Book: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Yes, this is the book in which Malcolm Gladwell wrote that you basically need 10 000 hours of practice to get world class at something.

Many more people have heard about 10 000 hours concept than the book itself. They may be even surprised to learn that this number is NOT a core concept. It appears maybe 3-4 times.

The core message Malcolm Gladwell is trying to impart is that success is not individual. It is a product of individual effort and the opportunity to turn this effort into mastery.

The success of a person is shaped by the interaction of environment, upbringing and most of all – timing.

Hard work is only the price of admission, but it is not sufficient.

[Amazon link]

The key to mastery is long hours of deliberate practice. Work put into developing talent has to be continually challenging to conquer and yet easy enough that’s it not overwhelming.

But 10 000 hours of deliberate practice sounds much easier than it is. It’s not sitting somewhere in the basement, just chipping away at it.

You have to have the string of opportunities – each with just the right amount of challenge – present themselves over and over again.

On some level, it makes perfect sense.  If the majority had the opportunity to reach mastery levels, it would be – by definition mediocre. Mastery is at the top of „pyramid” precisely because only a few attain it. It has to be one of the harder things to achieve.

Hard-working attitude is not enough. Only the lucky few have even the opportunity to spend so much time putting the hours in.

The point was brought very close to home when I started the chapter about the upbringing of Bill Gates. Bill had a unique opportunity – by chance he had dedicated access to a school computer since he was thirteen. In that time, nobody was able to afford it. In the result, Bill spent close to 10 000 hours of programming and developing his understanding of how computers work.

Of course, he is a brilliant, driven individual. But many other people are as well,

I am much less intelligent and driven than him, but in retrospect, I have to credit my career to my specific upbringing. Since a very young age, I have been included in ‚engineering’ tasks both by my grandfathers and my dad.

One of my grandfathers was a jet engineer. He has a knack for dirty macgyver-style tinkering and likes to keep half-done parts or projects everywhere.

My dad was in his time a carpenter, painter, metallurgist and an entrepreneur. He also liked to do things his way, and he loved to modify everything to add his unique „improvements.”

I spent half of my childhood taking machines and appliances apart and developed quite an experience in how things are put together.

When the Internet came to Poland in 1990s, by chance I developed a website for my scout team and somehow got „stuck” developing websites for a living (!) since I was 15. That is almost 20 years now.

Of course, to be even moderately successful, I had to have some other qualities, but my sheer amount of experience in both technical reasoning and web technologies themselves will be just hard to beat by anyone.

Naturally, until the world changes enough that my experience will become a drawback rather than an advantage.

Till then, (nerd) party rages on.

My highlights

  • If you make a decision about who is good and who is not good at an early age; if you separate the “talented” from the “untalented”; and if you provide the “talented” with a superior experience, then you’re going to end up giving a huge advantage to that small group of people born closest to the cutoff date.

  • The small initial advantage that the child born in the early part of the year has over the child born at the end of the year persists.

  • Denmark. They have a national policy where they have no ability grouping until the age of ten.”

  • “Matthew Effect”

  • We prematurely write off people as failures. We are too much in awe of those who succeed and far too dismissive of those who fail.

  • The striking thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals,” musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any “grinds,” people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks.

  • Mozart, he argues, actually “developed late,” since he didn’t produce his greatest work until he had been composing for more than twenty years.

  • “We have seen,” Terman concluded, with more than a touch of disappointment, “that intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated.”

  • He’d had to make his way alone, and no one—not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses—ever makes it alone.

  • But as is so often the case with outliers, buried in that setback was a golden opportunity.

  • The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not just from inside us or from our parents. It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with. For a young would-be lawyer, being born in the early 1930s was a magic time, just as being born in 1955 was for a software programmer, or being born in 1835 was for an entrepreneur.

  • Even the most gifted of lawyers, equipped with the best of family lessons, cannot escape the limitations of their generation.

  • For centuries in Europe, they had been forbidden to own land, so they had clustered in cities and towns, taking up urban trades and professions.

  • The distinctive buildings that still stand on the lower half of Broadway in Manhattan—from the big ten- and fifteen-story industrial warehouses in the twenty blocks below Times Square to the cast-iron lofts of SoHo and Tribeca—were almost all built to house coat makers and hatmakers and lingerie manufacturers and huge rooms of men and women hunched over sewing machines.

  • Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning.

  • the consensus appears to be that that region was plagued by a particularly virulent strain of what sociologists call a “culture of honor.”

  • But a herdsman does have to worry. He’s under constant threat of ruin through the loss of his animals. So he has to be aggressive: he has to make it clear, through his words and deeds, that he is not weak. He has to be willing to fight in response to even the slightest challenge to his reputation—and that’s what a “culture of honor” means. It’s a world where a man’s reputation is at the center of his livelihood and self-worth.

