The Predictable Course of Success

Everything we have learned in Outliers says that success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed… Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities–and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.

…To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success–the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history–with a society that provides opportunities for all.

~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

The Problem with Math Education

I find that the problem with math education is the sink-or-swim approach. Everything is rapid fire, and the kids who get it first are the ones who are rewarded. So there comes to be a feeling that there are people who can do math and there are people who aren’t math people. I think that extended amount of time gives you the chance as a teacher to explain things, and more time for the kids to sit and digest everything that’s going on–to review, to do things at a much slower pace.

~ Frank Corcoran (in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success)

Hard Work

Working really hard is what successful people do, and the genius of the culture formed in the rice paddies is that hard work gave those in the fields a way to find meaning in the midst of great uncertainty and poverty. That lesson has served Asians well in many endeavors but rarely so perfectly as in the case of mathematics.

…[Erling] Boe’s point is that we could predict precisely the order in which every country would finish in the Math Olympics without asking a single math question. All we would have to do is give them some task measuring how hard they were willing to work. In fact, we wouldn’t even have to give them a task. We should be able to predict which countries are best at math simply by looking at which countries are best at math simply by looking at which national cultures place the highest emphasis on effort and hard work.

~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

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Image by Tuan Hoang from Pixabay

What Makes Work Satisfying

Those three things–autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward–are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether our work fulfills us… Work that fulfills those three criteria is meaningful.

~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

Working on problems during sleep

I found if I go to bed with a question on my mind, all I have to do is concentrate on the question before I go to sleep and I virtually always have the answer in the morning. Sometimes I realize what the answer is because I dreamt the answer and I can remember it. Other times I just feel the answer, and I start typing and the answer emerges onto the page.

~ Chris Langan, in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success

The Matthew Effect

It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.” The professional hockey player starts out a little bit better than his peers. And that little difference leads to an opportunity that makes that difference a big bigger, and that edge in turn leads to another opportunity, which makes the initially small difference bigger still–and on and on until the hockey player is a genius outlier. But he didn’t start out an outlier. He started out just a little bit better.

~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

Patience

Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything!

~ Rainer Maria Rilke