• Welcome to the Speedsolving.com, home of the web's largest puzzle community!
    You are currently viewing our forum as a guest which gives you limited access to join discussions and access our other features.

    Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free so please, join our community of 35,000+ people from around the world today!

    If you are already a member, simply login to hide this message and begin participating in the community!

Genetics / Natural Talent vs Hard Work / Practice

Dene

Premium Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2007
Messages
6,911
WCA
2009BEAR01
YouTube
Visit Channel
I think kclejeune was referring to cubing, not running. Certainly some things becoming world class would be impossible for most people because of genetics, many sports being some of them, like sprinting.
I realise he was (hence my final paragraph being about cubing). The running example was just an analogy. It seems people don't seem to buy it though (at least you aren't so blinded to reality). Perhaps I should use another analogy for those who think enough practise will magically make them good at anything. In bodybuilding it's commonly accepted that some people are "hardgainers". These are people who just don't build big sized muscles regardless of their training programme. With enough work they'll get fairly big, but they'll never match the big guys, even if they took steroids. The reason for this largely seems to be their muscle composition (fast-twitch vs slow-twitch muscle fibres). It seems what you're born with is what you get.

Incidentally these muscle fibres also affect whether you might be better at endurance running or sprinting. Quite simply, if you have a musculature high in slow-twitch fibres you'll never match Arnold Schwarzenegger in size, nor will you be able to match Usain Bolt in a sprint. However you might become a great rock-climber or endurance runner. No matter what you do, you'll never be able to change your muscle composition, so you truly are genetically limited.

But the real question is, does cubing fit into one of those (at its modern day times)? I don't think it does. You're suggesting Feliks and other world class cubers have some sort of genetic advantage, but how, where, and why do you derive this?
As mentioned above, I believe it has a lot to do with processing speed. This generally involves taking in simple information, the brain processing the response, then sending out the necessary signals to act on it. It isn't perfectly comparable, but if everyone on here took this reaction time test, they'd get different results. I just did it quickly and got ~260ms reaction time, which seems to be a bit slower than average. This would initially suggest that no matter how hard I tried I would always be a bit slower than the average person as far as reaction time is concerned.

As a side note, I find this interestingly comparable to my experience in gaming. I love gaming, but despite enormous amounts of practise I was never able to match it with the really good guys. In my time quite a few people told me "you'll get there soon" but I never did. I always wondered what was holding me back, and now I think processing speed has a lot to do with it.

One game in particular I love is Tekken. I have literally spent hundreds of hours specifically practising throw-breaking in Tekken (as well as probably a million hours simply playing the game). Yet still, I really suck at it. My record on that trainer was about 10 or so, which is absolutely horrible. And that's when I can sit and wait and anticipate it coming, which is nothing like in a real game. I love watching videos of Tekken on youtube, and the top players are able to see an attempted throw, and break out of it, mid-game like it's nothing. When I play (estimated in the thousands of hours of practise, quite possibly even the magical 10,000 hour mark (I've been playing since Tekken 3...)) I literally cannot even see the throw, until it's too late. It blows my mind that these top guys can see it and respond in time before I've even realised what happened. But if you consider processing speed (which I seem to lack) it makes sense.

Cubing is obviously different to pure reaction time because you have control over where things are moving etc. etc. but that's not the point. What matters here is the speed at which the brain is able to process information, and get signals back to your fingers. Not everyone in the world is going to be identically capable at this. For some people, their brain will just process the information quicker. For others, the signals that get sent to the fingers will travel faster. There's absolutely nothing anyone can do to influence this. It is a genetic limitation that everyone has in different capacity. Therefore not everyone is going to be equally capable at speedcubing.

As for Feliks himself, obviously I have no evidence to show that he has superior processing speed. But given no one is able to get close to his times, despite people practising astronomical amounts, it suggests that Feliks likely has superior genetic ability. This, combined with his huge efforts practising, put him out of the range of the vast majority of people.