  • The triumph of a culture of honor helps to explain why the pattern of criminality in the American South has always been so distinctive.

  • Planes are safer when the least experienced pilot is flying, because it means the second pilot isn’t going to be afraid to speak up.

  • Our ability to succeed at what we do is powerfully bound up with where we’re from, and being a good pilot and coming from a high–power distance culture is a difficult mix.

  • high–power distance communication works only when the listener is capable of paying close attention, and it works only if the two parties in a conversation have the luxury of time, in order to unwind each other’s meanings. It doesn’t work in an airplane cockpit on a stormy night with an exhausted pilot trying to land at an airport with a broken glide scope.

  • In languages as diverse as Welsh, Arabic, Chinese, English and Hebrew, there is a reproducible correlation between the time required to pronounce numbers in a given language and the memory span of its speakers.

  • In this domain, the prize for efficacy goes to the Cantonese dialect of Chinese, whose brevity grants residents of Hong Kong a rocketing memory span of about 10 digits.

  • The Chinese is literally ‘out of five parts, take three.’ That’s telling you conceptually what a fraction is.

  • “No food without blood and sweat.” “Farmers are busy; farmers are busy; if farmers weren’t busy, where would grain to get through the winter come from?” “In winter, the lazy man freezes to death.” “Don’t depend on heaven for food, but on your own two hands carrying the load.” “Useless to ask about the crops, it all depends on hard work and fertilizer.” “If a man works hard, the land will not be lazy.”

  • it’s not so much ability as attitude. You master mathematics if you are willing to try.

  • “Education lays the foundation of a large portion of the causes of mental disorder,” Jarvis wrote.

  • one of the singular features of rice cultivation is that because of the nutrients carried by the water used in irrigation, the more a plot of land is cultivated, the more fertile it gets. But in Western agriculture, the opposite is true. Unless a wheat- or cornfield is left fallow every few years, the soil becomes exhausted.

  • When it comes to reading skills, poor kids learn nothing when school is not in session.

  • “I find that the problem with math education is the sink-or-swim approach.

  • Outliers are those who have been given opportunities—and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.

 

 

Book: Four Tendencies

Upholders ask: “Should I do this?” • Questioners ask: “Does this make sense?” • Obligers ask: “Does this matter to anyone else?” • Rebels ask: “Is this the person I want to be?”

In this book, Gretchen Rubin introduces another framework to categorize people. I know, the idea of boxing in folks is flawed, but this only creates a typology based on how people respond to expectation. It does not struggle to explain all behaviors and incongruencies of human interaction. The broad strokes are:

Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations.

Questioners question all expectations; they meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified, so in effect they respond only to inner expectations

Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations.

Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

This revelation blew my mind.

I am a classical Questioner and reading about myself was like getting a manual I never knew existed. It explained why I have trouble closing cabinet doors, why I love lists and spreadsheets and deep research about product before committing to purchase.

Most of all, it made me more aware of small differences between me and other people in their strategies. Thanks to this book I am less judgmental and more sensitive about whole variety of people’s choices. It has even cast a lot of light at the relationship with my Mom. Deep stuff.




Take the four tendencies quiz to find out which one are you

Obligers

Upholders

Questioners

Rebels

respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations.

respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations.

question all expectations; they meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified, so in effect they respond only to inner expectations.

resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

  • Good boss, responsive leader, team player

  • Feels great obligation to meet others’ expectations 

  • Responsible

  • Willing to go the extra mile

  • Responds to outer accountability

  • Self-starter

  • Self-motivated

  • Conscientious

  • Reliable Thorough Sticks to a schedule

  • Eager to understand and meet expectations 

  • Data-driven

  • Fair-minded (according to his or her judgment) Interested in creating systems that are efficient and effective

  • Willing to play devil’s advocate

  • Comfortable bucking the system if it’s warranted

  • Inner-directed

  • Unwilling to accept authority without justification

  • Independent-minded

  • Able to think outside the box

  • Unswayed by conventional wisdom

  • Willing to go his or her own way, to buck social conventions In touch with his or her authentic desires

  • Spontaneous 

  • Susceptible to overwork and burnout

  • May show the destructive pattern of Obliger-rebellion

  • Exploitable

  • May become resentful

  • Has trouble saying no or imposing limits

  • Defensive

  • Rigid

  • Often struggles when plans or schedules change

  • Can seem humorless and uptight

  • Uneasy when rules are ambiguous or undefined

  • Impatient when others need reminders, deadlines, supervision, or discussion

  • Demanding

  • May become anxious about obeying rules that don’t even exist

  • Can suffer analysis-paralysis

  • impatient with what he or she sees as others’ complacency

  • Crackpot potential

  • Unable to accept closure on matters that others consider settled if questions remain unanswered

