12/14/2007

Malcom's Law

According to Malcolm's Law: No sweat, no gain. There may be a modicum of so-called talent involved, but to be beyond great at any skill, that is not enough.


Malcolm Gladwell was lanky and had big feet and talked with his hands in an impassioned yet subdued manner at the 92nd St. Y one recent evening.

He talked fast and delved into complex ideas that go against what is generally accepted in society. And, he was humble in a most pleasant way. Success, he said, is 10 percent talent and it is 90 percent hard work. "Mozart, you know, had a demanding father. He was 5 and his father lied and said he was 7. By age 10 he had practiced as much as a 25-year-old would have."

The equation for success goes a little something like this, said Gladwell. You've either got to spend 10,000 hours honing a certain skill... or 10 years mastering a certain task to pass through the threshold of good.

"There's a danger of glorifying precocity in children," he said. "If you encourage children to think talent is innate, that can cause big problems later and lead to self-destruction and the need to constantly feel they must protect that talent. If you train them to think success is a function of hard work, if they fail they will say that they need to work harder."

So, added the commentator, we should bet on the one who loves what he is doing so much he cannot stop?

Yes, responded Malcolm. "If you look and watch – and I watch obsessively, I admit it! – then you will see the way that Tiger Woods just loves the golf course. He is deeply fascinated on the
course."

Gladwell in his work as a staff writer for The New Yorker knows a thing or two about this. He typically goes through 15 drafts for any given writing assignment, he said, drafting and honing and crafting and such.


Another of Malcolm's ideas? Let go of the elitist outlook. Enough already. "If I were ruler of the world and could do 10 things to make the world a better place, on my extended list, no one would ever be allowed to ask, and no one is ever allowed to tell, where they went to college." This would solve so many problems, he said.

"You would think that when we graduate and enter into the real world, we would abandon all these proxies, no? But they continue to matter. Where did you go to college?" In Gladwell's mind, why does it matter?


Perhaps this was one of the most refreshing aspects of Malcolm Gladwell's talk. Intelligence for the sake of intelligence and feeding curiosity. Gladwell attended a school where an IQ of 145 or higher was required. His father was a mathematician.

He is a studied and well-read man. But, to hear him speak is to listen to a man genuinely intrigued by the world and engaged in analyzing its norms, often questioning them. He did not utter or suggest that his ideas were right, per se, or better. He simply put another opinion on the table.


I can imagine this man slumped over his desk with a furrowed brow reading aloud and laboring over every word. How do they appear on the page? How do they sound?

And there is something in this that makes me very, very happy.

So, what's it going to be for you: 10,ooo hours or 10 years? Because I know you will be better than good.

Here, some music to get you going on these colder days: Here and Here

A bientot,

YGAT

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