Another thing worth noting is the speed at which some people seem to get really good. I can absolutely guarantee that by the time Feliks was faster than me, I had spent much more time practising. Why did he get so much faster so much quicker? We see this time and again, with some people getting super fast out of nowhere, and you know they haven't practised as much as yourself all up, yet they're miles ahead of you. And before anyone says "it's all about effective practise bla bla bla", Feliks himself has stated many times that he never really did any special practise, so really that argument is dead.


The last thing I want to mention for now is this distinction between "world class" and "elite" or whatever. I mean, really it's just semantics so there's no point getting caught up in it, but as far as I'm concerned, to be "world class" you should be someone that is realistically fighting for first place (which means giving Feliks a run for his money (in the relevant events)). So when I say it's out of range for most people, I specifically mean most people won't be able to foot it with Feliks' times.

I disagree. The reason why Usain Bolt is so fast at running is because he started young, and has trained a lot. He spent his a lot of time in his childhood playing cricket and football, and (to quote him) "didn't really think about anything except sports". He ran in school meets and continued to play a lot of sports later on; hence, he would already have had good fitness and been able to run fairly fast. Coupled with specialised training and a whole lot of practice and hard work, he was able to become the fastest in the world.
This is just ridiculous, and surely you aren't so ignorant of real-world experience to not see why what you're saying doesn't make any sense at all. Let me use myself as an example. According to my parents I was walking at 9 months old, and running at 11 months (a baby generally starts walking at around a year, so I was very early). My whole life I've been fit and active, always playing sports and running around. I was brought up playing football, cricket, and rugby league. I was always a competent sprinter and mid-distance runner (never tried marathons or anything like that so no data available). In primary school I was the fastest in sprints and long-distance running. At that time I was largely up against fellow white people. This experience didn't change too much at high school, where I was basically the fastest white person. However there was one big difference: I went to a school with a lot of islanders, and in general those guys smoked me.

But there's a much more obvious example. Just look at the Olympics, which is full of people who have been sprinting their whole lives, with specialised training since they could walk. Yet none of them can match Usain Bolt (even convicted drug cheats). How can you possibly explain that, without turning to genetics? Incidentally, all the top sprinters tend to be of African descent. Just a big old coincidence, right? Yeah, right >_>

Likewise, in cubing, Feliks has been able to become the best in the world because of the copious amounts of practice which he has put in. This practice has allowed him to recognise patterns, track pieces in perform algorithms (or even F2L sequences) extremely fast. Why can't everyone (at this point) do it? Because they either simply have not practised enough, or have not effectively practised enough. In Feliks' case, he was probably lucky when he chose to become colour neutral, chose to solve some F2L pairs in a certain way, chose to use certain algorithms, etc. all of which allowed him to rise to the top. Feliks is able to obtain an optimal processing speed for cubing simply because he has a better understanding of the puzzle (in relation to 3x3 speedsolving) and has practiced solving it so many times.
See my above post.

To address your other point about excelling in everything: the reason why we do not excel in any of these other areas is because we have not practiced them enough. It is said that 10,000 hours (or loosely 10 years) of deliberate practice is needed to really excel in any given field; since Feliks hasn't even reached this mark (or neither has anyone else, for that matter), how can we be expected to excel in so many other areas when we can't even do so for cubing?

I strongly believe that 'geniuses' are made, not born.
Apart from the fact that there is no actual evidence for the so called "10,000 hours" theory, you completely miss the point. Why is it that some people just do well in some things, but suck at others? For example, I am a natural at maths and the hard sciences. I didn't practise more than anyone else, yet I was amongst the top in my classes. I preferred to be outside kicking a ball around rather than in a classroom doing equations, yet I performed in the top percentile amongst New Zealanders and Australians in the Australian Maths Competition when I was in primary school, without any specific training.

