There Is A Recipe For Success, But It’s Not Easy To Follow

Malcolm Gladwell’s books, The Tipping Point and Blink, have sold more than three million copies combined in North America alone.
Last week his new book, Outliers, was released. It looks at what factors lead to making a person successful in the workplace.
According to the Globe and Mail, the book “thoroughly demolishes the myth of the self-made man or woman.”
Gladwell says, “there was a kind of existing narrative of success. … It’s had so many mythical expressions – Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Carnegie and Horatio Alger – and in the 19th century it took hold so strongly. I feel like it’s become part of the architecture of American society. We haven’t taken a step back and challenged it, which I was trying to do.”
Gladwell argues that success at work comes from a combination of factors like hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities. He also says you need 10,000 hours, or about 10 years of practice, to become a world-class expert in virtually anything. He adds that expertise comes from “deliberate practice in environments where there’s feedback, where there’s a chance to really learn from mistakes.”
I haven’t read the book yet, but the 10,000 hours point seems to support, not tear down, the self-made man concept. Perhaps, he’s merely saying hard work and innate ability on their own are far from enough to guarantee success. One also needs connections, perseverance, focus, street smarts and luck (and it helps to be born early in the year, according to Gladwell).



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.