I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Outliers. In it, Gladwell considers the factors that lead to personal success. The entire book is well worth the read, considering factors such as timing, culture, luck and circumstances. However, there were two bits of information that I thought were particularly encouraging. First, that while intelligence is an important factor in success, it is only a factor, not a determining factor. In fact, Gladwell cites data that shows that intelligence measured above an IQ of about 120 is not correlated to an increased likelihood of success. So, there’s smart, and then there is smart enough. Anyone smart enough to get through an undergraduate university degree, is likely smart enough to be successful.
The idea in Gladwell’s book that was particularly interesting was that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice at anything to become an expert at it. Ten thousand hours, or on average, about ten years of practice. This seems intuitive when it comes to our evaluation of sports, can you imagine Tiger Woods being so successful with out the work ethic that he is known for?
The take away for me was great news. I don’t have to be smarter than everyone else — an attribute that has a major component of genetic good luck. I just have to be smart enough. But I do have to work very hard. Which isn’t an element of good luck. Hard work is under my control. I can work harder, but I can’t make myself any smarter.
There is hope for me after all.