Pranab Chakraborty

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Acrobatic fisherman: “Deep practice” applied to develop a livelihood?

submitted 3 years ago by in Images
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The photograph depicts a fisherman Albert jumping to hunt a fish or some other sea creature using a spear with an amazing skill and precision. It was taken by a photographer, named Stephane Ducandas sometime in November of 2012, on the Loyalty Islands Province in New Caledonia, which is one of the many islands in the south west Pacific Ocean.

When I looked at the photo the first thing that struck me was the image of the fisherman in an almost horizontal position as if he is flying in the air. Immediately the focus shifted under the water – and I started thinking, what’s he trying to do? The beautiful surrounding of the waters and the idyllic background makes the photograph almost surreal – as if it has been created using some computer graphics.

Horizontally the photograph can be thought to be divided in two parts – one part is filled with semi-transparent water while the remaining part is above the water predominantly having a blue sky in its backdrop. The fisherman’s image is placed towards the center of top half. One can see some interesting under-sea objects and creatures visible in the bottom half. Beyond the frame, one may wonder that there could be some land body from which the man leapt into the air holding his spear to hunt something – is that a fish or is that a turtle? It seems a little ambiguous and that makes the picture more intriguing.

This photograph is a representation of expertise in two ways. First, the fisherman’s image is a true demonstration of his fishing skill that combines agility, focus and accuracy. His posture shows that his movements are nimble; his concentration to the target reflects his single minded dedication to the activity and his commitment to the jump proves that he must be fairly accurate in his attempt. Next, what comes to our mind is the skill of the photographer – who was able to capture the right moment in a structured overall frame to depict the tension of a moving action in a still image. Undoubtedly that also requires a great amount of photographic skill. Based on these observations, I would like to define expertise as the mastery of a skill that can harmoniously bring together the three elements – precision, impact and surprise.

I think this photograph inherently demonstrates the validity of “deep practice” (Coyle). It’s impossible to assume that the fisherman was born with this skill. So “nature” would not be playing a dominant role in development of his skill. Definitely, “nurture” must have played a significant role where he would have observed others in the same community of fishermen develop such hunting skills. But how did he eventually learn it? What kind of practice did he do? We can predict with a fair amount of certainty that no one can build such skills by remaining in his/her comfort zone. So just practicing some jumps repeatedly would not result in such skills. The man must have tried repeatedly around some “sweet spots” (Coyle) where he tried, failed, thought about the mistake and tried again. He must have tried under various conditions of water as well as for different target objects – like fish, turtle or something else.

This image tells me that with right kind of practice in a supportive environment, motivated individuals can achieve spectacular physical skills. They can attain such a level of accuracy that the margin of error can be literally eliminated. It also tells me that one needs to be open to take risks and try something beyond ordinary. Does it also mean that individuals having a fearless attitude may excel in skills that demand physical activities?

There are some direct questions about the fishing community that this photograph raises in my mind. How many years back did this way of hunting originate in such islands? What was the trigger and why is it not common in other places of the world? What are the pros and cons of fishing in this way? Is there any water-sport that uses such actions?

Apart from these, the photograph also raises some questions about the connection of such methods with passion or happiness. Is it mandatory to have indomitable passion to achieve expertise in physical activities? When someone uses this type of action to earn one’s daily livelihood – does it also boost the person’s confidence or make him/her happier than other individuals of the same trade who do not use such action oriented approach?

What is your opinion?


Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code. London: Arrow Books, 2010. New York: Bantam Dell, 2009. Print.


“Wild” – an incredible journey of human triumph

submitted 3 years ago by in Books
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At the age of 26, Cheryl Strayed decided to hike one of the longest mountain trails in the west coast of the United States, called the Pacific Crest Trail, alone. She traveled 1100 miles in wilderness for three months starting from the Mojave Desert in the south, going up to the Oregon-Washington border in the north. On her way through the hazardous terrain, she faced a wide variation of climate from intense heat to freezing cold and encountered rattlesnakes and wild carnivores. In spite of many challenges en-route, she persisted and continued to move ahead with unflagging determination. Wild, a number-one New York Times bestseller, is an autobiographical narrative of her journey. A film based on the book was also released in December 2014. It has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and the lead role (of Cheryl Strayed) has been played by Reese Witherspoon. It has received a 91% rating by Rotten Tomatoes.

But why did the author decide to undertake this arduous trek? To know that one has to understand some of the critical events from her life as described in the book.

She had a troubled early childhood due to an abusive father. Her parents got divorced when she was six years old. Later, she and her two siblings moved with her mother and stepfather to a country side home that lacked the basic amenities like electricity, running water or phone for initial few years. She loved her mother dearly and forever wondered about her never-ending optimism in difficult situations. Perhaps that optimism was the key factor to create a close bond among all the family members. Gradually the family’s fortunes also improved.

But in a sudden twist of fate, when she was 22 years old, her mother died of lung cancer in just 49 days after the diagnosis. This completely devastated her. The family failed to stick together. Almost simultaneously her marriage failed due to her own faults. She started rapidly losing control on her own life.

Four years after her mother’s death, while visiting a hardware store she came across a guide book on Pacific Crest Trail and took an impulsive decision to walk through that route.

Before venturing into the journey, she had virtually no real experience of long-distance hiking. But in the course of three months of walk, the hardships of the trek taught her many valuable lessons and completely transformed her as an individual.
One can learn many things from this book. To me, the aspects that appeal most are as follows –
• An inner journey can transform an individual: Such journeys alter our behaviors and transform our outlook towards life. This memoir is not just a chronicle of the physical endurance but it also describes the author’s inner journey that brought back her self-confidence and restored her positivity. She discovered that it was a journey of redemption to rebuild her shattered life. In her own words it was the “way back to the person” she used to be.
• Resilience and grit are winning qualities: A combination of these two qualities can be a potent recipe for success. There were occasions where the author had to walk miles in a desert without any drinking water or trek over mountainous terrain for some days without the hiking boots as it accidentally fell off the cliff. These incidents tested her survival abilities, but she came out with flying colors.

Wild is not only an account of an incredible journey of human triumph, it is a spectacular literary work as well. I would like to recommend this book as a must read for anyone looking for inspiring examples on resilience and grit.