smith. These etchings were meaningless to me and hidden each year under more and more graffiti. Today the track has fallen into disrepair.

One of my first nights at the Dorais velodrome was in the fall, with a low turnout and leaves skittering across the cracked banked surface. Walden was mostly occupied shouting at two female racers who were preparing for a big competition somewhere. I was clueless and didn’t care. That is until, after a series of timed flying 200m events by the two women, Walden suddenly focused his shouting at me. “What about you? Let’s go: 200m as fast as you can go! Pedal circles and finish at the line!”

The two muscular women quickly shared some strategy – line up high on the track on the first corner and then dive for the blue line (marking the 200m mark) and then stay as low as possible on the “pole lane” or black line to the finish.

Moments later, exhausted but exhilarated by the speed, Walden barked out a time (“13.8!”) and turned to other riders. The two women, Sue Novara and Sheila Young, slowed to pass along compliments, “wow – you’re a fast little thing.” Little did I know that both were rivals and world champions in this exact event – the match sprint on the velodrome.  I was surrounded by greatness. I was lucky. It only takes a quick spin through Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” to realize that one of the core elements of the Wolverine Sport Club and my own success was simply the environment: we all got an early start on the requisite 10 years/10,000 hours of deliberate practice that greatness requires.

Another great book, that might have have featured Walden as its poster child is by Geoff Colvin’s “Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else.” The thesis? “Greatness doesn’t come from DNA but from practice and perseverance honed over decades - and not just plain old hard work, like your grandmother might have advocated, but a very specific kind of work.”

“The key is how you practice, how you analyze the results of your progress and learn from your mistakes, that enables you to achieve greatness.” Deliberate practice, as practiced by Mozart, Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Sheila Young and Frankie Andreu, is an unrelenting focus on the potentially mind-numbing basics of a sport or activity. In fact, at the tennis camp in Spartak, Siberia referenced earlier, kids spent an inordinate amount of time swinging rackets at the air before they were even allowed to hit balls, and then they were not allowed to enter a tournament until they had 3 years of practice under their belts.

Daniel Coyle then describes the unique characteristics of the coaches who create the right environment for focus on deliberate practice. In one chapter he details the key elements of a master coach, by documenting the actions of a certain famous athletic coach. This coach’s “teaching utterances or comments were short, punctuated, and numerous. “There were no lectures, no extended harangues…. "He rarely spoke longer than twenty seconds. “What made this coach great, “wasn’t praise, wasn’t denunciation, and certainly wasn’t pep talks. “His skill resided in the Gatling-gun rattle of targeted information he fired at his players.”

This, not that. Here, not there. “His words and gestures served as short, sharp impulses that showed his players the correct way to do something. “He was seeing and fixing errors. “He was honing circuits.”

For those that knew him, this sounds exactly like Mike Walden. But this case study was of basketball’s John Wooden. The circuits Daniel refers to are the biological occurrences of “myelination” – the wrapping of neural circuits that become “talent” through repetition, coaching, and deliberate practice.

The hubris of youth suggests the following: “everything good that I have - I’ve earned.” And then the corollary “Everything I don’t have? Not my fault – I wasn’t born with that talent (or I’ve been thwarted by outside forces.”)

With time, maturity and a series of books by acclaimed authors I’ve been forced to realize that virtually all my athletic accomplishments and perhaps even all of my achievements in general – even in academics - boil down a couple simple facts: 1) I had the right parents (a subject for another day), and 2) I was born, raised, and trained at the right place at the right time: Detroit, 1980, WSC... with Walden.

Take away Dorais, Walden, Waterford, and the repeated refrains of “pedal circles,” “win it at the line,” and “race your strengths, train your weaknesses,” and humbly, it is clear that my entire life’s journey would be on a different trajectory. Gone would have been a bid for the Olympics, gone the silver medal, gone the singular element that encouraged some strong undergraduate (and graduate) schools to accept a student with SAT’s and GMAT’s that were at best “average” for these institutions.

My relationship with Mike Walden was not one I would have described as friendly: I came to practice, and he yelled at me. During practice, he yelled at me. Sometimes, after practice, he yelled at me. This was the same for most of the team, though I sometimes I felt singled out. Dorais velodrome was the worst – in the oval you were always within shouting distance. The bumpy track in the inner city was fraught with danger – bumps, graffiti, random kids throwing rocks, and the worst of all, crosswinds. Week after week, year after year, Walden demanded that riders should have only a 4 – 8 inch distance between the tires of other riders in high speed pacelines against crosswinds, over uncertain pavement, and variable speeds – all on racing bikes without brakes or gears. “Follow the wheel” meant be right on the wheel in front of you. If you let a few more inches stretch out as the peleton accordioned down the homestretch, then Walden’s penetrating voice was right there, “close the gap Coyle! Get on the wheel!”

