The great thing about being on holiday is that you have a chance to read and so learn more about what other people think. My first book of the holiday has been Outliers (Something classed differently from the main body) by Malcolm Gladwell. I have read all of MG’s books and find his arguments persuasive and challenging. Although the level of detail can sometimes appear to be a distraction and full of information that on the face of it not relevant, if you stick with it and follow with a sense of adventure, you will be rewarded with a very well thought through, original and thought provoking idea (s).
Although the book is about success and so may help you become more successful, MG has avoided the “I can make you successful” title. It is sub titled the story of success but is more a journey of why different people have been successful and to some extent why others have not. He argues that success is less about your IQ and more about where you are from. It is more to do with your culture, attitude, willingness to work hard and practice, practice, practice.
This in many ways is the classic nature nurture argument. I do have to express a bias here, I love stories that are more about nurture, partly because as you may have picked up from earlier blogs, instinctively I like to think we have some control over our destiny rather than the idea that from the minute you are born your life is pre- determined.
And although it could be argued that MG makes the case that success is very much influenced by your culture and background, therefore making it less to do with the individual and so more predetermined. By explaining how people have become successful it removes many of the myths that people create, “He was so clever, you knew he would succeed”. “The reason he was successful is because he was a genius, if only I was a genius”.
Chapter by chapter and at times with no apparent relationship between them MG builds his argument.
- The Roseto mystery – a culture is so strong that it resulted in a community becoming far healthier than others.
- The Mathew effect – if you are successful you are more likely to be given opportunities that intern can lead to further success. That initial success may however be the result of the year you were born in! Check this out BBC news
- The 10,000 hour rule – from Bill Gates to the Beatles they all have one thing in common, not genius but 10,000 hours of practice.
- The trouble with genius – two chapters, a higher IQ does not make you more likely to be successful; you only have to be clever enough. Oh and yes your background matters, having a high IQ does not equip you with all the skills you need for success.
- The three lessons from Joe Flom – your culture can leave you with a legacy. For some that were successful it was an appreciation of ‘worthwhile work’. Work that was demanding and had a relationship between effort and reward.
- Harlan Kentucky – a story of how a ‘culture of honour’ can mould the way people behave generations latter.
- The ethnic theory of plane crashes – how a strong national culture can result in communication problems so bad that the plane crashes!
- Rice paddies and math(s) tests – Asians are better at maths largely because what they have learned from planting rice! Although their language helps. These lessons have in turn created a successful culture. A culture of attention to detail (planting rice is precise) the harder you work and the harder you work the land, the more reward you get (Rice fields benefit from planting, there is very little fallow – ‘rest’) and there is a clear relationship between effort and reward (Growing rice is so hard that it is difficult to get others to do it. So if you can grow it, you benefit)
- Marita’s bargain – wheat need a period of fallow to let the soil recover, rice fields improve the more they are worked. Is this the reason Asians work harder and take less holidays? Also it’s what you do in the holiday that makes your grades improve. And it’s not the brightest who succeed it’s those given the opportunity and have the presence of mind to seize it….
- A Jamaican story – a personal account by MG as to where he came from and why his family were successful and yes it is to do with his background and culture.
I have taken time to summarise each chapter because there were some simple yet powerful messages in each one. It is also helpful for me in coming to these final conclusions.
And so to the point….When studying you will almost certainly come across brighter and more intelligent people than yourself. People who seem to pick up information with little effort and score higher than you in every test they do, these people are destined for success! You may in turn make yourself feel that in some way you are less likely to succeed because they are so much better. This might result in you working less, feeling that there is little point as you will always be second third or maybe even last.
Working less will almost certainly mean you will achieve less and in turn this will become a self fulfilling prophecy. “See I told you I was not as good”.
The first thing to do is to recognise that you are doing this and the second is to take heart from the main themes within this book, which are:
Hard work and practice (10,000 hours) are key ingredients to success. MG argues that both Bill Gates and the Beatles benefited from practicing their respective skills for hours, days, weeks and years.
You don’t have to be a genius; you only have to be bright enough. MG makes a very convincing argument that higher IQ’s don’t result in greater success. You only have to be good enough… an average IQ is fine and by definition most of us are average!
And finally it’s not the brightest who succeed, it’s those given the opportunities and having the presence of mind to seize them….So you should seek out opportunities, get yourself into positions where you will be given them and when given……take them.
Studying for an exam is one of those opportunities and with hard work, some self confidence and practice you are more likely to succeed and from that success more will follow, so says Mathew.
The sun is now out and so I must go – hope you enjoyed the blog