On the flipside, I really suck at other things, despite a lot of effort (see my post above). How can you possibly claim that genetics has nothing to do with it? It might be hard to swallow that your accomplishments are heavily influenced by what you are born with, but to deny it is to deny reality.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

shadowslice e

Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2015
Messages
2,912
Location
Hampshire, England
YouTube
Visit Channel
Perhaps you didn't read my above post: allow me to summarise: Cubing does not have enough people doing it for long enough to have such a strong bias towards certian people such that it is impossible for them to become "world class". (world records? Maybe).

In additions, it is still a relatively new sport so it is likely the best records have not been set yet (so it is possible that the records could drop by much more than ever thought possible)
 

Xtremecubing

Member
Joined
Aug 11, 2015
Messages
173
Location
Canada
WCA
2015HUGH02
Feliks might have a slight genetic advantage over other people, and combine that with the amount of work that he has put in and you get the top solver in the world. Some things like singing, sports, are totally genetic. I cannot just become a bass and be able to sing really low no matter how much I practice, only specific people with those genetics can do that, and to beat Usain Bolt, you would have to be a specific height, weight, have a specific number of fast twitch fibers vs slow twitch etc. I don't think cubing is this reliant on genetics, but it could be in the future, when people get faster eventually.
 

Dene

Premium Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2007
Messages
6,911
WCA
2009BEAR01
YouTube
Visit Channel
Perhaps you didn't read my above post: allow me to summarise: Cubing does not have enough people doing it for long enough to have such a strong bias towards certian people such that it is impossible for them to become "world class". (world records? Maybe).

In additions, it is still a relatively new sport so it is likely the best records have not been set yet (so it is possible that the records could drop by much more than ever thought possible)
I saw it, but really it's your speculation vs. my speculation, so not much to say. Obviously we know times can get better because they continue to. But the current evidence suggests not everyone is capable of getting to be competitive for current world records.
 
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
1,320
Location
Brisbane, Australia
WCA
2015PEAR02
YouTube
Visit Channel
(In a short answer, this is my opinion)

Being a world class speedcuber requires part natural skill and part practice. You CAN be a world champion with no 'natural skill', just practice, but it is much harder, and you will need to practice way more often, and also for a longer time. As people have said that Feliks has a 'natural ability with cubing,' he practices a lot, but not as much as other people that don't have 'natural skill'
 

obelisk477

Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2010
Messages
1,144
Location
Raleigh, NC
WCA
2009BATT01
YouTube
Visit Channel
I've always thought it an interesting and mostly unique aspect of cubing that the fastest solvers in the world have the ability to practice more than anyone else. I average ~13.6 and Faz averages, dunno, ~7.2. So in the same hour, he can literally do (13.6-7.1)/7.1 = 91.5% *more* practice than I can in the same amount of time. Again, if we both sat down for an hour, he would do twice the number of solves as me, and so twice as much practice. I am not practicing as much as him (so I think) until I am doing the same number of solves as him.
 

josh42732

Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Messages
415
Location
Fort Worth, Texas
I don't think so. You can practise sprinting as much as you like, you'll never outrun Usain Bolt unless you have the genetics. Feliks has a brain that processes this particular ability better than most (taking in patterns, processing combinations, working out a solution, and sending that information to the fingers). That, combined with a lot of practise, made him by far better than anyone else. To match him would take the combination of natural ability with an enormous amount of practise.
So you're saying that Maskow, because of his genetics, can BLD solve better than anyone and that nobody will ever come close merely because of genetics? I'd say that genetics do play a role, but not in ability. I'd say that it's in your genetics on how much you practice, how good your work ethic is, and staying focused on the task at hand.

(In a short answer, this is my opinion)

Being a world class speedcuber requires part natural skill and part practice. You CAN be a world champion with no 'natural skill', just practice, but it is much harder, and you will need to practice way more often, and also for a longer time. As people have said that Feliks has a 'natural ability with cubing,' he practices a lot, but not as much as other people that don't have 'natural skill'
Agreed.
 

