Malcolm Gladwell je eden mojih najljubših piscev popularnih knjig. Ena imed knjig, ki jo priporočam sinu in študentom, da razširijo splošno razgledanost in da jih zaintrigira uporabna znanost v vsakdanjem življenju, so Outliers (2009). V njih Gladwell poskuša povedati, da je za uspeh v življenju seveda potreben velik talent, toda hkrati tudi veliko prakse, sreče, čas rojstva, okolje, družina, pravi timing itd.
To je tudi sporočilo, ki ga poskušam dati tako sinu kot študentom. Če želijo uspeti in uresničiti svoje sanje, morajo (ob talentu) predvsem veliko delati in investirati vase (“pravilo 10,000 ur vadbe“). Toda to še ni garancija za uspeh. Talent in veliko vadbe jim bosta omogočila, da bodo lahko izkoristili priložnosti, ko se jim bom ponudila.
Če se jim bo ponudila. Kajti za uspeh je potrebno tudi veliko sreče. Treba je biti rojen v pravem času leta – otroci, rojeni v začetku leta, bodo zaradi prednosti nekaj mesecev v razvoju lahko dobili več pozornosti in treninga in bodo bolj verjetno lahko postali vrhunski športniki. Treba je biti tudi rojen v pravi družini, ki razume in podpira tvoje želje. Treba je živeti v pravem (spodbudnem) okolju – težko je svoje sanje uresničiti v okolju, kjer se je treba boriti za golo preživetje ali kjer za tvoje sposobnosti ni povpraševanja. Treba je pripadati pravi generaciji, ko nek trend, za katerega imaš prav ti dar in dovolj izkušenj, postane popularen. In treba je ujeti pravi timing, ko prideš na “trg dela” – če diplomiraš v času, ko se je začela velika in dolga gospodarska kriza ali na začetku vojne, je malo verjetno, da boš dobil priložnost na “tvojem” področju. In zraven je potrebno še ogromno sreče, da – v množici podobno (ali bolj) nadarjenih in ambicioznih posameznikov – prav ti dobiš priložnost.
In Gladwell poskuša povedati , da uspeh ni samo rezultat individualne genialnosti in trdega dela posameznika, kot pravi popularni mit v ZDA, pač pa tudi spleta širših okoliščin, na katere posameznik nima vpliva. Uspeh je tudi rezultat družine, družbe, časa in sreče. Ali drugače rečeno, če želimo imeti uspešne posameznike, potrebujemo tudi “pravo” okolje v vseh pogledih. Da bodo posamezniki lahko uspeli, morajo biti uspešni tudi drugi okrog njega, okolje mora biti zrelo in gospodarska situacija primerna. Pa tudi to še ni dovolj – hkrati je treba moliti še za velik ščepec sreče.
Spodaj je kratek izsek iz intevjuja z Gladwellom za Freakonomics radio. Priporočam, da poslušate (ali preberete) celoten intervju.
DUBNER: […] OK. Let me ask you to summarize your view of your thesis in Outliers.
GLADWELL: Well, the point of Outliers is, I mean, there’s a number of points. But one is that I wanted people to move away from the notion of success as something individual. And I wanted to get people to understand that a lot of success has to do with chance, with the contribution of your culture, your generation, your family. There’s this kind of heroic notion of the lone genius — it’s very popular in the United States — and I wanted to say to people that notion has no — very little — basis in reality.
DUBNER: Now, for all that nuance and all those dimensions, I think if we asked the average reader of Outliers — and there are many, many, many, many, so the average would be interesting to compute — I’m guessing that the average takeaway would be some restatement of what you said, but it would also include “the 10,000-hour rule.” Do you agree that would be the average takeaway?
GLADWELL: I agree that that would be in the average takeaway. However, no one is more surprised than me that that was the average takeaway. The 10,000-hour stuff that I put in Outliers was really only intended to perform a very specific narrative function — or, not narrative function, but kind of argumentative function — which was, to me the point of 10,000 hours is: if it takes that long to be good, you can’t do it by yourself. If you have to play chess for 10 years in order to be a great chess player, then that means that you can’t have a job, or maybe if you have a job it can’t be a job that takes up most of your time. It means you can’t come home, do the dishes, mow the lawn, take care of your kids. Someone has to do that stuff for you, right? That was my argument, that if there’s an incredibly prolonged period that is necessary for the incubation of genius, high-performance, elite status of one sort or another, then that means there always has to be a group of people behind the elite performer making that kind of practice possible. And that’s what I wanted to say. When you watch Jordan Spieth play golf, don’t just think about Jordan Spieth. Think about the fact that I am guessing his parents devoted a huge chunk of their adult lives to making it possible for him to be an elite golfer. And every time you watch someone on stage on Carnegie Hall playing the violin, understand how many other people sacrificed to make that — the beautiful music you’re hearing — possible. That was my point that I wanted to make about 10,000 hours.
