James Holzhauer put Jeopardy back in the spotlight this year. He almost broke Ken Jenning’s record cumulative winnings of $2.5 million in less than half the attempts. Putting his dominance in context would almost dehumanize him. His average daily win of $77,006.75 is higher than the previous single-day record of $70,000. He owns the top 16 highest daily wins ever with the record now set at $131,127.
Bobby Fischer was a good not great chess player at age 12. At age 13, he played “the game of the century”. A performance that would have been studied and marveled at if Fischer was an adult. At age 14, he won the world championship. He did all of this without a coach. (courtesy of the Adam Robinson interview I referenced last week).
Stephen Curry. Under-sized and under-recruited, the Warrior’s point guard has forced us to reimagine what we can expect from a shooter. In his 2015/16 MVP season, he dropped 402 3-pointers shattering his own prior record of 272, set 3 years earlier. The chart that circulated after the season showed just how obscene it was. As of this past October, Curry had 6 games in his career with 11 or more 3-pointer. That feat has only been recorded 7 times prior to him in NBA history. I took Zak to a game for the first time this season and it happened to be one of them. Curry scored 51 points in 3 quarters before calling it a night.
If you watch kids play basketball in the Bay Area they all emulate their hero. Chewing on their mouthpieces and chucking long 3s, these kids are innocent but naive. They see themselves as the next “baby-faced assassin” instead of Lebron who may as well be the Incredible Hulk. Curry is skinny and looks small on tv (he’s 6’3 so not exactly turning heads at Safeway either). I hate to say it, but sorry kids. Gladwell, you should cover your ears too. More went into reinventing the 3-pointer than just practice. Coach Steve Kerr, himself one of NBA history’s best marksmen not to mention a teammate of Michael Jordan, has called Curry’s eye-hand coordination the best he’s ever seen. Curry is an outstanding golfer and Kerr speculates that Curry would be a force on the pro tour if that was his focus (maybe we’ll get to find out when his ankles get too old for hoops). Curry’s younger brother plays for the Trailblazers and his father contributed enough to the Hornets early years to win a Sixth Man of the Year award. Pretty sure there was some mitosis involved with those skills.
Whether it’s a quantum leap in a game, discipline, or individual we demand a reason. Genes and genius can suffice but don’t satisfy. It’s more like magic.
I had zero mental model of how he created that piece in the same timeframe we all had…it seemed like the skills required were completely different. You could not simply scale up my abilities and get [his]…It seems to require completely different mental inputs entirely. The feeling I get, as a very good bodypainter looking at Sanatan’s work, is that I am looking at magic. And that, in fact, is my definition of magic – competence so much more advanced than yours…alien mental models [are at work].
You feel like its magic because you are bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Using bodypainting competitions as a backdrop (I encourage you to google Sanatan’s creations) read her mental approach to getting better at anything. The intuition and counterintuition is worth exploring for yourself and it shows a possible door to extreme performance relative to whatever you may have previously considered possible.
Version with my highlights here.
And some of my thoughts inspired by and adjacent to her essay.