Outliers makes a
convincing argument that it it is not the predispositions we're born
with, but how hard we go after our goals while utilizing the
opportunities that fall in our path that allows a person to become
What is the cost of greatness? About 10,000 hours, according to the
researchers that study such things.
Whether it be ice skating, chess, mastering an instrument, writing, or
doing practically anything else, about 10,000 hours of practice will
move you from novice to among the elite in your field. It doesn't
matter how inept you are, if you keep plugging away, you get there.
Outliers: Examples From Life
Gladwell applies this rule to the Beatles, Bill Gates, Mozart, and the
best players in the Canadian Hockey League, showing they all achieved
mastery of their art after about 10,000 hours of practice, regardless
of the talents they may have been born with.
Conversely, Gladwell demonstrates several
examples of geniuses and
prodigies who, uninterested in improving their weak spots, failed to
make the right connections and remained failures. When researchers
tracked the highest-IQ children in California from youth to adulthood,
they expected them to turn out to be world-class inventors,
politicians, and businessmen. Most, however, failed to really
distinguish themselves, despite their inherited genius.
If natural ability was important, we would see several things among the
students of Berlin's elite Academy of Music - some students would be at
the top despite practicing less because of their natural aptitude.
Others who lacked any natural aptitude would be practicing far more
than normal just to stay above water.
When researchers had the academy's teachers divide their 20-year-old
violinists into three groups based on ability, though, they found that
the uniting factor for each group was the average total number of hours
musicians had practiced playing the violin over the course of their
The lowest level students averaged 4,000 hours of practice over their
lives, the middle tier - 8,000. And here's that number again: The elite
tier had put in 10,000 hours of practice by age 20.
Outliers also tackles some other interesting topics, like overcoming
the cultural setbacks that turn people into poor performers.
So often I've thought of myself as being good at certain things and bad
at others. I found it refreshing to have it pointed out to me that I'm
only ever as good as the effort I put in.
Overall, it's a nice book, and worth the read. You can
get a copy here.