DUBNER: All right, let me continue to be the jackass for a moment. So there’s a sentence, I believe in the chapter called ‘The 10,000-Hour Rule” in Outliers where you write that “10,000 hours is the magic number of greatness.” So again, I understand that you as a writer, that was one sentence within many paragraphs within many chapters that’s trying to prove your larger point, and yet, I’ve heard from a lot of people —and I’m guessing for every one I’ve heard from, you’ve heard from 50 — who’ve embarked on these trajectories where, “I want to be a ballerina, a golfer, a whatever, whatever, whatever, and if I can get to 10,000 hours, that will make me great.” So that seems to be a causal relationship. How do you feel about people drawing that conclusion and taking action on it?
GLADWELL: Well, elsewhere in that same chapter, there is a very explicit moment where I say that you also have to have talent. That, what we’re talking about with 10,000 hours is: how long does it take to bring talent to fruition? To take some baseline level of ability and allow it to properly express itself and flourish. Ten thousand hours is meaningless in the absence of that baseline level of ability. I could play music for 20,000 hours. I am not becoming Mozart — never, ever, ever. I can play chess for 50,000 hours, and I am not becoming a grandmaster — ever, ever, ever.
DUBNER: Does that mean that you’re pretty not good at either music or chess? Or you’re just saying, you, standing in for every man?
GLADWELL: No, I’m saying that I know for a fact that I have no high baseline musical ability. And I know for a fact from playing chess for many years that I am simply incapable. The game does not conform to the contours of my imagination.
DUBNER: What about music? Have you tried? Have you played much? Did you want to be good and failed to be good?
GLADWELL: I mean, I tried. I come from a very musical family. My brother is exceedingly talented at music. I know what musical talent looks like. I know I don’t have it. But it’s more than that. It’s also, I think, a mistake to draw a bright line between “talent” and the amount of time you spend in practice, because they merge at a certain point. One of the reasons that you spend a lot of time in practice is that you can see yourself improving and because you’re part of your — what it means to be talented is to take joy in obsessive practice. So I happen to be — I’m going to be immodest for a moment — a very gifted runner. My capacity for practicing running is virtually endless. If there weren’t physical limitations on how much I could run, I would run twice a day, right? Now why do I love running so much? I mean, why am I a talented runner? Part of that is because I love running. And I mean I will run endless. If you run endlessly and have even a modest amount of talent, you can actually be a really good runner.
DUBNER: You’re pretty good at writing, and I would love to know how you think of you as a writer, and where the talent comes in, and when you look back on your writing career and writing as a child — as we all learn to write — whether you engaged in what someone like Anders Ericsson might recognize as deliberate practice and whether you still do and so on.
GLADWELL: I think I do. I mean, one of the reasons I was drawn to Anders Ericsson’s notion of deliberate practice is that I did recognize a little of that in my own approach to my particular profession, discipline. So this notion of not just applying yourself in a very dedicated fashion to what you do, but also actively considering, reconsidering, identifying weaknesses, striving to correct those weaknesses — I mean this sort of ongoing, what in the world of automotive manufacturing they refer to as “continuous improvement” — that was something that always came naturally to me. There was never a moment when I was precious about my writing. In fact, I always welcomed people telling me what was wrong with it, because I always wanted to do it just a little better the next time. And I mean, that in a very colloquial way is what I think he’s getting at is: are you someone for whom the wheel never stops turning? You’re always looking for some way to do it a little bit better next time around.
DUBNER: I’m going to read into the record, as it were, the e-mail that you wrote to me the other day. If you decide that you don’t like it, we’ll strike it. I don’t think you’re going to not like it, but it wasn’t on the record, so anyway. So, Malcolm, when we talked earlier about doing this interview, you wrote an e-mail that said, “I’m not really in agreement with him,” meaning Anders Ericsson. “He’s a hard practice guy, and I’m a soft practice guy.” And yet, just again, for the record, you do cite the 10,000-hour rule, which is Anders Ericsson’s, along with some other people’s. So what part of him are you not in agreement with in that regard?
GLADWELL: Well, first of all, it’s a little presumptuous for me to say I’m not in agreement with him since he’s the expert, and I’m not. And all the research is his. My understanding, from reading his work, is that he wants to make a quite an aggressive claim about the benefits of extended periods of deliberate practice. And I — my position is that there is an incredible amount of value in his research without having to go that far.
DUBNER: What do you mean by that? I’m not sure.
GLADWELL: Meaning, I think he has this transcendent insight, which is that the contribution of practice to greatness is greater than we thought. And that a certain kind of practice. That by applying yourself incredibly diligently and intelligently to how you do and prepare for some kind of performance, you could make enormous improvement. But the amount of time necessary to make that improvement might be two or three X what you think it is. To me, that is his core observation. And that, to me, is an incredibly valuable, insightful observation. And I’m happy just with that. Now, it so happens that I think he wants to go a step further and say, “If you do that kind of very devoted, long-running diligent practice, you don’t need a lot of kind of” — call it what you will — “raw talent when you begin.” My position is: you don’t have to say that. Also, all that does, it strikes me, is allow lots of people to stand up and say, “Now wait a minute. John Lennon is not just an ordinary schmo. He’s a guy who probably had an IQ of a 170. You can’t compare little Jimmy practicing his scales in his basement to the Beatles.”
Vir: Freakonomics radio