  • May refuse to observe expectations that others find fair or at least nonoptional (e.g., traffic regulations)

  • May resist answering others’ questions

  • Likely to resist when asked or told to do something

  • Uncooperative

  • Inconsiderate

  • Has trouble accomplishing tasks that need to be done consistently, the same way, every time

  • Acts as though ordinary rules don’t apply

  • Restless; may find it difficult to settle down in a job, relationship, city

  • Struggles with routines and planning

  • May be indifferent to reputation

  • They readily meet outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations

  • They put a high value on meeting commitments to others

  • They succeed when given accountability, with supervision, deadlines, monitoring, and other forms of accountability, such as the duty to be a good role model

  • They may have trouble setting limits on others’ demands They may have trouble delegating, because they feel that some expectations attach to them personally They must have systems of external accountability in order to meet inner expectations

  • They may be exploited by people who take advantage of them, and because of that

  • They may feel resentful or burned out, in which case…

  • They may need managers or others to alleviate expectations, or they may rebel

  • They readily meet external and internal expectations

  • They’re self-directed, so they can meet deadlines, work on projects, and take the initiative without much supervision

  • They enjoy routine and may have trouble adjusting to a break in routine or sudden scheduling changes

  • They hate to make mistakes, and because of that…

  • They may become very angry or defensive at the suggestion that they’ve dropped the ball or made a mistake

  • They put a high value on follow-through

  • They may need to be reminded that, unlike them, others aren’t necessarily comforted or energized by getting things done

  • They may have trouble delegating responsibilities, because they suspect that others aren’t dependable

  • They question all expectations and meet them only if they believe they’re justified, with the result that they may meet only inner expectations

  • They put a high value on reason, research, and information

  • They make decisions based on information and reason; sometimes, the reason is that it’s important to someone else

  • They follow the advice of “authorities” only if they trust their expertise

  • They follow their own judgment—sometimes even when it flies in the face of experts who (allegedly) know more

  • They persistently ask questions, which may make them seem uncooperative or defiant They hate anything arbitrary—rules like “Five garments to a fitting room”

  • They dislike being questioned themselves; they consider their actions carefully so they find it tiresome or even insulting to be asked to justify their decisions

  • They may have trouble delegating decision making, because they suspect that others don’t have a sufficient basis for action

  • They resist both outer and inner expectations

  • They put a high value on freedom, choice, identity, and self-expression If someone asks or tells them to do something, they’re likely to resist.

  • They may respond to a challenge: “I’ll show you,” “Watch me,” “You can’t make me,” “You’re not the boss of me” They may choose to act out of love, a sense of mission, belief in a cause

  • They have trouble telling themselves what to do—even when it’s something they want to do

  • They meet a challenge, in their own way, in their own time

  • They don’t respond well to supervision, advice, or directions

  • They tend to be good at delegating If they’re in a long-term relationship, their partner is probably an Obliger

Obligers need accountability

Upholders want to know what should be done

Questioners want justifications

Rebels want freedom to do something their own way

My highlights

  • The simple, decisive question was: “How do you respond to expectations?” I’d found it!
  • As with all the Tendencies, arguments work better when they address that Tendency’s values.

Questioners:


