That’s What It Takes

The book Outliers by Malcolm is a real treasure. This book just takes your past knowledge of the world and just warps it, flips it upside-down, and cuts it in half. It’s amazing how many misconceptions we can have of the world. Yet we lived in it for thousands of years, I feel like we are understanding it less and less… However, just in case some people want to be informed, I’ve read the book, processed the information, and am now regurgitating it for your reading pleasure or for your intellectual curiosity.

Once again, success is not all about individual traits! We all wonder, ‘Is there such thing as innate talent?’ Of course there is! But it’s not about how ‘smart’ you are or how ‘talented’ you are! I know it’s hard to understand, but it’s true! Your environment and all the factors around you decide first. In Outliers, it is mentioned that birth dates are much more important to success than many would think. Now I’m going to debunk the myth of the ‘natural’, a person who breezes the top without working hard.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s chapter ‘The 10,000-hour rule’, he provides an example of a study. The study featured students at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music. There were three groups of violinists: the first were the stars, the second were the “okay” ones, and the third were the “not so good” ones. You might be thinking, ‘The first group must be the one with talent!’. Really? It turns out, by the age of twenty, the elite performers totaled ten thousand hours of practice. The “okay” students totaled eight thousand hours, and the “not so good” students totaled four thousand hours. In fact, there were no “naturals”, people who succeeded without working, nor were there “grinds”, people who work hard, but fall short. It seems that practice really does make perfect. A LOT of practice, that is. The results were then compared to that of pianists. The same pattern emerged. The number 10,000 kept popping up. What’s so special about this number? Why is it that true mastery always seems to be linked with this number?

You all know Mozart, right? Child prodigy, he wrote his own music at the age of six! Many use him as an example to argue against the idea of hard work- that talent reigns supreme. However, it turns out that the earliest pieces by Mozart were mostly written by his father, and his childhood works were not all that original. Mozart’s greatest, finest work came when he wrote pieces for ten years! After his ten thousand hours! In fact, it might be possible that Mozart actually developed late! What?

Two examples of the ten-thousand hour rule: The Beatles and Bill Gates. The Beatles are the unanimous choice for the greatest band in the history of music. They were simply spectacular (I listen to some of their songs today!). Starting from February 1964 to 1970, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr just TOOK OVER America! But do you want to know how long Lennon and McCartney had been playing together beforehand? Seven years! Even more, their past has some even more secrets. While the Beatles were still in Europe, and not that famous, they performed in Hamburg, Germany. They mostly played in strip clubs, so they got a lot of alcohol and sex, which is probably why they kept going there. The real kicker is this: They played eight hours a day, seven days a week. Holy smokes! That’s essentially performing twelve hundred times in a period of four years. They definitely hit ten-thousand hours by the time they came to America in 1964! 

Bill Gates used to be the President of Microsoft, and is currently the richest man in the world. Everybody knows that he was a good, if not great, programmer, but do they know how long he worked on his craft? Back in the 1960s, it was very difficult to find a computer that wasn’t larger than a full-sized room, but Gates did. In fact, when most people had to use these clunky, slow computers that required cards to execute commands, Bill Gates was about to do real-time programming at THIRTEEN! Over his school career, Gates just kept getting lucky, by getting opportunities to program ALL DAY LONG. He would sneak out of his house at night and just program away, and everybody around him probably wondered how he could have gotten so addicted. By the time he dropped out of Harvard and started Microsoft, he had been programming continuously for seven consecutive years. That’s MUCH more than ten-thousand hours! You know what they say, “You get out what you put in”. And Bill Gates got a lot! Therefore, it was his determination and grit and passion for computers which created his endless wealth.

Sometimes success is not what we always believe it to be.


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