Between each activity, Walden was not shy on letting anyone and everyone know how bad they had failed. “Alcala – you’re a disaster – can’t ride a straight line.” “Andreu – you pick it up every single time you hit the front.” “Paellela – you’re herky-jerky – ride smoothly, quit riding up on everyone.” I was afraid - everyone was afraid - to get it wrong, and you modified each and every pedal stroke to pedal circles, keep an even distance, accelerate smoothly, and drop down after pull at the front. I didn’t know it then, but this extraordinary focus on pedaling fundamentals every Tuesday for nearly 10 years allowed a 30+ year racing career featuring 3000+ races, with almost no crashes (<10), and not one injury serious enough to prevent racing the next day. It also gave my limited strengths a path for success: to move swiftly and safely through the peleton in preparation for the sprint in a manner that may be my primary defining strength as a cyclist. Mike always said, “race your strengths,” here’s a video of that put into action. 


Walden was not one to shower complements. In 1980 at 11 years old, racing as a Wolverine, I won the national championships at the Balboa Park Velodrome in San Diego, California. In the process I also met Eric Heiden who I would “pro-fro” with (live with for a week as a prospective freshman/frosh at Stanford 6 years later.) My relationship with Walden had only slightly warmed over the years, nonetheless I was fully expecting some warm words after my victory against some difficult odds against the likes of Jamie Carney. Immediately after the awards ceremony, still wearing my stars-and-stripes jersey, Walden sought me out and came up extending his hand. I was beaming and expecting (finally) some recognition. Instead I heard, “Don’t get cocky - it’s just a race. “There are a lot more important ones in your future.” He turned on his heel and stomped away. 30 years later and I can still feel the flush of heat to my cheeks as I describe that moment.

By the time I was in my late teens, I was winning races left and right. At 15, like Frankie Andreu, I was solicited by the almighty 7-11 team, and raced for them over the next couple of years. I continued attending Walden practices and continued to fear his penetrating bark. I had decided that he must clearly hate me until an odd morning one summer when I was 18.

I had been invited to a club ride that was leaving from Walden’s house in Berkley one Saturday morning. I rolled into the driveway a little early and no one was there, so Harriet Walden, Mike’s wife invited me into their comfortable, but humble home. I was struck by how normal it seemed. For nearly a decade Mike had been an enigma to me, someone ‘other than human’ who only pushed and prodded, who only repeated the same damn things again and again, “pedal circles! “Finish at the line! “Race your strengths!” Harriet was very accommodating and seemed to know all about me. As I waited for the other riders to arrive, she said something to me that shocked me then, and still cuts me to the core now, “You know, Mike is quite fond of you…” She paused, waiting for her words to sink in. “He speaks very highly of you.” I was stunned.

I didn’t know. But I know now. I should have known then. How could I not know? What kind of courage does it take to push someone to become all they can be and never even ask for any acknowledgment in return?  

A few years ago Richard Noiret made a movie, “Chasing the Wind” about Walden and the Wolverine Sports Club. I believe this is the tip of the iceberg. How did a club in a random suburb of Detroit produce 5 Olympians, 10 World Champions, 300 National medalists, and more than 25% of the nation’s national champion cyclists for two decades?

I’m a coach myself now, both for an incredible team at work, and as the head coach for the Franklin Park speedskating club. It’s odd: I’m relatively terrible at coaching speedskating despite a life dedicated to practicing the sport - it feels like total mayhem. Yet, every Tuesday night, more than one of the kids will say to me, “thanks Coach John!” as they leave the ice, despite all my yelling and it gives he a huge thrill. During all my formative years, it never, ever occurred to me to thank my coach – Affholter, Young, Walden – and it never occurred to me that they weren’t paid for all that time, effort and shouting.

Theron Walden (Mike) died February 12, 1996. I never even new his real name. I was probably busy with something I thought was important. I missed the funeral. It came to me later that I had never really known the man, and worse, that never, in my life had I ever said, the simple words I write now, 15 ½ years later. Thank you, Mike.

I owe you more than you could possibly imagine, but it is only now that I realize it. Thank you Mike – for your (tough) love, and your legacy that I’m attempting, clumsily, to pass on.


PS: In order to pass on Mike’s legacy I feel I must pass on the below verbatim. It concerns a sophisticated understanding of strengths vs. weaknesses that is best described in the incredible book, “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham. As usual, an incredible amount of science belies the couple sharp barks that only become clear with time and repetition. This is another great legacy of Mike’s: repetition is the key to coaching. Think carefully about the conundrum posed by the below and what it suggests for your life’s path regarding your strengths, passions, and weaknesses:

Race your strengths, train your weaknesses. Racing is the best training. Race your strengths, train your weaknesses.


