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blink: Vic Braden and Intuition

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If you read The Tipping Point, the definitive look at how trends start, you were probably as eager as I was to read New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell’s latest.

Then, I read a review that said blink featured a (unnamed) tennis coach, and I couldn’t log on fast enough to Amazon.com to place an order. I wasn’t surprised when the coach in question turned out to be Vic Braden. For an expert in tennis “thin-slicing,” he has no peer. Ditto, coaching, teaching, research&#8212you name it; if it pertains to tennis, Braden cares deeply about it.


Braden served as honorary referee in Kalamazoo last year. (Click here for more details.) A Kalamazoo College graduate, he was loath to admit he hadn’t been on campus in decades, but once he arrived he was as ebullient, curious and provocative as ever. When he took a break from filming with his ever-present video camera, he explained to me his theory about genetics and net-rushing, and the research he is conducting on the issue.

In blink, his intuitive sense of an approaching double fault serves as an illustration of Gladwell’s theory that we process many things on a subconscious level, and must learn to trust our ability to make snap judgments. But we can’t expect to bring that conscious level to the surface, even if it would appear to be valuable to do so; the mind must be given the freedom to function on a submerged level.

Gladwell doesn’t shrink from the distasteful aspects of this submerged level, providing illuminating instances of why and how these judgments sometimes go awry. But as one who agonizes too often over inconsequential decisions, I appreciate a nudge away from that mindset.

© Colette Lewis 2005

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About Colette Lewis

  • I just read Blink last week, and I agree that it is a good read. Gladwell does a great job of mixing up some recent culture examples with his research to maintain a common reader’s interest.

    I thought the funny thing about Braden and his “double fault sixth sense” is that he’s not entirely certain why he knows… but time after time, he gets the call right anyway.

  • Collette, I have set your text to wrap the image of Braden.