Gladwell’s new book, Outliers: The Story of Success is phenomenal. It covers something I’ve been thinking about for years: the algorithm for success. It’s a common and popular subject, and it usually ends up reducing to a nature vs. nurture debate.
I’d say the new Gladwell book scores big for nurture.
I’m only in the third chapter, but a couple of main themes stand out so far:
- Small environmental advantages magnify themselves over time, and it’s easy to confuse talent/specialness with environmental advantage.
- Practice is pivotal, and environment determines who has the luxury/luck of being able to do it.
- Nature somehow seems to separate those with from those without. Gladwell calls it the Matthew effect, from the Bible:
For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
So basically, as you gain advantage your ability to gain advantage multiplies, and if you lack it, it just gets tougher. I agree strongly with this.
It’s not that individual traits don’t matter, like perseverance and dedication and such, it’s just that I think even those come from either your genetics or your upbringing and environment.
Either way it’s becoming a lot harder to be an intelligent, accomplished snob. Perhaps this is why Gates and Buffet have become so liberal in their mature years. They figured out that they are lucky, and that it’s their obligation to help make others lucky too. ::