  • “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell

  • “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle

  • “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin

  • “Now Discover Your Strengths" by Marcus Buckingham

National Championship results, 10 years:  1972 – 1981, Road & Track

1972 -  Road – Milwaukee, WI, Aug. 5-6


1.        Debbie Bradley, IA, 28mi in 1:19:10

2.        Jeanne Omelenchuk, MI

3.        Eileen Brennan, MI


 1973 Track – Northbrook, IL, Aug. 1-4


1.        Roger Young, MI

SENIOR MEN’S MATCH SPRINT : final for 1st and 2nd: Roger Young. Ml beat Jack Disney, CA, 2,0

SENIOR WOMEN MATCH SPRINT: final for 1st and 2nd: Sheila Young, Ml, beat Sue Novara, Ml, 2,0


1.        Jeff Bradley, IA, 21

2.        James Gesquiere, MI, 10


1974 Road – Pontiac, MI, July 27-28


1.  David Mayer-Oakes, TX

2. Pat Nielsen, MI

3. Tom Schuler, MI


1974 Track – Northbrook, IL, July 31-Aug. 3

SENIOR WOMEN MATCH SPRINT – Final for 1st and 2nd: Sue Novara, MI, beat Sheila Young, MI, 2.0


1.      Connie Paraskevin, MI, 21


1.         Kevin Johnson, MI, 14

2.          Troy Stetina, IN, 8


1.        Jacque Bradley, IA, 21

2.         Debbie Zbikowski, MI, 9


1975 Road – Louisville, KY, Aug. 14-15


1.        Wayne Stetina, IN, 114mi in 4:35:53.22

2.        Dave Boll, CA

3.        Tom Schuler, MI


1976 – Track – Northbrook, IL, Aug. 3-4

SENIOR WOMEN MATCH SPRINT- Final for 1st and 2nd: Sheila Young, MI, beat Sue Novara, MI, 2,1


1.        Jane Brennan, MI, 17


1.        Jeff Bradley, LA, 17

2.        James Gesquiere, MI, 15


1.        Connie Paraskevin, MI, 19

2.        Nancy Merlo, MI, 12


1.        Kirstie Walz, NJ, 19

2.        Susan Schaugg, MI, 15

3.        Anne Obermeyer, MI, 8

4.        Lisa Parkes, MI, 5


1977 – Road, Seattle, WA, July 26-Aug. 6

SENIOR WOMEN – 1.        Connie Carpenter, WI, 38.24mi in 1:38:31


1.        Greg LeMond, NV, 71.5mi in 3:10:40


2.        Jeff Bradley IA


1.        Beth Heiden, WI, 31.5mi in 1:24:28


1.        Grant Foster, CA, 11.25mi in 31:27

2.        Greg Foster, CA

3.        Jimmy Georgler, CA

4.        Glen Driver, CA

5.        Frankie Andreu, MI


1.        Sue Schaugg, MI, 9mi in 27:50

2.        Lisa Parkes , MI

3.        Ann Marie Obermayer , MI


1977 – Track  - Marymoor Velodrome, Redmond, WA, Aug. 2-6


1.        Connie Paraskevin, MI, 15

2.        Dana Scruggs, IN, 10

3.        Nancy Merlo, MI, 8

4.        Rena Walls, MI, 7

5.        Jane Brennan, MI, 7


1.        Susan Schaugg, MI, 14

2.        Lisa Parks, MI, 12


1978 Road Milwaukee, WI, July 26-30


1.        Jeff Bradley, IA. 7Omi in 2:50:48

2.        Greg LeMond, NV


1.        Sherry Nelsen, MO, 24mi in 1:03:51

2.        Tracy McConachie, IL

3.        Nancy Merlo, MI

4.        Karen Schaugg, MI

5.        Louise Olson, MI


1.        Jeanne Omelenchuck, MI 15mi in 40:26


1.        Elise Lobdell, IN

2.        Tyra Goodman, MI

3.        Beth Burger, PA

4.        Karn Radford, CA

5.        Celeste Andreu, MI


1978 – Track – Kenosha, WI, Aug. 1-5

SENIOR WOMEN MATCH SPRINT – final for 1st and 2nd: Sue Novara-Reber, MI, beat Jackie Disney, CA, 2,0