Dene

Premium Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2007
Messages
6,911
WCA
2009BEAR01
YouTube
Visit Channel
I've always thought it an interesting and mostly unique aspect of cubing that the fastest solvers in the world have the ability to practice more than anyone else. I average ~13.6 and Faz averages, dunno, ~7.2. So in the same hour, he can literally do (13.6-7.1)/7.1 = 91.5% *more* practice than I can in the same amount of time. Again, if we both sat down for an hour, he would do twice the number of solves as me, and so twice as much practice. I am not practicing as much as him (so I think) until I am doing the same number of solves as him.
This logic is so messed up for so many reasons. But if you want to stick with it, then do 2x2, and you'll get in more solves in an hour :p

So you're saying that Maskow, because of his genetics, can BLD solve better than anyone and that nobody will ever come close merely because of genetics? I'd say that genetics do play a role, but not in ability. I'd say that it's in your genetics on how much you practice, how good your work ethic is, and staying focused on the task at hand..
I'm not saying that no one will come close. It certainly seems like he has exceptional memory skills. But it's harder to say if he's taken the event to near its limits because not enough people have tried.

It seems people in this thread are all prepared to deny that everyone has different limits in every skill possible, including "brain" skills. Work ethic is indeed important, and your genetics will strongly contribute to that too. But no amount of determination will make you the best in the world at sprinting if you don't have suitable genetics; no amount of practise will make you a memory champion if you aren't born with an outstanding memory capacity; and no amount of speedcubing practise will make you the best in the world if your body and brain aren't built in the right way.
 

tseitsei

Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2012
Messages
1,354
Location
Tampere, Finland
WCA
2012LEHT01
I have to agree with Dene here...

Of course practise is important and needed to be world class in any event.

BUT at the very top level people all practise really hard so the differences come from natural talent (and smart deliberate practising) rather than the sheer amount of time put in to practising.

100m sprint or any other big sport is a good example. They all do it for their living and practise professionally and as much as humanly possible but still some of them are just better than others. That's genetics/talent...
 

stoic

Premium Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2011
Messages
998
Location
Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland
WCA
2013DEAR01
Interesting topic. Allow me to repost something I put in Escher's practice thread a couple of days ago (hadn't seen this one):

Just finished reading a book I got for Xmas, and I think it has a lot of relevance here: "Bounce" by Matthew Syed.
The author is a former table tennis champion, and sets out to discuss "The myth of talent and the power of practice".
Particularly noteworthy is the story of Laszlo Polgar, who attempted to dispel the notion that talent is innate using his own children. In his own words: "People tell me the success of my daughters was pure luck...they say it was a coincidence that a man who set about proving the practice theory of excellence using chess just happened to beget the three most talented female chess players in history. Maybe some people just do not want to believe in the power of practice."
And another quote - among many - that caught my eye: "Purposeful practice may not be easy, but it is breathtakingly effective."
Like I say, a great read and recommended.
Don't want to get into responding to much of the above (the book nails it better than I ever could for those really interested), but Syed is careful to be aware of the distinction between complex and simple tasks. The latter in his definition would include running, which he discusses in detail.

I would say 60% hard work, 40% natural talent
I would say <1% natural talent, >99% hard work, practice and other accidents of opportunity.
 
Last edited:

Sajwo

Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2011
Messages
978
Location
P(r)oland
WCA
2012SZEW01
YouTube
Visit Channel
I would say <1% natural talent, >99% hard work, practice and other accidents of opportunity.
I am cubing since 2009. It all depends on your point of view. I know dozens of people who are practising daily for many years and they couldn't accomplish what young and fresh minds done in 1 or 2 years since they started cubing. It's easy to say that it all depend on practice, if you are one of the bests.
 

shadowslice e

Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2015
Messages
2,912
Location
Hampshire, England
YouTube
Visit Channel
I have to agree with Dene here...

Of course practise is important and needed to be world class in any event.

BUT at the very top level people all practise really hard so the differences come from natural talent (and smart deliberate practising) rather than the sheer amount of time put in to practising.

