But, this gives even more hope to those who might not have won the shadowy skill-set-era lottery. Generally Gladwell finds that the top performers in various fields (physics, music, baseball) haven't been born with a natural ability to perform at a high level, but rather have practiced an inordinate amount at their respective interest. He cites various studies and talks of a 10000 hour rule, which is roughly the practice threshold above which someone truly becomes a master. But, what about all those gifted students in middle and elementary school? What appears to happen is that at a very young age certain kids are seen to have a (very slight, and probably from parental influence of some sort) proclivity for a certain subject, instrument or sport. These kids are then enrolled in special classes, receive better training, and invest more practice time cause of the related encouragement. By the time most kids have taken a casual interest in such things, these "prodigies" are already years ahead of the normal kids. It's a feedback loop, of course; the normal kids are never gonna catch those with access to the special classes and heightened encouragement and the gap tends to widen over time.
While there are some barriers that preclude some from the elite, the positions of influence are more accessible than they seem (
Some thoughts from one of my favorite posts on the implications of all this:
Today's my birthday. It got me thinking.
Do you understand the power of compound interest? And I'm not talking about finance, actually.
I started this blog about 9 months ago as a little social media experiment. 6 months ago it started taking the shape of what it is today. Now all the sudden there are over 1100 posts, thousands of people paying attention every day, a store, comments, links...
You know what happens when you do something every day for two hours? In 13 years you're a Malcolm Gladwell "Outliers" genius at it. 13 years might seem like a long time looking forward, but try looking back. 13 years ago? Maybe not as long. Feels like I started this blog yesterday.
Let me get to the big point here: You are what you do all day.
That probably scares the shit out of a lot of people. And it should.
** Gladwell, on page 102, says the heritability of IQ is around 50%.