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Malcom Gladwell's Outliers

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I just finished the newest Malcolm Gladwell book. According to the interview at the end of the audiobook, I listened to, Gladwell says that this book is an attack on rugged individualism. His basic argument is that the opportunities[lucky breaks] one is given, what month or year you were born, cultural background, and maybe even one's language can explain someone's success in life rather then their hard work or intellect. Case and point being that Bill Gates was given a computer to use at a young age that was in very limited supply in highschool. The access to this computer and being able to use it so much and some other lucky breaks that involve access to computers allowed him to become billionaire. On the other side is Chris Langan who has an IQ of something like 195 and never became the success that Bill Gates was because a couple people at his University would not allow him to change his class schedule so that he could make it to school when his transmission broke.

It seems to me that Gladwell is magnifying the role of chance and lucky breaks in our lives to the extent that one's choice to work hard get ahead in life are rendered meaningless. Anyone else read this book and have a similar or different reaction?

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I just finished the newest Malcolm Gladwell book. According to the interview at the end of the audiobook, I listened to, Gladwell says that this book is an attack on rugged individualism. His basic argument is that the opportunities[lucky breaks] one is given, what month or year you were born, cultural background, and maybe even one's language can explain someone's success in life rather then their hard work or intellect.

No, in addition to their hard work and intellect. Gladwell believes that greatness in any field requires ten thousand hours of practice. He does not say that intelligence does not matter, but he does say that only a certain degree of intelligence is required for success, and that beyond that point other factors become more important.

Edited by ctrl y

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Yeah, sorry about that you are correct of course. On a side note, he does seem to say that Chris Langon had lots of abilities because of his intellect that did not require 10000 hours of practice. Like being able to play Jimi Hendrix guitar licks at young age or even speak at six months or read at, what was it, three years?

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His methodology doesn't justify his conclusions. He takes a very small sample size, then projects that onto everyone. Consider the Bill Gates example. If I recall the book correctly, there were something like eight other people in his club who could use the computer - what happened to them? He also looks at people who've been successful in computer technology and notes they were all born within certain years ('54-'57, I think). His premise being that these people had an advantage because they were just the right age to take advantage of the new technology. Well, what about the millions of others born between '54 and '57?

His opening argument (hocky players get good because they're born late in the year) has some merit, but as in all the other cases he ignores the very simple fact that these were still individuals, taking individual action, making their own individual choices, and deciding on their own to pursue opportunities. Opportunities surround everyone, all the time, and it is only the individual who takes advantage of them.

I enjoyed "Blink," but I wasn't at all impressed with this.

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Hmmm, I never liked Blink. I read a couple of critical reviews that destroyed his methodology in that book. Although I don't know where the links are.

I was going through the top 15 NHL players for week 20 on ESPN.com and his theory didn't seem to gel to much with those players. It seems like July was a good month to be born then. There was even a December in there.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/playerranking

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I've been wanting to read it Gladwell's work. When I get a chance too, I'll post a mini-review here.

Considering how off Blink was [a good rebuttal is LeGault's Think], am not so inclined to think his latest is of much value...

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Considering how off Blink was [a good rebuttal is LeGault's Think], am not so inclined to think his latest is of much value...

What was off about it?

I teach martial arts and found a great deal of what Gladwell wrote to be highly effective and applicable to self-defense.

There really is only one way to become a good fighter: get in a lot of fights (and survive). However, the learning curve can be greatly flattened by consciously recognizing what hours of sparring will eventually hone: your adversary's stance, where their weight is distributed, what they do with their hands, where they're positioned, what they do with their feet and where those are positioned, where they're looking, how they're breathing all give clues to what your opponent is going to do. Trained fighters capture these elements, and many more, litterally in the blink of an eye.

Many of them, if not most, would not be able to tell you how they knew their opponent was going to jab, or cross, or duck, but their actions appear as if they've read their opponent's mind. Of course, they have not. They've merely acted upon the nearly limitless messages sent to their brain, and their brain, through hours of practice, put the patterns together.

As a teacher, I teach others to conceptually recognize these patterns. This frees up their brains to concentrate on the limited world of probability rather than the much larger world of possibility. Knowing that certain patterns exist, that certain effects have only limited causes, and that certain causes lead to certain effects, they're much better prepared to be proactive in the sense that what they're reacting to was the only option available to their opponent. They're at least a move ahead of their opponent.

The brain is presented with a stupefying amount of information - and I mean that in every sense of the word. If we had to focus on every data point our perceptions presented to our brains we simply wouldn't be able to function. Thankfully, our brains are pattern seeking computers. They don't bring to the fore that which fits whatever pattern we're experiencing, they only bring to the fore that which does not fit the pattern - that which seems out of place or not-usual. The point Gladwell was trying to make was people with a great deal of experience with certain patterns can spot when those patterns aren't right. They might not be able to conceptualize or articulate why those patterns are wrong, but that doesn't make it any less real.

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