I am wary of books which tout other people’s successes; so many are filled with dated information in the guise of a new cover. I have to say though that Gladwell takes an entirely different viewpoint on data collected in regards to people that society considers successful, and puts a very different, but practical perspective, on what creates success in many fields.
I have great respect for the practical. You can wave mental exercises in my face all day long and unless a writer can show its practical applications I will turn my jaded eyes away and spend my time admiring the sunset instead. But l found this book especially helpful because it adds information to a wealth of data that is already out there.
Let’s take music as an example. For many of us, aspiring musicians especially, we work very hard practicing our instruments on a daily basis. We all know that practice is a long haul but we expect results. When you’re in the middle of a 15 year march towards the mastery of one’s instrument, however, results seem few and far between. Here’s where Gladwell’s book was not only heartening, but made me look at my instrument with renewed hope and verve: he takes the Beatles. Everyone knows about the Beatles’ success, but do they know what went into the making of that prolific and tuneful group? Early in their careers, when very young men, the Beatles’ manager, by happenstance heard about an opportunity in Germany where the guys could go and play for a crowd of drunken rowdies all day long. It didn’t pay well, but they were compensated in other areas that were equally interesting to young men of their age. To make a long story short, the Beatles started off a crappy band that couldn’t play together very well, and after a couple of years in the German bars, from playing seven days a week, and 8-12 hours a day, the Beatles became a polished, tight-knit group of musicians that could read the crowd and crank out the tunes. The point is that the Beatles didn’t just appear out of nowhere. They were forced to hone their craft for hundreds and hundreds, even thousands of hours. Which proves one of Gladwell’s points. It takes roughly 10,000 hours for a musician, a computer programmer, a writer, a craftsman, a quilter…to reach mastery of their art. He also takes both Bill Gates and Bill Joy, both of computer fame, and tells their story and it’s very similar. Mr. Gates, for example, spent his teenage years sequestered in a computer building at the University of Washington programming software until the very wee hours of the morning, over and over and over again. And that experience adds up.
This is a great book if you need a little realistic prodding in the depths of winter when we’re all having trouble, perhaps, staying motivated. I recommend it heartily. And it’s at the library. A great book that will help you eye your goals with a new, clearer lens.