Saturday, October 2, 2010

Outliers - The Story of Success

Outliers - The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell is the latest book that I have read. Tonight, I will like to share with my readers of my key takeaways from the book.

What I like about the book is the way it uses stories to support the points that the author is trying to put forward. We all love stories which add a human dimension to an otherwise dry academic work and make the book a captivating read. The most famous one would the 10,000-hour rule. And me being an involved parent is naturally drawn to his two chapters devoted to "The Trouble with Geniuses".

The 10,000-Hour Rule
The 10,000-hour rule needs little elaboration as there are tonnes of materials written about it in the Internet. It is not surprising as this is the most inspiring piece of information for us to be an outlier.

An outlier does not practise because he is good. He practises to be good. With 10,000-hours being an enormous amount of time, a great deal of perseverance and help are needed for one to stay focused in his goal. I would say it make a lot of sense. It is the same reason that the Toastmasters Club has been so successful helping people to conquer the fear of public speaking. It is the practice of delivering the speech in a supportive and encouraging environment that makes the difference. In the same light, I teach my children that there are no such things as "I cannot" as long as one puts in substantial efforts. It is important to have a goal in life and keep working towards it. It is alright to fail. As every failure carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit. I walk my talk and keep my faith going, or rather my children give me the motivation to do so.

The Trouble with Genius
My heart ached badly when I read Chris Langan's story. A genius in him was squandered away as he so lacked "practical intelligence". The latter includes things like "knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect". It is the knowledge that helps one read the situation and get what you want. This is different from analytical intelligence which is measured by IQ or intelligence quotient. IQ is in our genes. If you are smart, you are born smart. On the other hand, practical intelligence can be learnt.

So we can work on our practical intelligence. And as parents, we can help our children be more socially savvy by teaching them how to interact comfortably with adults. This means talking with them, not to them. The book detailed about children able to make special requests to teachers and doctors to accomodate their desires. I saw it in my children which I did not see it in myself. This the book explained was due to different upbringing. When I was their age, I was quiet and dared not look at adults in their eyes. My mother believed that "whatever would be, would be". That was the thinking of most working-class families then. They were pre-occupied with what and when the next meal would be.

What's Next
With these newly gained knowledge, you can bet that I will be constantly reminding my children and myself whenever a setback hits - we will need to put in more hours. We will continue to improve our practical intelligence.

As for intelligence quotient, there is something known as Neurolinguistic Programming, which could help. Antony Robbins is the guru and he has written a few books. For those who are interested, "Awaken the Giant Within" (if my memory serves me well) is a classic.

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