Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – My 10,000 Hours?

During last night’s episode of insomnia, I wrapped up reading Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent book titled Outliers. Reading a book is annoying but book reviews are even worse. That said, I’ll steer clear of offering a comprehensive review since Time Magazine and the NY Times have already published good enough synopses. In short, Gladwell’s previous books (The Tipping Point and Blink) were entertaining reads and the same can be said for Outliers.

How I rank Malcolm Gladwell’s books to date…

1) Outliers

2) Blink

3) The Tipping Point

In Outliers, Gladwell proposes a theory that seems to make sense. You can only master something if you dedicate at least 10,000 hours towards it. Yes, a firm number of 10,000 hours was established. He goes into a plethora of examples from Canadian Hockey Players born January through March to Bill Joy to Bill Gates to Mozart to The Beatles. It got me to thinking, have I put 10,000+ hours towards anything?

I can only think of a few things – Gambling, Sales, and Current Events…

I’ve gambled enough to learn the house always wins. I wish somebody would have told me that a while ago. Ha!

I’ve worked in sales since I was 15 – first at my dad’s mattress stores as a youngster and currently I’m still somehow in sales almost 15 years later. Snooze fest! Nobody wants to hear about my sales experience.

This leads me to current events. I awkwardly “studied” current events – first as a kid watching the local and national nightly news seemingly every night including weekends. Can you imagine all the crap commercials I sat through? At one point, I went so far as to write the local sports anchor (Don Shane) at WXYZ-TV in Detroit. He responded with a handwritten (remember those days?!?) postcard inviting me to give him a call at a specific time on a certain date.

At my “assigned” time slot, Don and I chatted for what seemed like hours (probably 15 minutes) before he had to wrap up the sports programming for the 5 pm newscast. The conversation was awesome! Amongst other things discussed, he suggested that I read the newspaper on a daily basis and consider attending Syracuse or Missouri to study journalism. At age 13, I had no idea what he was talking about though I still recall his recommendations to this day. Don capped off the conversation by offering me a tour of the studio. Unfortunately, Southfield, MI was too far of a drive (45 miles – ha!) for me to hitch a ride with anyone in my fam. So, as my passion for current events developed rapidly, I never got a chance to take that studio tour though I did manage to start reading/saving a ton of newspapers.

Most normal boys growing up start collecting baseball cards and/or comic books. I had baseball cards and newspapers. It was weird. I can’t really remember studying in high school or college – I’m shamefully not joking – but up until a few years ago there weren’t too many days that I missed the nightly news or failed to read at least one newspaper. This said, I’m confident that I have put 10,000 hours towards this strange obsession.

Yada, yada – So, I guess I’m a current events expert…whatever the f_ck that means?!? As far as I know, I still have the aforementioned bin of newspapers sitting somewhere at my parents’ crib. My pride & joy (side note: great beer…check link) from the bin is the TWA flight 800 blowing up story from the Ann Arbor News. Why? To this day, I remember the article’s contents way too clearly. Here’s a link to the story though it’s not from the Ann Arbor News…

http://archive.deseretnews.com/archive/502329/TOO-EARLY-TO-TELL-IF-ITS-A-BOMB.html

Anything stick out? How about this passage?

With a water temperature of 65 degrees and an air temperature of 73, officials estimated that survival would not be possible much beyond noon Thursday.

One of the first private boats at the crash site came upon a macabre sight: a yellow TWA life jacket floating on the water.

“It was inflated and it was buckled,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, who hooked the empty jacket into the boat. “These things don’t light and inflate by themselves – you have to pull on it or blow through the tube.”

At age 17, I was mesmerized by the fact that the newspaper even mentioned a remote possibility that anyone could have survived the crash. This made no sense to me as the plane was climbing to 16,000+ feet. I was even more amazed that an inflated and buckled life jacket was found. At least one passenger knew the plane was going down so it had to have been a bomb in the cabin or fire on board that caused the disaster, right?

As determined by the NTSB, I guess faulty wiring in a fuel line brought the plane abruptly back to earth without any passengers having knowledge that their fate was sealed…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TWA_Flight_800

Interviews with potential witnesses to the TWA 800 crash were conducted by the FBI; the NTSB was asked not to interview or re-interview witnesses because multiple interviews could lead to difficulties in any potential future criminal prosecution. No verbatim records of the witness interviews were produced; instead the agents who conducted the interviews wrote summaries of the interviews which they then submitted. Witnesses were not asked to review or correct the documents. After the FBI closed their active criminal investigation, the summaries were handed over to the NTSB (with personal information of the witnesses redacted), who then formed a witness group to review these documents.

Is it weird that the NTSB wasn’t allowed to interview eyewitnesses after the FBI had completed their investigation? You’d think both parties should interview eyewitnesses but who am I to judge?

No, I’m not calling out a TWA flight 800 conspiracy. Rather, I’m shocked that I can remember newspaper article like I just pulled it from the bin yesterday and – unrelated – the NTSB still hasn’t presented a convincing case for the cause of TWA flight 800’s failure. I wonder what the cause of Richard Reid’s plane crash would have been if he wasn’t incompetent?

So, what does the above rambling “make” me? An amateur blogger with a software sales job and no desire to gamble. Woot!

2 thoughts on “Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – My 10,000 Hours?

  1. Dude, we grew up the same way. I digested newspapers and magazines at an alarming rate (and comic books too). I was a born reporter and a natural writer, and it didn’t take 10,000 hours to know it. I’m surprised you didn’t wind up in this profession too.

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