kottke.org posts about Outliers

Putting 10,000 hours to the testApr 20 2011

Dan McLaughlin read about the 10,000 hour theory in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers -- basically that it takes someone 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become really good at something -- and decided to try it for himself. He plans to practice playing golf for six hours a day, six days a week, for six years in order to have a shot at making the PGA Tour. He's already a year in.

Here's how they have Dan trying to learn golf: He couldn't putt from 3 feet until he was good enough at putting from 1 foot. He couldn't putt from 5 feet until he was good enough putting from 3 feet. He's working away from the hole. He didn't get off the green for five months. A putter was the only club in his bag.

Everybody asks him what he shoots for a round. He has no idea. His next drive will be his first.

In his month in Florida, he worked as far as 50 yards away from the hole. He might -- might -- have a full set of clubs a year from now.

You can follow Dan's progress at his Dan Plan site. (via @choire)

Giving 110%, in defense of sports interview clichesMay 04 2009

Freakonomists Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner probably got the ball rolling back in 2006 with their article about how people get really good at something. Malcolm Gladwell threw his hat into the ring with Outliers and the 10,000-Hour Rule. More recently, David Brooks stepped up to the plate and delivered a review of two recent books on how genius is made, not born: Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code and Geoff Colvin's Talent is Overrated. I even stuck my oar in briefly; the deliberate practice concept fascinates me, tangentially related as it is to relaxed concentration. From Brooks' article:

The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It's not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it's deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.

Athletes have long been ridiculed for the cliches they use when talking about how they won, particularly during post-game interviews. You know them by heart:

We just have to keep working hard.
It just comes down to staying focused.
We gave it 110% tonight.
We worked hard in practice all week.
We never gave up.

If the writers above (and the researchers their writings are based on) are correct, maybe the jocks have it right: it all comes down to preparation, working harder, and wanting it more than the other guy. Simple...except for that pesky 10,000 hours thing.

The known and boringNov 19 2008

The first line of Tyler Cowen's review of Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell's new book:

The book is getting snarky reviews but if it were by an unknown, rather than by the famous Malcolm Gladwell, many people would be saying how interesting it is.

Bing! I can identify with the fatigue one can get after reading too much of the same sort of thing from an author (even a favorite author), but dismissing a book because of who writes it rather than what's written is small-minded and incurious.

Gladwell on early- and late-blooming geniusesOct 14 2008

Now that he has a book coming out on the subject of genius and high achievement, the New Yorker finally lets Malcolm Gladwell write about David Galenson's work on age and innovation. (A previous effort was Gladwell's first article to be rejected by The New Yorker.) For an overview of Galenson's work, check out my post from August.

The most interesting bit of Gladwell's piece is his discussion of the economics of the two different types of artist. The conceptual artist's talent is noticed and rewarded immediately. But conceptual innovators need more help to reach their full potential.

Sharie was Ben's wife. But she was also-to borrow a term from long ago-his patron. That word has a condescending edge to it today, because we think it far more appropriate for artists (and everyone else for that matter) to be supported by the marketplace. But the marketplace works only for people like Jonathan Safran Foer, whose art emerges, fully realized, at the beginning of their career, or Picasso, whose talent was so blindingly obvious that an art dealer offered him a hundred-and-fifty-franc-a-month stipend the minute he got to Paris, at age twenty. If you are the type of creative mind that starts without a plan, and has to experiment and learn by doing, you need someone to see you through the long and difficult time it takes for your art to reach its true level.

Gladwell discusses the article in a podcast and will be answering reader questions about it later in the week.

New book by Gladwell: OutliersMay 19 2008

The Amazon page for Malcolm Gladwell's new book is up. From here, we learn that the full title is "Outliers: Why Some People Succeed and Some Don't" and what the cover looks like. Here's the description:

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers" -- the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

And an excerpt from the Little, Brown catalog:

Outliers is a book about success. It starts with a very simple question: what is the difference between those who do something special with their lives and everyone else? In Outliers, we're going to visit a genius who lives on a horse farm in Northern Missouri. We're going to examine the bizarre histories of professional hockey and soccer players, and look into the peculiar childhood of Bill Gates, and spend time in a Chinese rice paddy, and investigate the world's greatest law firm, and wonder about what distinguishes pilots who crash planes from those who don't. And in examining the lives of the remarkable among us -- the brilliant, the exceptional and the unusual -- I want to convince you that the way we think about success is all wrong.

This doesn't sound exactly what I had heard his new book was going to be.

A few days ago, New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell noted that he's almost finished with his third book. I've learned that the subject of this book is the future of the workplace with subtopics of education and genius.

I guess if you flip those around, that describes Outliers marginally well. According to Amazon, the book is due on November 18, 2008. (thx, kyösti)

Tags related to Outliers:
Malcolm Gladwell books genius sports

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