Furthest Right

Stop making excuses

Malcolm Gladwell, the genetic freak of nature who brought us the clear and intelligent The Tipping Point, has now brought us excuses:

“People don’t rise from nothing,” he writes. “They are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot … It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.”

In other words, don’t ask how Bill Gates got so smart. Ask what unique set of circumstances allowed him to harness his smarts toward world dominion. “Successful people don’t do it alone,” the author tells us. “Where they come from matters. They’re products of particular places and environments.”

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Gladwell, in short, is in the hope business. “People are experience rich and theory poor,” he told the New York Times. “People who are busy doing things — as opposed to people who are busy sitting around, like me, reading and having coffee in coffee shops –don’t have opportunities to kind of collect and organize their experiences and make sense of them.”


The best way to lie is to tell part of the truth, and make it seem to represent the whole. The best way to lie to yourself is the same. While it’s true that no one makes themselves great alone, it’s also true that greats — and he probably should pick more inspiring figures than business and popcultural successes, here — make themselves successful.

The formula is this: raw ability + disciplined exploration = potential for success. That then must be marketed correctly… there are undiscovered greats because they never managed to show us a clear product, or have a theory that can be distilled into a sentence.

He says it takes about 10 years, or 10,000 hours, of practice to attain true expertise.

“The people at the very top don’t just work harder or even much harder than everyone else,” Gladwell writes. “They work much, much harder.” Achievement, he says, is talent plus preparation. Preparation seems to play a bigger role.

For example, he describes The Beatles’ rise to fame: They had been together seven years before their famous arrival in America. They spent a lot of time playing in strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany, sometimes for as long as eight hours a night. John Lennon said of those years: “We got better and got more confidence. We couldn’t help it with all the experience playing all night long.”

Overnight sensation? Not exactly. Estimates are that the band performed live 1,200 times before their big success in 1964. By comparison, most bands don’t perform 1,200 times in their careers.


He could have picked a better example: The Beatles couldn’t write a symphony. I wonder what true greatness takes? After all, rock ‘n’ roll seems like a learned art for clever people, not geniuses, which is underscored by the number of geniuses active in it: zero.

A better angle:

Researchers in Germany have found that genius is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration, and one has to practice just 10,000 hours to reach the top in their chosen discipline, the ‘Daily Mail’ reported.

And, according to them, talent and luck are important, but it’s practice that makes the difference between being good and being brilliant.

The researchers at the Berlin’s Academy of Music came to the conclusion after looking at a group of violin students who started playing at around the age of five, practising for two or three hours a week.

As they grew older, the amount of practice increased. And, by the age of 20, the elite performers had each totalled 10,000 hours of practice, while the merely good students had accrued 8,000.

Times of India

So the best practiced for 10,000 hours while everyone else did 8,000.

Did they practice more because they had the talent, and the drive?

Or were they realists: they recognized that a rote mechanical skill plus intelligence plus disciplined hard work equals ability?

I seem to recall Robert Fripp opining something similar, about thirty years ago — and he was clearly born congenitally able to perceive such things.


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