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We often hear how innate talent is the main key point of the most successful individuals. And this is often how ordinary people see the most successful and expert individuals. The second chapter of Gladwell’s “Outliers” regards this question in particular.
Psychologists and researchers that were exploring successful and less successful people, and is the main dividing line between them, have come to a conclusion that the effort invested in one’s career was the most important thing of all. This effort is a measure, physical and real figure - the number of ten thousand hours a person needs to practice their skill in order to master it and reach the top: “It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery" (Gladwell 40).
What brought Mozart to be considered as one of the most unsurpassed musicians, or Beatles one of the most popular band in the history of music is exactly the ten-thousand-hour rule. Nevertheless, behind this lie the chains and sets of events that enabled them to get the opportunity to master their music. Mozart’s opportunity lies in the fact that his father thought his music since the earliest age, growing up in the highest levels of social ladder in the Austrian court. The opportunity that the Beatles had was, in a way, imposed to them: they had to play hours and hours in the clubs of Hamburg, which lead them, in the end to fulfil their ten thousand hours.
Apart from the opportunity itself, behind the most successful individuals, there were also other sets of circumstances that enabled them to succeed. They could be regarded to as mere luck. It can be seen on the example of Silicon Valley. It was in the year 1975 when the first portable computer was launched, which opened opportunity to work from home. Those who took the advantages of this computer and had enough time and experience to develop revolutionary software were the people of more or less the same generation. College freshmen of that time, they became some of the richest people and founders of most important Silicon Valley firms: Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs.
In these examples we have seen how talent and tireless practice had led these people to success, through the opportunities they were given. And indeed, these opportunities seem to have been “given” to those mainly belonging to the upper class. Behind them there was always a supporting factor, seen both in material and psychological aspect. This was also shown in the ninth chapter of the book. Researches done in schools compared the success of children in low, middle and upper class. The performance of children was translated into points, which showed that during the school year the score was more or less equal in all three categories. The main difference appeared in scores after the summer break. Now, children of high classes were way ahead of their low class classmates. And this situation was precisely because of the psychological factor. Children of the upper class were offered series of activities and mental exercising during the summer break while that was not the case with the children of the lower class. Children of the lower class were not given proper opportunity and motivation.
Motivation comes up as one more important factor on the path to success. It is the motivation that makes people endure in their tasks: “Outliers are those who have been given opportunities – and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them” (Gladwell 267).
Speaking in general, not only about the experts, outliers and prodigies, the importance of constant dedication, i.e. practice, to a thing we do is unequivocal. The music and music performance is a good example of this. The quality of performance is a direct consequence of time spent practicing it, and it can easily be heard. The music teaches us that we cannot skip the steps. We cannot play an etude before we have mastered scales. We cannot play fast before we have practiced it slow. These things are applicable to everyday life and situations as well, but by having them as obvious, musicians are on a better way of understanding and dealing with everyday issues.
So, the individual not striving to become a new Mozart, but rather giving meaning to and understanding of what he does, still needs a bit of all that was discussed above. The opportunities and the support can be the matter of chance, and could mean nothing if there is no driving mechanism within the person itself. This mechanism contains in devotion and motivation. Devotion and motivation are the leading factors in enduring in one’s career.
Gladwell, Malcom. Outliers. Little, Brown and Company, New York, Boston, London, 2008.
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