1.        Mary Jane Reoch, PA

2.        Cary Peterson, WA

3.        Sue Novara-Reber, MI


1.        Eric Baltes, WI, 13 pts

2.        James Gesquiere, MI, 12

3.        Jeff Bradley, IA, 8


1.        Connie Paraskevin, MI, 17

2.        Sherry Nelsen, MO, 15


3.        Tracy McConachie, IL, 7

4.        Nancy Merlo, MI, 6

5.        Rena Walls, MI, 3


1.        Beth Burger, PA, 19

2.        Elise Lobdell, IN, 11

3.        Tyra Goodman, MI, 7

4.        Karn Radford, CA, 7

5.        Celeste Andreu, MI, 7


1979  - Road – Milwaukee, WI, Aug. 1-5


1.        Connie Carpenter, CA. 39.6mi in 1:44:16

2.        Beth Heiden, WI


1.        Greg LeMond, NV, 70.4mi in 2:55:08


1.        Jean Omelenchuk, MI, 15mi in 43:30


1.        Sarah Docter, WI, 15mi in 38:02

2.        Sue Schaugg, MI

3.        Abby Eldridge, CO

4.        Lisa Parkes, MI

5.        Laura Merlo, MI


1.        Celeste Andreu, MI, 9mi in 27:09

2.        Elizabeth Keyser, CA

3.        Melanie Parkes, MI

1979 – Track – Northbrook, IL, Aug. 7-12


1.        Gus Pipenhagen, IL, 18 pts

2.        Roger Young, MI, 18

SENIOR WOMEN MATCH SPRINT  Final for 1st and 2nd: Sue Novara-Reber, MI, beat Jackie Disney, CA, 2,0


1.        Rebecca Twigg, WA, 16

2.        Connie Paraskevin, MI, 13


1.        Mark Whitehead, CA, 15 pts

2.        Jeff Bradley, IA, 13

3.        Peter Kron, IL, 7

4.        James Gesquiere, MI, 6


1.        Brenda Hetlet, WI, 17

2.        Susan Schaugg, MI, 10

3.        Laura Merlo, MI, 10

4.        Lisa Parkes, MI, 7


1.        Susan Clayton, IA, 17

2.        Jennifer Gesquiere, MI, 15

3.        Celeste Andreu, MI, 13

4.        Elizabeth Keyser, CA, 4

5.        Melanie Parkes, MI, 3

1980 – Road – Bisbee, Az, Aug. 13-17


1.        Beth Heiden, WI, 35mi in 1:43:56


1.        Sarah Docter, WI, 28mi in 1:25:58

2.        Rebecca Twigg, WA


1.        Dedra Chamberlin, CA, l7mi in 57:52

2.        Lisa Lobdell, IN

3.        Mary Farnsworth, CA

4.        Lisa Parkes, MI

5.        Susan Schaugg, MI


1.        John Chang, MI, 7mi in 24:29.54

2.        Steve MacGregor, WI

3.        Hector Jacome, CA

4.        John Coyle, MI

5.        Jamie Carney, NJ


1.        Celeste Andreu, MI, 7mi in 39:59

2.        Lisa Andreu, MI


1980 – Track – San Diego, CA, Aug. 20-23

SENIOR WOMEN MATCH SPRINT -Final for 1st and 2nd: Sue Novara-Reber, MI, beat Pam Deem, PA, 2,0


1.        Tim Volker, IA, 19

2.        Brad Hetlet, WI, 11

3.        Bobby Livingston, GA, 10

4.        Joe Chang, WI, 4

5.        Frankie Andreu, MI, 4


1.        Susan Schaugg, MI, 14

2.        Dedra Chamberlin, CA, 9

3.        Amy Saling, NJ, 7

4.        Mary Krippendorf, WI, 7

5.        Lisa Parkes, MI, 6


1.        John Coyle, MI, 19

2.        Jamie Carney, NJ, 11


1.        Celeste Andrau, MI, 17

2.        Jennie Gesquiere, MI, 15


1981 Bear Mountain, NY, Aug. 3-9


1.        Gordon Holterman, VA, 33mi in 1:33:47

2.        David Farmer, PA

3.        Frankie Andreu, MI


1.        Elizabeth Keyser, CA, 23.4mi in 1:15:15

2.        Bozena Zalewski, NJ

3.        Celeste Andreu, MI


1.        Lisa Andreu, MI, 11.7mi in 38:17

2.        Joella Harrison, AZ

3.        Gina Novara, M


1981 Track – Trexlertown, PA, Aug. 11-16

SENIOR WOMEN MATCH SPRINT –  Final for lat and 2nd: Sheila Young-Ochowicz, WI, beat Connie Paraskevin, MI, 2,0

Final for 3rd and 4th: Sue Navara-Reber, MI, beat Betsy Davis, NJ, 2,0


1.        Rene Duprel, WA, 19

2.        Celeste Andreu, MI, 15


1.        Jenny Gesquiere, MI, 21

2.        Gina Novara, MI, 15

3.        Alicia Andreu, MI, 9


This list only represents cycling – note the rising tide of MI athletes on the national stage.

 What is missing is the world and Olympic results for cycling and the same results for speedskating. Champions like Gold, Silver and Bronze Olympic medalist Sheila Young, World Champion Roger Young, World Champion and Olympic medalists Connie Paraskevan, World Champion Sue Novara, 9 Times Tour de France Rider and Olympic 4th place finisher Frankie Andreu – and on and on the list is a Who’s Who of American cyclists and speedskaters.