  • In accepting those inner expectations, Questioners show a deep commitment to information, logic, and efficiency. They want to gather their own facts, decide for themselves, and act with good reason; they object to anything they consider arbitrary, ill-reasoned, ill-informed, or ineffective. Many, many people are Questioners; only the Obliger Tendency has more members.
  • Questioner was the Tendency most likely to agree with the statement “I do what I think makes the most sense, according to my judgment, even if that means ignoring the rules or other people’s expectations.”
  • why this task, why this way, why now?
  • Questioners have the self-direction of Upholders, the reliability of Obligers, and the authenticity of Rebels.
  • But an Upholder or an Obliger may think, “Why do you get to exempt yourself from a rule that everyone’s expected to follow?”
  • In fact, Questioners are often puzzled by others’ willingness to act without sound reasons.
  • I’ve noticed that a love of spreadsheets is very common among Questioners—they also tend to send people lots of articles.
  • Along the same lines, Questioners tend to be very interested in improving processes.
  • Similarly, for young Questioners, school can present a real challenge, because many school rules seem arbitrary or inefficient, and teachers and administrators often feel little obligation to justify them.
  • Along those same lines, the Questioners’ desire to customize, and their questioning of expert advice, can be frustrating for those to whom they turn for help, advice, or services:
  • For instance, legendary entrepreneur and business leader Steve Jobs was a Questioner, and when he was a young man he believed that eating a fruit-heavy, vegetarian diet meant that he didn’t need to worry about body odor—even though many people told him that, in fact, he did need to worry about
  • One puzzling note about Questioners: They often remark on how much they hate to wait in line. A friend told me, “I hate waiting in line so much that I can’t even carry on a conversation while waiting to be seated in a restaurant.” Perhaps it’s the inefficiency.
  • Delivery can sometimes make a big difference in whether others see a Questioner as constructive or obstructive.
  • “I’m definitely a Questioner. Although doesn’t everyone or at least most people think the same way?” Nope, they sure don’t.
  • “Have you noticed that Questioners resist being questioned themselves?”
  • A Questioner wrote to explain: We Questioners have thought about the logic behind our decision. So it’s a) exhausting to revisit something and lay out all the reasons and/or b) we feel we’re right, so we don’t feel like we have to justify it to someone else.”
  • Because Questioners make careful decisions, they’re often annoyed—even insulted—when people question them.
  • And, of course, Questioners particularly hate questions they consider a waste of their time.
  • so when I feel myself getting sucked into research mode, I ask myself, ‘Is this information actually relevant to what I’m trying to decide? Why am I spending this time and energy on this question?’ ”
  • Questioners need clarity, and to get clarity, they can ask questions.
  • Is Tony Robbins a questioner? Maybe that is why he appeals to me so much
  • Is there a better way to do this?
  • “Well, I’ll do these pointless things because they actually do have a point, which is to please my grandmother.”
  • “Don’t just focus on the first order of reason, but think about the second order of reason. You’re doing it for your reasons.
  • It’s important for Questioners to remind themselves to do what they must so that they can do what they want.
  • Their questioning ensures that an organization uses its resources most effectively.
  • My wife jokes that she knows we’re married forever, because I already did the research and made the decision. She’s actually right!”
  • Childhood can be a painful time for Questioners, because children are so often expected to do things because an adult “said so.”
  • It’s worth noting, too, that Questioners often show a strong urge to customize

Obligers:


  • How does an Obliger meet an inner expectation? By creating outer accountability.
  • When what others expect from Obligers is what they expect from themselves, they have the life they want.
  • Obligers vary dramatically in what makes them feel accountable.
  • Also, for some Obligers, accountability works better when it’s positive. Reminders and oversight feel like nagging, and nagging may trigger Obliger-rebellion.
  • But now I realize that this doing-it-for-my-kids strategy can help Obligers accomplish something worthwhile.
  • For instance, many Obligers characterize their behavior as “client first”—a reason for pride.
  • The Obliger pattern is not an issue of self-sacrifice, self-esteem, boundaries, motivation, people-pleasing, or discipline, but rather—and I repeat it yet again—an issue of external accountability.
  • For instance, for many Obligers, spouses or family count as part of themselves, so their spouses’ expectations become “inner” expectations and are therefore ignored.
  • the Obliger expects others to know to stop imposing their expectations, without prompting, to provide relief for the Obliger
  • “I work out every day by getting my husband to ask me about it when he gets home.
  • People who ask for accountability know they need it.

Rebels


  • Rebellion is the opposite of compliance, but rebellion is not freedom.
  • want other people to do what I want, just like I want me to be able to do what I want.”
  • Just as they often pair with Obligers, Rebels often pair with family members as work partners—perhaps because a relative has more understanding, experience, and tolerance for the Rebel.
  • information, consequences, choice—with no nagging or badgering.
  • If he thinks you’re not watching, he won’t need to rebel against your expectations.”

Pairs


  • One Obliger gave a small but telling example: “I use crosswalks and follow the walk signals, while my Questioner husband doesn’t find it important to use crosswalks or signals, so he jaywalks.”
  • An Obliger parent can get very impatient with a Questioner child, whose questions can seem tiresome or cheeky.
  • Similarly, when Obligers complain about something they “have” to do, Questioners don’t have much sympathy, because they think, “If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it” or “Why did you say you’d do it, if you don’t want to?”
  • We may think we know the “best” way, or the way others “should” work, but whether at home or at work, as long as the tasks are getting done, we should let other people suit themselves.
  • It’s all too easy to assume that what persuades us will persuade others—which isn’t true.
  • One of my Secrets of Adulthood is that we’re more like other people than we suppose and less like other people than we suppose. And it’s very hard to keep that in mind.
  • Upholders value self-command and performance • Questioners value justification and purpose • Obligers value teamwork and duty • Rebels value freedom and self-
  • And one of the worst, most common mistakes when we’re trying to help someone change a habit? Invoking the dreaded “You should be able to…”
  • To craft a sign that works well for all Four Tendencies, we should provide information, consequences, and choice.
  • The happiest and most successful people are those who have figured out ways to exploit their Tendency to their benefit and, just as important, found ways to counterbalance its limitations.
  • “How do you feel about New Year’s resolutions?”
  • Upholders ask: “Should I do this?” • Questioners ask: “Does this make sense?” • Obligers ask: “Does this matter to anyone else?” • Rebels ask: “Is this the person I want to be?”