You’ve either heard of Malcolm Gladwell or not. If you have, you’d already know he’s one of the foremost thinkers of the 21st century. If not, then you’ve probably heard of his books before him – Blink, and The Tipping Point – recent zeitgeist grabbers, for some even modern day bibles on the structure of success or society, but in a new book, he attempts to look at why people have been successes, why we see their names in history and not others. And why it’s more where you’re from than where you’re at.
In his new book, Outliers, an extract from which was in the Guardian this Saturday, he argues that genius may not be so mythical or genetic as we’ve always assumed. That basic but profound skill or intelligence is converted to superhuman levels through simply a threshold of hard work, putting in the hours, the yards, that the likes of Bill Gates, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_jobs, Bill Joy, Paul Allen, as well as Mozart, The Beatles, even ice hockey players have all taken their gifts and converted them to the level of genius by sticking to their guns while others have fallen behind. Yes, they may have had timing, some luck to be in the right place at the right time, but there is less of a mysticism to their rare talents.
Does he have a point? But before we jump to the conclusion, it’s not like we all have that within us. These people were within a certain time (be it the birth of the personal computer, in Gates, Jobs et al’s case) but took the best advantage of their situations and worked for their place in history. Can it be that simple? Who are we to argue with a brain like Gladwell? Was he the right man in the right place at the right time? Why would he succeed and others fail to reach potential? Can it really be hard work? (or could it be, perhaps, that they’re all men?)
Or is it simply such a set of factors that place them, one of many dedicated, hardworking, intelligent dwellers of the top of the pyramid, where they were, and that genius is as much fate as anything? I won’t be doing anything but guessing, it’s clear that I was not….