Success and Malcolm Gladwell

October 7, 2008
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
One of the biggest sociological buzz books in recent years was Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point," in which the journalist looked at the root causes of popularity--what are the circumstances that lead to a sudden skyrocketing of awareness

His next book, "Blink," examined the decisions we make in an instant--and whether those decisions are more or less reliable than those we agonize over.

I just gave an advance read through his next book, "Outliers," which is due out next month, and I'm guessing this page-turner will be just as talked about, if not more, than his previous two bestsellers.

His premise this time is that, when it comes to the best and the brightest (according to the galley's jacket copy), "we pay too much attention to what successful people are like and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing."

What does this have to do with arts and entertainment?

Well, Gladwell early on quotes studies that he believes establish that there aren't "naturals" when it comes to outstanding musicians (violinists, in his example). It really is hard work and other factors that takes them there, not genetics. And that specific kind of hard work is only encouraged under certain sociological conditions.

He takes that idea into pop music as well, making the case that the Beatles wouldn't have become what they became without playing approximately 1200 life gigs before they achieved "overnight" success in 1964. And to do that required, again, certain sociological conditions.

There's much more to the book. Gladwell soaks up information from studies of everything from Canadian hockey players to the pioneers of computer science in his quest to understand why certain people make it and others don't. What does rice farming have to do with mathmatical ability? How does a culture's attitude toward authority influence plane crash statistics?

And where, Gladwell asks, is the line between understanding the impact of culture and unfairly stereotyping?

Expect to hear much more about "Outliers" from the press--and from the people in your marketing department--after the book is released on November 18.

Your thoughts?
ADVERTISEMENT
  • 'Sounds like an interesting read! I'll wait until I read it myself before I say more.

    But speaking of sociological conditions... I love that you wrote about Second Life in your most recent print piece.

    Some YA librarians around the country think that Second Life is the greatest thing since sliced bread for reaching teens and other library patrons who have not been in a first-life library building in years.

    Others say, I don't have enough time, money, or resources to do all of the work that patrons want and deserve from me, their local librarian, in my first life! How am I supposed to add a second life?!

    I confess that I am in the second camp, at least for now.

    And that's just at my day job. As far as my free time, as far as my consumption of art goes, especially theatre, I still prefer it to be live.

    However, I have heard two presentations from web 2.0 guru Sarah Robbins in which she touts the advantages of Second Life. (Maybe you saw her while you were on/in SL? She has bright pink hair and sometimes goes by Intellagirl. She works for MediaSauce company but is also working on a PhD through Ball State.)

    I might reach a tipping point about Second Life one of these days and create my own avatar.

    We'll see.

    Hope Baugh
    www.IndyTheatreHabit.com
  • I take exception to the author's claim that there are no naturals when it comes to talent. I've seen too many three-to-five-year-olds on Jay Leno's show and elsewhere playing advanced classical music on pianos, violins, guitars, banjos, or singing at levels far beyond their young ages. These kinds of talents are extremely rare, but they do happen. How does the author explain these?

Post a comment to this blog

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
  1. So as I read this the one question that continues to come to me to ask is. Didn't Indiana only have a couple of exchanges for people to opt into which were very high because we really didn't want to expect the plan. So was this study done during that time and if so then I can understand these numbers. I also understand that we have now opened up for more options for hoosiers to choose from. Please correct if I'm wrong and if I'm not why was this not part of the story so that true overview could be taken away and not just parts of it to continue this negative tone against the ACA. I look forward to the clarity.

  2. It's really very simple. All forms of transportation are subsidized. All of them. Your tax money already goes toward every single form of transportation in the state. It is not a bad thing to put tax money toward mass transit. The state spends over 1,000,000,000 (yes billion) on roadway expansions and maintenance every single year. If you want to cry foul over anything cry foul over the overbuilding of highways which only serve people who can afford their own automobile.

  3. So instead of subsidizing a project with a market-driven scope, you suggest we subsidize a project that is way out of line with anything that can be economically sustainable just so we can have a better-looking skyline?

  4. Downtowner, if Cummins isn't getting expedited permitting and tax breaks to "do what they do", then I'd be happy with letting the market decide. But that isn't the case, is it?

  5. Patty, this commuter line provides a way for workers (willing to work lower wages) to get from Marion county to Hamilton county. These people are running your restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and retail stores. I don't see a lot of residents of Carmel working these jobs.

ADVERTISEMENT