Thursday, November 7, 2013 In Copy | trackback

Outliers

2012 Books in review

Malcolm is without doubt one of the greatest psychology authors. The style of writing is very attractive and engaging, especially for those who do like to read more fiction. In this book, he brings up real examples of life, historical and current, and crushes few numbers, and makes conclusions based on them. He eventually wants to investigate great performers, how they come about, what talents and secrets they have, and what makes them great performs.

Malcolm Gladwell | Notes here

excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice.

According to some research to distinguish top performers, the findings are very uniform, once you have enough of what it takes to be accepted in one trade, what distinguishes top performers from that point forward is simply how hard they practiced. They identify this minimum level of practice to be 10,000 hours. A TED talk I watched a couple of months ago about those 10,000 hours of practice puts it nicely as this: 10,000 hours is 45 minutes a day for 20 days, and you can pick any hobby you wish. Here it is:

The first 20 hours — how to learn anything: Josh Kaufman at TEDxCSU

practical intelligence includes things like “knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.”

That is the skill needed to talk your way out of a murder rap, or convincing your professor to move you from the morning to the afternoon sessions. It is different than analytical intelligence, which takes analytical abilities, and having one does not imply having the other. Practical intelligence is more knowing how to do things rather than understanding why.

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.

Chris Langan –the smartest man in America– describes a typical day of his life. The story goes one about this high intelligence man, who had yet to have an impact on the world. The author is making a point, that practice has a lot to do with what you end up doing in life. Chris had no external help because he was considered too smart to need any guidance, thus ended up with no skills to boast about.

Seventy percent of the Eastern European Jews who came through Ellis Island in the thirty years or so before the First World War had some kind of occupational skill.

Author drives to a point where good luck and perfect timing coupled with hard work shapes today’s statistics. In this case, the garment business in New York. The Jews in Europe were banned from owning a land, thus crowded up in towns, acquiring different skills, that came pretty handy when they migrated to America. Borgenicht is a garment maker that states: the Jews bit deep into their welcoming land, and worked like madmen at what they knew. And that is how by 1900, control of the garment industry was within the hands of Eastern European Jews.

Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig.

Referring to Borgenicht when he found out he owns the business of garment, only tons of hard work separated him from it.

Each of us has his or her own distinct personality. But overlaid on top of that are tendencies and assumptions and reflexes handed down to us by the history of the community we grew up in, and those differences are extraordinarily specific.

With reference to a research carried out by Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede to measure different cultures’ reaction to authority. After carrying out a research to measure a specific attribute: uncertainty tolerance, research concludes that even though Denmark and Belgium are very similar to each other, and within one hour distance from each’s capital, Belgium was of the top five least tolerant to ambiguity, and Denmark was on lowest five. Each had its own history, political structure, language, religious structure, and traditions. I could draw a similar conclusion about Arab countries, except that because Arabs share language, religion, history, aspirations, traditions, and even some social taboos, their reaction to authority is pretty identical, no matter how many border lines separating them.

This chapter was initiated with the misfortune of Korean Airlines of having too many mishaps, compared to other airlines. The conclusion of the author is this is partly because of how different the cultures of the pilot team were, and how they regard power. The fact that second officers were afraid to express disagreement with their managers (captains) made them fall pry to too many mistakes. The fix was, a paradigm shift for first officers, that they needed to assert themselves, which means fight their culture’s “power distance rating.”

Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from—and when we ignore that fact, planes crash.

Plane simple deduction to the miscommunication that occurred in the pilot cabin.

“No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.”

As much as I would like to believe that, it isn’t quite true. This is a peasant Chinese proverb pushing towards belief in hard work for reward. This same chapter goes behind language roots to find out why Chinese, Korean, and Japanese kids outperform their Western counterparts in math, apparently, the brevity and consistency of numbers in their languages allows them to grab mathematical basics one year ahead. So there you go.

Conclusion

Outliers Book

We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth.

It winds down to this conclusion, as the author describes that outliers and great performers, are about hard work, and lucky breaks. He also urges for a better system to decrease those “lucky chances” and to give everyone a true chance to be what they can excel at. For example, the best Canadian football players were found to be born in January, as it turns out, because they were the oldest in the group to start practicing as kids, those groups were categorized upon year of birth of child, which was a great break for older kids to get ahead and attract attention. Or as the author say, Bill Gates wasn’t the only 13 year old genius to start a company, but he was the only one who had been given unlimited access to resources, born to a rich family, in the right era.

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