100m sprint or any other big sport is a good example. They all do it for their living and practise professionally and as much as humanly possible but still some of them are just better than others. That's genetics/talent...
I agree that it may take talent to get to the world record standards however, in general, not enough people really cube competitively to prevent anyone from really attaining world standard (note: not world record standard- I would agree that the world record holder definately have something or several things on their side).

It may soon become true for common events such as 3x3 however, if cubing continues to grow and almost every viable method comes into use or is created.
 

stoic

Premium Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2011
Messages
998
Location
Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland
WCA
2013DEAR01
I am cubing since 2009. It all depends on your point of view. I know dozens of people who are practising daily for many years and they couldn't accomplish what young and fresh minds done in 1 or 2 years since they started cubing. It's easy to say that it all depend on practice, if you are one of the bests.
I don't have all the answers, and it's fun speculating but as a scientist there's one thing I can say with certainty: at least one of us is definitely wrong. :D
 
Last edited:

turtwig

Member
Joined
Apr 2, 2015
Messages
538
There's no denying that some people have more talent than others and will have an easier time improving. The difference might be very small, but it definitely exists.
This doesn't mean in any way that people with less talent can't become fast with hard work or that people with more talent don't have to work hard to become fast.

Also this:
However, I'd like to point out that the value of talent is magnified through the Matthew Effect. Doing lots of practice is not only the cause for but also the effect of becoming faster. We practice not simply because we WANT to make progress, but rather we feel confident in making progress. That's why a tad of talent goes a long way: those who started out with little cognitive advantage will be motivated to practice a little bit more, and become a little bit better than his peers. This adds to his belief that he is somewhat good at improving, which pushes him harder in practicing. By now, he who has a little more talent and spends a little more time in practicing will improve noticeably faster than an average person, which may further convince him of his superior ability, pushing him even harder. Through this positive feedback loop, talent becomes a cumulative advantage. People are unwilling to practice not just because they forget the law of practice. They just gradually lose faith in it because they are a little bit slower than their talented friend in the first few hours of contact.
 

Yetiowin

Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2015
Messages
55
Location
Canada
WCA
2015JIAN03
I think that thinking you need to have natural talent to be good is like how non-cubers think that you need to have natural talent to solve the cube. All cubers know that if you spend enough time, it's pretty easy. Though you may improve slightly faster if you have some natural advantage, natural talent will not affect your ability to become world class.
 

tseitsei

Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2012
Messages
1,354
Location
Tampere, Finland
WCA
2012LEHT01
I agree that it may take talent to get to the world record standards however, in general, not enough people really cube competitively to prevent anyone from really attaining world standard (note: not world record standard- I would agree that the world record holder definately have something or several things on their side).

It may soon become true for common events such as 3x3 however, if cubing continues to grow and almost every viable method comes into use or is created.
Well then it becomes more of a question of "What is world class?"

Top100?
Top10?
Top 1%?
Top 0.1%?
Something else?
 

stoic

Premium Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2011
Messages
998
Location
Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland
WCA
2013DEAR01
I'd like to point out that the value of talent is magnified through the Matthew Effect. Doing lots of practice is not only the cause for but also the effect of becoming faster. We practice not simply because we WANT to make progress, but rather we feel confident in making progress. That's why a tad of talent goes a long way: those who started out with little cognitive advantage will be motivated to practice a little bit more, and become a little bit better than his peers. This adds to his belief that he is somewhat good at improving, which pushes him harder in practicing. By now, he who has a little more talent and spends a little more time in practicing will improve noticeably faster than an average person, which may further convince him of his superior ability, pushing him even harder. Through this positive feedback loop, talent becomes a cumulative advantage. People are unwilling to practice not just because they forget the law of practice. They just gradually lose faith in it because they are a little bit slower than their talented friend in the first few hours of contact.
Isn't there a logical fallacy being committed here...arguing in favour of talent by positing a hypothetical "talented friend" (who may well have spent many hours in unseen practice)?


PS. Repped for the Socratic signature.
 
Last edited:
Top