November 6, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell on Outliers: The Story of Success

RD: You write that talent and IQ don't matter as much as we think they do. What do we really need to become successful?
Gladwell: An innate gift and a certain amount of intelligence are important, but what really pays is ordinary experience. Bill Gates is successful largely because he had the good fortune to attend a school that gave him the opportunity to spend an enormous amount of time programming computers-more than 10,000 hours, in fact, before he ever started his own company. He was also born at a time when that experience was extremely rare, which set him apart. The Beatles had a musical gift, but what made them the Beatles was a random invitation to play in Hamburg, Germany, where they performed live as much as five hours a night, seven days a week. That early opportunity for practice made them shine. Talented? Absolutely. But they also simply put in more hours than anyone else.

RD: How does a kid become the next Bill Gates or Tiger Woods?
Gladwell: Both of these men had parents who allowed their children to focus almost exclusively on what brought them joy and what they were good at. And both of them were able, as children, to invest an extraordinary amount of time in pursuing that particular passion. Again, not just a little time. The magic number for them, for Mozart, and for so many outliers, as I call them, appears to be 10,000 hours.